For Cory, there is nothing better than driving across Nevada and listening to podcasts for the entire day. I like roadtrips, too- not as much as my husband does, but certainly more than my wimpy dog does. It’s usually the three of us on a roadtrip, like the one we took to my parents house for Christmas last year. But that one wasn’t like the other roadtrips…it was the first roadtrip with migraines in tow.
It sounds simple, because there’s nothing but time to sleep on a roadtrip, and our car has nice seat warmers which encourage curling up for a nap (the dog certainly takes advantage of them). There was, of course, the fact that my migraine flares and stabbing headache attacks are food triggered, but no big deal- we planned beforehand to pack a cooler with non-triggering snacks. We also meticulously planned our meal breaks ahead of time. Cory researched ingredients and made a list: Chick-fil-a near Reno, some place in the middle of nowhere Wyoming, etc.
And then it came: a bad migraine that delayed our trip. So we changed our itinerary, our hotels, our driving schedule, the meal plan disintegrated, and three days later we were sitting in a parking lot of a Wendy’s in Nevada, arguing about buns. Like, hamburger buns. Cory claimed they contained whole wheat flour, while I was adamant they contained regular wheat flour. But what was the point of arguing? We were in the middle of Nevada, where the options are literally a hamburger with a bun or a chicken sandwich with a bun. And fries.
Dietary restrictions are not a new thing for me. Before getting migraines, I had all sorts of stomach problems that kept me from eating certain things. But my migraines aren’t the “average” migraines, which can be triggered by things like chocolate, red wine, and aged cheese. When I first got my migraines and soon after found myself in the hospital, it seemed like eating literally anything triggered a stomachache followed by a stabbing headache attack (a.k.a. Snape). If I ate a meal, I got headache attacks. If I didn’t, no headache attacks. This seemed like a problem to me, but the neurologists in the hospital were baffled by my findings.
Thank God I also have a GI doctor, who is amazing and concerned about the food triggers behind my headaches. I actually went to this GI doctor first, when I started getting migraines, because I didn’t realize neurology was a thing. And she has stuck with me this whole time! While I was in the hospital, she suggested I try to calm down the headache attacks by following the low FODMAP diet, which is a diet used primarily for dealing with IBS. It’s a difficult diet to understand (I need help from an app to know which foods are in each of the six groups), and it’s downright impossible to follow while in a hospital, but this diet has made better sense of my food triggers than anything else. When using low FODMAP, I discovered that I’ve triggered my worst headache attacks by eating apples, sweet potatoes, avocados, coconut milk, almond milk, apricots, and whole wheat flour, and each of these foods is in either the “O” or the “P” groups in the low FODMAP diet. I filter by these two groups in my app to know what other foods are likely to trigger headaches…there are many potential trigger foods, and right now, I’m avoiding most of them to play it safe. That adds things like cauliflower, beans, corn, almonds, cherries, blackberries, stone fruits, and green peppers to the list of foods to avoid. Ironically, I can still eat orange, red, and yellow peppers. That’s how extremely confusing the low FODMAP diet is!
But the low FODMAP diet doesn’t take the more “average” migraine trigger foods into account, nor does it integrate the foods I couldn’t eat before. So that means I am working with three different sets of dietary restrictions- a food avoidance trifecta! Needing to avoid so many specific foods made our roadtrip feel like a minefield.
So, roadtripping is not as simple as it used to be, and the joy of spontaneity in traveling is sucked dry by the need to cross-check every meal against a list of Do’s and Dont’s. But I felt even worse for my family over the holidays, and I likewise feel bad for friends here who try to cook for me. Just two days ago, some of our dear, long-time friends offered to bring us dinner every Friday. “What an amazing offer!” I thought, “I’ll just shoot them a quick summary of my dietary restrictions so they can cook for us.” So I did. Then I realized I forgot something, so I emailed again. And again. Then I went to bed and remembered more things I couldn’t eat, so in the morning, I started a new email. Then I remembered one other thing I couldn’t eat. So much for a summary…at least I’m avoiding all stone fruits, but everything else I can’t eat is a huge hodge podge of seemingly unrelated foods. I don’t have it all written down anywhere, and I though I tried to build a master list, the official low FODMAP foods are only found in the app, and the app doesn’t let me filter by FODMAP category…so even now, no one (including me) knows exactly what I cannot eat!
If this sounds like a headache to you…you should really try having an unremitting headache, and that will teach you what a headache is. But it is certainly annoying! Dietary restrictions have been, in fact, harder to accept as real than my headaches on a day-to-day basis. I can’t trick myself into thinking I have no headache, but I do occasionally think, “That avocado you ate last month…wasn’t it tasty?? Didn’t you love it? GUACAMOLE. Nothing will happen if you eat guacamole. Your body knows it’s guacamole and makes an exception, because GUACAMOLE.” This is what I told myself two days before our roadtrip, not believing that anyone could possibly NEED to avoid avocados, and especially not me. This led to the guacamole of great regret, which in turn led to the whole wheat flour argument in the Wendy’s parking lot. And this was the beginning of me slowly learning to accept my dietary restrictions. I will try reintroducing more foods and retrying some of the past triggers someday soon. But for now, I am very busy being headachey, and guacamole is not worth spoiling an entire day with a migraine.
But! There is some comfort in all of the food restriction craziness: lots of unhealthy junk foods are untouched by the voracious demands of my “Do Not Eat” list. My friend noticed this as well, and brought over some delectable lemon cupcakes. I just inhaled a big cookie before finishing this blog post. I bought a banana with it, to cancel out the unhealthiness. Cory came home with a huge slice of funfetti cake a few nights ago. I ate a scone in the middle of the afternoon yesterday. And in general, we eat lots of pizza.
Perhaps eating so much junk food is a bad idea. But I keep being told that I need to gain weight. So, in the age of keto, paleo, low sugar, low carb, gluten free and green cleanses, I say: Please pass the fries, and hamburger buns, because they are made of plain old enriched white flour, after all. You know…the unhealthy kind!