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Foods and headaches: eating for, and proactively against, the headache pain

Start managing that nagging, or sometimes debilitating, pain now by combining your knowledge about foods and headaches. What better time to be more mindful than during the holidays – when you are more likely to sleep less, drink more alcohol and coffee and less water and eat less healthy – together a recipe for headaches or worse?

The worst foods – the ones that welcome headaches

foods and headaches1 Not surprising, alcohol is one of the biggest headache-causing culprit. Alcohol dehydrates our bodies and inhibits our reactions. But it also contains various headache triggers:

  • Wine contains sulfites, tannins and histamines.
  • Beer contains grains and sulfites.
  • Spirits contain grains.

Many alcoholic beverages may also contain preservatives or added artificial colors, which could be a trigger for you. Stick to beverages and quantities that do not induce symptoms for you.

2 The artificial sweeteners in diet sodas, particularly aspartame, are known to trigger migraines, too.

3 Monosodium glutamate (MSG) can cause headaches. MSG lurks in many food places – chips, dressings, sauces and other proceeds foods, including cured deli meats.

4 The nitrates found in deli meats, bacon, ham and sausage can cause headaches.

5 Foods with an amine called tyramine can trigger headaches. You may be tyramine-intolerant if bananas, avocados, fermented foods, aged cheeses or cured or smoked meats trigger headaches.

Foods and headaches combined – pain relief naturally

Once a headache starts to take over, enlist foods, instead of medicines, for pain relief because many prescription and over-the-counter medicines can damage your body over the long term.

You won’t always know what’s triggering your headache, but if you look for patterns and experiment with these foods, you may find a common thread leading to your culprit – as well as its counterpart.


For headaches from lack of: try eating:
hydration spinach*, lettuce, watermelon, cucumber
tryptophan turkey, almonds*
B2 (riboflavin) spinach*, mushrooms, broccoli, eggs
B3 (niacin) beef liver, beets, salmon, sunflower seeds
magnesium Swiss chard, sunflower seeds, sweet potatoes, quinoa, bananas*, almonds*
omega-3s salmon, olive oils, avocado*
gut stability (you have nausea) fresh ginger
endurance (time of day pattern) cherries, beetroot

*Only eat these foods if you are not sensitive to them as they can be headache triggers, too, due to the amines.

If your headaches seem hormone-related, incorporating enough magnesium in your diet may help prevent headaches.

Headaches present another great reason to make leafy greens a major part of your diet. Greens help hydrate while providing magnesium and other minerals and vitamins that are essential to your health. So, during the holidays, when temptations are, well, tempting you, add healthy, headache-preventing foods to help balance out your spontaneous, not-so-healthy eating.

For a deeper look at foods and headaches, read “Migraine detail – how to manage those unbearable headaches and find true migraine relief”.


*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. 

healthier eaters blog

Get the real scoop: how eating ice cream can be healthy for you

healthy ice cream coneIce cream. Who wants ice cream? Who doesn’t love ice cream? Well there are a few of you out there who don’t consume 23 pounds of ice cream per year. Even though ice cream doesn’t love me, I do still love it. I wish it wasn’t a one-way relationship. So what is the real scoop on ice cream – can you indulge in it and eat healthier at the same time? Is there such a thing as healthy ice cream?

What makes ice cream so loveable?

Smooth, creamy ice cream tastes so delicious, especially in the hot dog days of summer, but really any time of year. It comes in 1,000 different flavors according to one article, but I think our options are limitless.

Ice cream evolved from other frozen desserts, including a treat resembling today’s sherbet. According to this article, ice cream was born in the 16th century and the first flavor was not vanilla, but of fruit and nut persuasion. In 2015, U.S. companies made more than 898 million gallons of regular ice cream, which is the most popular category of frozen dessert, not surprisingly (International Dairy Foods Association).

The basic ingredients for ice cream include milk, cream and sugar. Some recipes call for eggs or egg yolks, vanilla or salt. And of course, you can go crazy after that, adding your flavors of choice.

But today’s packaged ice cream often contains so many other ingredients that aren’t good for you, and don’t necessarily even add to the deliciousness of this originally simple treat.

At first, we start with the basic ingredients for a popular vanilla brand. Not too shabby.

blue bunny healthy ice cream ingredients




Then we add a few other ingredients. Not as good.

prairie farms ice cream ingredients


Start adding simple flavors, such as chocolate, and it goes downhill quickly.


When shopping for ice cream, look for the brands with minimal ingredients and without corn syrup (high or low fructose). Also avoid all artificial sweeteners including Splenda and aspartame. If you can’t pronounce any ingredients, just avoid it.

Meanwhile, when wanting to make ice cream into an outing, do a little research to find out what that local shop uses in its ice cream. Make your outing a chance to support local producers who use wholesome, non-GMO ingredients.

