Category Archives: testing

Headache or Migraine

Food Facts For Migraine Health

What are Migraines

Migraines are more than just a severe headache. They often tend to be made up of several symptoms including:

  • pain or throbbing of the head, forehead, neck or stomach
  • visual aura
  • dizziness
  • nausea or vomiting
  • sensitivity to smell, sound, or light
  • sensitivity to touch or weight of clothing or blankets
  • tingling or numbness of hands, feet, or face (sometimes only on one side of the body)

Symptoms may not be the same from episode to episode and the length of an episode can vary from several hours to several days. There are a wide variety of triggers however food and food-based ingredients tend to be a big culprit. Below are four different categories of migraine triggers that may have to do with what you are eating or drinking. We’ll discuss each of the categories below, at the end of the article we’ll share a strategy for monitoring

Food Triggers

One potential trigger for migraines can be a sensitivity to or inability to properly process certain foods. These often include fermented or aged foods including:

  • alcohol
  • cheeses
  • chocolate
  • citrus
  • shellfish
  • caffeine
  • MSG
  • natural flavorings”
  • or preservatives such as nitrates, nitrites, and sulfites

About Tyramines

Another potential trigger for migraines can be tyramine, a trace element from the amino acid tyrosine. It functions as a catecholamine releasing agent (the catecholamines are neurotransmitters in the brain, norepinephrine, epinephrine, and dopamine). Foods that are high in tyramines include:

  • bananas
  • avocados
  • beer
  • cabbage
  • sour cream
  • yogurt
  • most cheeses
  • soy products – soy sauce, soy bean paste, tofu, or natto
  • sauerkraut
  • pineapples
  • eggplants
  • figs
  • red plums
  • raspberries
  • peanuts
  • brazil nuts
  • coconuts
  • yeast
  • cacti
  • processed meats (lunchmeat, sausages, canned fish, etc).

Reduce Refined Sugars

Sugar can be highly inflammatory; consuming high levels of sugar and simple, or highly refined, carbohydrates can negatively impact blood sugar levels. When this happens the body releases insulin which in turn causes a drop in blood sugar. This cycle, sometimes referred to as a blood sugar roller coaster, can be a potential link to headaches or migraines. Learning to understand where sugar hides in the diet can be key to managing your blood sugar levels and possibly have a positive impact on your migraines.

Healthy Hydration

For many migraine sufferers dehydration can be a trigger. Making sure that you are getting proper hydration is an important part of migraine health. To figure out how much hydration you need calculate body weight. Divide that in half for the number of ounces needed to be properly hydrated. Divide that number by 8 to get the number of cups of fluid. Take that number, divide it by four and then set a “hydration alarm” approximately every two hours. When the alarm goes off set your liquid in front of you with the goal to drink it before the alarm goes off again. Remember that this does not mean plain water. Too much water is not healthy either. Hydrating foods such as soups, herbal teas, and food with lots of liquid (like watermelon) all count towards a daily hydration goal.

Be Mindful of Micronutrient Status

Nutrient deficiencies are a possible trigger for headaches which may or may not include migraines. And in addition to eating a highly processed diet, or a diet that is low in nutrient density, taking certain medications can deplete nutrients, potentially adding to the issue. Working with a medical or nutrition professional who can order appropriate testing to check your micronutrient status would be helpful.

Food Changes

Because there are so many different foods that are highly linked to migraines, one way to possibly support reducing migraines is to remove them. But while removing whole foods can be helpful, it’s important to know that some processed foods can contain hidden ingredients that can be migraine triggers . And because many of these ingredients are used in a wide variety of items, this makes reading the labels, understanding these ingredients, and avoiding them an important part of your migraine wellness plan.

Monitoring your headache/migraine activity while avoiding triggering food groups can help you more clearly identify which ones may causing your issues. Using a food journal can be a good way to do this. As you build a complete picture of your food-based migraine triggers and change your diet this should help to reduce your episodes. It’s important that if you are working with a doctor and/or nutrition professional to help you resolve your migraine issues you let them know about these changes.

