As I shared last week, I hit a big wall about 5 months after my daughter was born, which caused a series of unexplained migraines that lasted until August. I finally figured out that I had a hormonal imbalance and have been actively working on correcting this ever since. Some of the things in my routine were already contributing to my hormone health, but clearly, I needed to step up my game. I want to break down my findings for you here. And we’ll start where so many of my migraine conversations begin: with food!
Before we dig into specific diet tips, let’s discuss the connection between hormone disruption and chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation can be caused by a number of things – from stress to lack of sleep, and, of course, how we choose to feed ourselves. If we’re in the constantly stressed out state, we create the stress hormone cortisol. And once the body is over-producing cortisol, it can impact its production of key sex hormones, like progesterone. I had cleaned up my diet years ago, but I had to take an even closer look at my diet/eating habits to make sure I checked all the boxes.
Here are my top tips to reduce inflammation through your diet:
1. Eat clean foods – Are you getting your food from the best possible sources? All fruits and veggies should be organic and local (if possible). But most importantly, please be careful of where your meat and fish is coming from. Try to buy on wild-caught fish, grass-fed beef, and pasture-raised poultry. Why? Because conventionally raised animals are fed an unnatural diet of corn and soy (not to mention they are raised in horrible conditions), thus producing poor quality meat. The poor quality meat has high levels of Omega-6 fatty acids, which causes – you guessed it – inflammation! So I can’t emphasize this point enough: eat meat grown in nature whenever possible!
2. Help heal and maintain a happy gut – Whether or not you’re eating a clean diet, your gut might need some help to heal from prior damage (like the kind that can come from taking antibiotics). Therefore, it’s always a good idea to give your gut extra support. An easy (and tasty) thing you can do every day is drink or cook with bone broth. Among its many health benefits, the broth is incredibly beneficial to our connective tissue and can help heal gut problems like leaky gut. You can make it on your own or buy it online (this one is my personal favorite).
Another great food you should sneak into your diet is fermented foods, like sauerkraut or kimchi. These support good gut flora a.k.a. they keep the good bugs in your gut very happy! Make sure you buy good brands (Bubbies is my go-to brand for sauerkraut). Just a small forkful a day keeps my gut bugs content!
Lastly, invest in a good daily probiotic/prebiotic (I highly recommend this brand). Again, this helps keep your good bugs happy and helps increase their population.
3. Chew your food – This one might appear so basic, it might seem silly to mention here. But have you ever noticed how fast you eat? Most people (including myself here!) swallow their food after 3-4 bites. This means that we’re sending large food particles to our stomach, which makes it more difficult for the stomach to break down. This can cause an increase in bacteria in the intestines, which can lead to a whole host of problems like gas and bloating to nutritional deficiencies.
Chewing properly, which means chewing your food 20-30 times (!!!), leads to greater assimilation of nutrients by initiating the release of digestive enzymes that break down food. So I challenge you to take stock of how your chewing is going: are you a super-fast eater? Or do you take your time? The difference could mean everything to your gut!
4. Balance your blood sugar – Our bodies were not meant to go through the blood roller coaster we might put it through every day. We function much better (and we don’t add fuel to the inflammation fire) when we keep things nice and steady in the blood sugar department. That means doing a few things consistently:
- Start your day off with a balanced breakfast with protein & fat. Keep away from the cereals, pancakes, and bagels that we’re so accustomed to having. Most importantly, do not skip breakfast! It’s hard to catch up on the blood sugar roller coaster if you haven't started your day off on the right foot.
- Don’t go too long in between meals. Once you’ve started out strong, keep up the good work by eating lunch and dinner before you are STARVING. Be sure to include healthy fats and proteins in these later meals as well.
- In case of emergency, grab a snack. It’s a good idea to have access to a small, healthy snack that you can quickly eat if you don’t have time for a full meal. Think a clean snack full of great fats, like avocado and raw almonds.
- When eating, just eat. Try to make your meals a calm, relaxing experience. That means when you eat, stay away from distractions like work or your phone. Try to unplug, go outside or catch up with a friend.
- Stay away from sugar! This one is pretty obvious but stay away from any foods/drinks that are filled with sugar. Cookies and candy are obvious culprits but stay away from less obvious ones, like fruit juices.
There’s a lot of action items packed into this post. But if you think your migraines and hormones are working hand-in-hand (and not in a good way), then hopefully these tips can get you on the right track. If you’re interested in getting your hormones and your migraines under control, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me!
Have a migraine-free day!