Ice cream intolerance…does healthy ice cream exist?

Where there is a will, there is a way. If ice cream causes tummy troubles, headaches or skin issues, you’ll have to do some extra homework.

Experiment with different brands. Start by choosing ones without corn syrup and other unhealthy ingredients.

If you’re dairy intolerant, try a coconut or rice milk version of ice cream. Still be sure to check for other not-so-good ingredients.

Better yet, have some fun and make your own healthy ice cream. It doesn’t have to be difficult. You’ll know exactly what it’s made of. And you can even get some healthy ingredients from it.

So here’s the fun stuff. I’ve made the banana ice cream recipe below. The kids and husband loved it.

Experiment with these and report back with your opinions. No ice cream maker needed! It’s summertime, hot and sticky – the perfect time for ice cream done easily!

So you see, it is possible to indulge in healthy ice cream. Just find a version that works for you, and enjoy!

Want more about healthier desserts? Check out my blog “Discover the truth about dark chocolate vs milk chocolate”.


*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. 

healthier eaters blog

What you should know about probiotics for women, men and kids

Are you gearing up for spring break? Heading somewhere snowy or sunny or enjoying some time at home? Especially if traveling, you will want to pack the probiotics. Or make that your first pit stop after arriving at your destination.

Why you should make probiotics a priority

Probiotics are the good bacteria that help crowd out the bad bacteria, fungi and yeast in your digestive tract. And 80% of your immune system is located in your digestive tract, according to “Probiotics Benefits, Foods and Supplements” by Dr Axe. This is why you need to take care of your guts!

So what affects the amount of probiotics produced by your body? You may be surprised.

Antibiotics, for one. While taking antibiotics will kill off the bad bacteria in your body, it will also kill off the good bacteria.

I learned this lesson the hard way, by taking antibiotics several times a year during college when I would get “sinus infections”, which were probably caused by my horrific diet and refusal to listen to my body. Eesh.

In the past 18 years though, I’ve taken antibiotics just 2-3 times. I learned that I could opt out of them during childbirth. I learned to use homeopathic remedies instead of antibiotics when the kids got ear aches or infections, which disappeared almost completely once I stopped feeding them baby cereals.

So please, take the lesson from me. You have other options besides antibiotics, such as essential oils, herbal remedies, homeopathic remedies and so many more.

For times when you absolutely need antibiotics, you should definitely add probiotics to your diet.

Antibiotics aside, lots of other factors influence the probiotics in your body, such as:

  • consuming food additives, food colorings and sugars (sugars increase yeast).
  • drinking water with chlorine or fluoride.
  • using antibacterial soaps and products.
  • inhaling air pollution.

If your naturally occurring probiotics get depleted, your intestinal flora can get imbalanced, leading to inflammation – the root of many evils. These evils may surface in your guts, as bloating, diarrhea, lactose intolerance, irritated bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease or leaky gut syndrome, which is what inspired my book.

Or the evils might surface as depression, chronic skin issues, thyroid issues, vaginal yeast infections and autoimmune disorders.

How you can add probiotics to help boost your immune system

You should consider taking probiotics if you have any chronic symptoms or if you have irregular bowel movements (regular = going at least once per day). You should also take them while traveling, when you’re taking antibiotics, if you’re feeling run-down or constantly exposing yourself to the probiotic “depletors” listed above.

More doctors are advising patients to take them daily, even long-term. Given my gut health, that’s what I am doing. I have also given my kids probiotics daily since they were babies.

probiotics sauerkrautFor a baby, you can use ¼ teaspoon of probiotic powder daily on the nipple if nursing or mixed into the bottle. Later, you can add that same amount to your kid’s cold or room-temperature foods, since heat will destroy the probiotic organisms.

When shopping for a quality probiotic supplement, Dr. Axe recommends looking for the following (his article goes into more detail if you love detail!):

  1. a high CFU count, from 15 billion to 100 billion.
  2. strains like bacillus coagulans, saccharomyces boulardii, bacillus subtilis and lactobacillus rhamnosus.
  3. “Live and active cultures” instead of “made with active cultures”.

You can also add these probiotic foods to your diet:

  • unsweetened organic goat, sheep or coconut yogurt
  • kimchi
  • some sauerkraut
  • some aged cheeses
  • kefir
  • kombucha
  • organic miso
  • Sicilian green olives
  • taro root

Just be sure they are fermented without vinegar or added sugars and non-pasteurized versions, which will be in the refrigerated sections at stores.

How much probiotics is too much?

Some experts advise that if you have an autoimmune disorder, to consult your doctor before taking probiotics. Dr. Andrew Weil says to avoid probiotics if you’re allergic to lactobacillus, acidophilus, bifidobacterium, or Streptococcus thermophiles.