All About Eggs, Mira Dessy, The Ingredient Guru

All About Eggs

Nutrition from eggs

For the purposes of this article, we are discussing eggs from chickens. Duck is becoming easier to source and can be a preferred source for those allergic to chicken eggs.  It is, however, important to note that the nutritional support from duck, turkey, goose, quail, or any other type of egg can vary slightly from those of chicken.

A favorite food for many people, eggs are easy to prepare and highly versatile. They can be used for any meal of the day, as a quick protein snack, or incorporated into other foods.  At approximately 70 calories each, they are a great source of protein, providing approximately 6g of protein. They are also a good source of beneficial nutrients such as lutein and zeaxanthin as well as iron, choline, selenium, biotin,  B12, and B2.  

Top Health Benefits

In addition to being a great source of protein, eggs provide other health benefits.

  • A good source of cholesterol, which the body needs to make hormones, consuming eggs does not raise blood levels for cholesterol. And pastured or free-range are even better as they can help reduce triglycerides
  • Most people don’t get enough choline in their diet. Yet it is vital for liver function as well as nerves and muscle tissue. As listed above, eggs are a good source of choline
  • Supportive for eye health due to high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin

Allergy symptoms

For a small percentage of the population, eggs are a source of allergic reaction. Approximately 2% of all children have an allergy to eggs. Nearly 70%, however, tend to grow out of the condition by age 16. For those allergic to chicken eggs, there may also be a response to other eggs as well. An allergenic response can include:

  • Asthmatic symptoms or wheezing
  • Diarrhea
  • Digestive upset, cramps, nausea, or bloating
  • Hives
  • Nasal congestion, sneezing, a runny nose, or post-nasal drip
  • Skin irritation or rash

In severe cases of true food allergy, there can be an anaphylactic reaction which might include low blood pressure, faintness, dizziness, or restricted airways.  If you suspect an anaphylactic reaction seek medical care immediately.  For those with a true food allergy, it is important to monitor your reactions as the response can get worse with repeated exposures. 

It is important to be aware that the influenza vaccine is made using a small amount of egg protein and therefore may not be safe for those with this type of true food allergy.

On the label

Eggs are used in a wide variety of ways. In addition to homemade goods such as omelets or quiche, they are also used as a binder for baked goods, meatloaf, and other foods. However, a wide variety of prepared and packaged foods may also contain eggs as one of their ingredients.  These can include mayonnaise, crackers (such as matzo), noodles, pasta, dressings, sauces, and other condiments.

Because eggs are one of the seven most common food allergens (the others are corn, wheat/gluten, soy, fish, dairy, and nuts) labeling laws require that manufacturers disclose on the label if their product contains eggs.  

Names that appear on the food label that can indicate the presence of eggs include:

  • Anything starting with “ova” or “ovo,” such as ovalbumin or ovoglobulin
  • Albumin
  • Globulin
  • Lecithin
  • Livetin
  • Lysozyme
  • Vitellin

Food intolerance

In addition to true food allergies, there is a possibility for people to develop a sensitivity to eggs due to intestinal impermeability, or leaky gut. Testing is the best way to determine if there is any kind of delayed hypersensitivity or food intolerance. If there is a food sensitivity or intolerance, avoiding eggs for a period of time while adding supportive protocols for the gut is helpful.  The period of time required to avoid eggs can vary depending on the individual, the severity of the intolerance, and compliance with dietary changes.  

If you suspect sensitivity issues using a food journal can help to identify when you eat eggs, or any other items that you suspect an intolerance to, and your physical response. This can then be followed up with a visit to a professional for nutritional support.  If you suspect a true food allergy, working with an allergist or immunologist is recommended.




