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To drink or not to drink

You may recall that I gave up drinking wine well over a year ago, finally admitting to myself that it was an undeniable and evil Migraine trigger for me. Shortly thereafter, beer was added to the list and, after much whining and denial, I finally stopped drinking it. I’ll have a bottle now and then if I’m really craving it, but never enough to bring on a headache. Wah. I miss beer.

In hearing about Dr. David Buchholz’s relative obsession with foods that trigger Migraine, I thought he said that clear alcohols weren’t a trigger at all for many people. Perhaps I misread. According to this NPR article, Buchholz holds that all alcohols are a trigger but there seems to be a scale of what affects Migraineurs the most. Red wine as at the high end of the spectrum (meaning it is a very common, serious trigger) and we decrease from there according to the liquids’ transparency–hence vodka being being on the low end. (See NPR article for Buchholz’s exact quote, or search for his original studies if you’d like.) Buchholz has a book that I’ve never read called Heal Your Headache: The 1-2-3 Program. Apparently there’s some debate in the neurology field over whether or not controlling foods you eat can control your headache patterns as it did for the woman in the article. I am fearful of such an approach, as I’m not sure at all of what I would eat. What’s left? Even cutting out onions and bananas sounds nightmarish.

If anyone’s tried this approach and has feedback for us, let us know!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • CJ
    6 years ago

    I began having intermittent, nagging headaches in July 2013, usually after swimming. By September, it was still only a nagging pain, but it had increased to 24 hours a day. By October, the pain increased as well, to the point where it would wake me from sleep and it was at the forefront of my thoughts all the time. By November, the pain was mind numbing and I’d begun having trouble with my balance—I’d fall into walls or grab onto whoever was walking next to me. Then came temporary blindness in one eye and numbness in my face, mouth, and arms. My doctors diagnosed every headache disorder under the sun and prescribed amitriptyline, naproxen, immitrex, rizatriptan, morphine, Vicodin, oxygen, indomethacin, and steroid shots, and I gave acupuncture and massage a whirl, but nothing made a dent in the pain, although some medications made it worse. By December, I’d taken a medical leave from work because I was unable to function. I only left my bed for the bathroom. I even ate all my meals in the bed. Doctors, including a migraine specialist, were no help.
    After a firm diagnosis of chronic migraine in January, I began Botox shots, hoping for few side effects so that I could make it to the second round 12 weeks later in order to get some minor relief. The Botox caused significant muscle pain and weakness in my right shoulder and neck, but it did increase my threshold level enough so that my biggest trigger, smell, was no longer an issue. My pain level decreased enough for a few hours at a time, so that I was able to return to work part-time. But I was still suffering every second of every day. I thought about shooting myself, but I couldn’t bear to think of the pain this would cause my husband, who is the most wonderful and supportive person on the planet.
    On January 25th, during one of my frenzied researches, I came across a blog post that suggested Dr. Buchholz’s book Heal Your Headache. I thought it seemed too good and too simple to be true, but I felt desperate, so I sat down and devoured his book that same afternoon. Fortunately, since no migraine abortive had ever worked for me and I took no other medications except for a thyroid one, I was able to skip step one. Even though I already have a lot of food restrictions due to severe food allergies, I immediately altered my diet to meet Dr. Buchholz’s second step. For me, that meant eating simply made meals, such as a grilled piece of fish or chicken and a vegetable, like a winter squash or Brussels sprouts, or an egg and non-citrus fruit.
    Within one week, I’d stop having debilitating pain (nothing over a six on a 1-10 scale), whereas I’d been hovering around an eight for months. Within two weeks, I felt like a new person. I’m just about to finish week four and not only has my pain level dropped to a consistent three, only spiking during my period, but I’ve been able to start swimming again, working full-time, cooking, and hanging out in my house somewhere other than my bed. I’m confident that my migraine will continue to fade into the background as Dr. Buchholz suggests it will after a few months of following his plan, but even if it doesn’t, it’s low enough now that I can live my life again and enjoy it. Altering my diet was the easiest thing in the world to do since it is something that I have absolute control over. I learned years ago, after suffering with undiagnosed meat allergies, that no food, no matter how tasty, is worth pain and sickness.

  • Katie M. Golden moderator
    6 years ago

    CJ- that’s fantastic! I’m really glad that this book helped you. So great to hear when something works!

  • migrainestl
    8 years ago

    I have just read this book & am wondering if you’ve read the book or tried the method since your post about it in 2007?

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