If the probiotics seem to make you gassy or give you loose stools, you may need to reduce the amount you’re taking or switch brands.

Probiotics help so many health issues! In this overly stressed and busy, chemically-laden world we live in, we should all consider taking them.

And if you’re heading to spring break soon? Where you’re likely to get less sleep, drink unfamiliar water and eat less healthily? Then yes, pack your bags with probiotics you’ve tested and know work for you. Give your immune system a boost!


*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. 

healthier eaters blog

Eating dairy free with a busy lifestyle

Work. School. Practices. Games. Meetings. Dates. And more. Life is busy. Which makes eating healthier seem challenging. Eating dairy free – now that takes eating to another level. But it can be done. And you can still live a normal life.

Eating dairy free at home

Of course, you’ll find it easier to eat dairy free at home. It’s much easier to avoid foods when you don’t buy them! This is why I keep less junk food around.

But what if part of your family eats dairy and the other part has to avoid it? Or what if you’re soooo craving some of the dairy you used to eat?

Here are some ways to satisfy your dairy dilemmas at home.eating dairy free

  1. Buy milk made from almond, cashew, hemp, coconut or rice.
  2. Stock up with yogurt made from coconut milk instead of cow’s milk.
  3. Replace butter with olive oil or another oil in many recipes. Or you may be able to tolerate clarified ghee, but it is technically dairy.
  4. Choose sorbet. Or opt for coconut milk ice cream or rice milk ice cream.
  5. Make your own cheese from non-dairy milk or zucchini – yes, who would guess?! You can find paleo recipes for anything!
  6. If you need a candy fix, choose organic dairy-free dark chocolate or fruit-flavored candy that doesn’t contain food dyes (it must exist?!).

Notice I didn’t suggest soy as an alternative to dairy. Despite it having some health benefits, research has led me to believe that soy may do more harm than good, especially if it’s not organic. Read more about the “soy situation” in chapter 4 of my book, Digested – eating healthier made easier 3 ways.

Make sure any of your alternatives say “dairy-free” on the labels because even if something is “made with” coconut milk, for example, it could have cow’s milk in it, too. Read labels carefully!

Rotate your milk alternatives. Don’t buy all products made with rice, or all made with coconut. It’s important to rotate what you eat so your body does not develop new sensitivities. Note that because almond milk has high omega-6 content, you should use it more as a condiment than a drink.

Next, you may wonder. Does paleo cheese taste like “normal” cheese? Well, I’ve made a couple of recipes and found that no… it doesn’t. But it doesn’t taste bad and it can satisfy your craving. Some versions of paleo cheese may not be meltable, so be specific while searching online for recipes.

Eating dairy free while on the go

Eating dairy free at home should be easier once you’ve cleaned house or dedicated a dairy-free section in your refrigerator. But when out and about or socializing with friends, dairy-free options may not be as convenient.

Fortunately, many restaurants recognize the seriousness of food allergies now and offer alternatives. Don’t be afraid to ask if menu items are dairy-free. The reason restaurants have become more accommodating to food allergies is because people have spoken!

If you know you’re going to be running around for the day or evening, remember these tips to make eating dairy free easier:

  • Opt for water instead of milk to drink. Even your kids will learn to like water if you keep reinforcing the importance of it!
  • Instead of yogurt squeezers, grab some pre-cut raw veggies to eat in the car. This is a great way to get your veggie intake up to 50% of your diet for the day, too.
  • Eat something at home before you go, in case you end up somewhere without dairy-free options. You can always eat a little more while out with the rest of your crew. This will minimize any stress about eating out.
  • Keep a cooler in the car and stash it with your non-dairy favorites. I grab raw veggies, sweet potato chips or nut/seed bars as my go- tos. Yes, I’m that gal driving down the road with a whole washed but unpeeled carrot hanging out of my mouth. It can’t look any goofier than a cigarette. And nobody wants to see me hangry.

Concerned about your kids getting enough calcium? Make sure they eat plenty of healthy fish, nuts, seeds, green leafy vegetables, bok choy and broccoli. If that seems like an impossible task, read my blog “10 ways to get your kids to eat vegetables”.

If you’re thinking of going dairy free but aren’t outright allergic to it, you may find that different dairy products affect you more severely. Milk may make you feel worse than cheese because it contains more lactose. Soft and fresh cheeses typically contain more lactose than hard or aged cheeses. Check out this nifty infographic about lactose intolerance. Using a food journal can help pinpoint the exact foods you need to avoid. Remember though, if it’s casein your body does not like, you should avoid all cheese and dairy.

Have faith. Eating dairy free gets easier with time, just like everything else. Plus it may urge you to experiment with more recipes and foods!

*This blog is intended for use as a source of information and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. 

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