Sickly-sweet Additives

You’ve likely never heard of Senomyx, a biotech flavor engineering company that works with many major corporations from Kraft Foods and Nestle to Coca-Cola and PepsiCo.  This flavoring manufacturer has stated in filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission: [quote]The goals of our high potency sweetener program are to allow for the reduction of calories in packaged foods and beverages and to enable our collaborators to use product labeling referencing ‘natural flavors.’[/quote]

In line with this objective, Senomyx announced in August that its new additive “Sweetmyx S617” will soon be added to PepsiCo’s Manzanita Sol and Mug Root Beer soft drinks in the United States.  This artificial ingredient will allow food and beverage companies to reduce the calorie and sugar content of their products by amplifying the sweetness of sugar and other sweeteners.

Sweetness is arguably one of the most significant tastes we experience and crave in modern culture as we are seemingly bombarded with it – sugar is added to 74% of packaged foods!  Added sugar can sneak its way into your diet even when avoiding desserts like cookies and ice cream as it is found in many savory items like crackers, bread, salsa and pasta sauce.

The Power of Sweet

When we eat, the taste receptor cells on our tongues relay information to the brain signaling the specific type of flavor.  Sweetness from sugar is particularly powerful and has been found to stimulate brain pathways similar to the way an opioid would. In fact, in a well-known study, rats addicted to cocaine chose sugar over the drug when given the choice because the stimulating “high” from sugar is more pleasurable.

The startling reality is that many people are actually addicted to the sensation of sweetness and food manufacturers are taking advantage of this.  A typical 12-ounce can of regular soda can contain as many as 46.2 grams of added sugar, far exceeding the American Heart Association’s recommendations for sugar in an entire day.  One leading brand of yogurt contains 29 grams of sugar per serving and a breakfast bar made with “real fruit” and “whole grains” lists 15 grams of sugar per serving!

Many processed foods with “healthy” marketing jargon contain a shocking amount of added sugar, as we can see in this slideshow.

Corporations have been incredibly successful adding more and more sugar to processed foods so that we keep coming back for more.

However, in light of the obesity epidemic in this country, there has been some push back to reduce sugar content of processed foods.  Processed items with labels touting less sugar or lack of high fructose corn syrup are likely to be picked up by busy moms who want healthier convenient options for their kids.  Unsurprisingly, food manufacturers are working to meet this demand with manipulation instead of simply creating healthier formulations.  They’re seeking the best ways to reduce sugar without sacrificing the intensely sweet flavors that have us hooked and coming back for more.

In theory, a product that reduces calories and added sugar sounds like a great advancement for health.  Senomyx’s new additive Sweetmyx S617 is expected to reduce calories in the two newly formulated soft drinks by 25 percent, but at what cost?

Where To Look for Sweetmyx S617 on the Label

These flavor “enhancers” are not considered actual ingredients and are not required to be listed on packaging as anything other than artificial flavors.”  Frighteningly, Senomyx’s aim is to take these additives one step further and have them labeled as “natural flavors.”  Much like MSG, these flavor enhancers operate on a neurological level to produce this heightened sweet sensation, essentially tricking the brain into thinking foods are sweeter than they actually are.  This sounds like anything but natural!

The most troubling aspect of these new additives is that limited testing has been done to prove they are safe for consumption.  The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has determined through public records requests that the FDA does not have detailed safety information on these flavor enhancers and the limited analysis the Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association has done does not meet FDA standards.  Many recommended tests are missing, including cancer studies, reproductive studies and screens to test how ingredients affect the nervous system.  Susan Schiffman, a sweetener expert and professor at North Carolina State University has said that [quote]To put anything into the food supply with this little testing is astounding.[/quote]

How can you avoid added sugar and corporate flavor manipulation?

You won’t find Sweetmyx S617 listed on any product’s label. As the FDA is comfortable deeming Senomyx’s flavor enhancers as Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS), avoid all processed foods that list “artificial flavors” among the ingredients where possible, to opt out of these untested additives.  In addition, reference Appendix One of Mira’s book The Pantry Principle for a comprehensive list of the many different names sugar can be found under and which ones to avoid.

Vitamin Zzzzzzzz

Screenshot 2014-12-11 13.25.35I’ve been making changes to what and how I eat in order to support my health and deal with recently diagnosed food intolerance issues.  I began to suspect that I had food intolerances, or allergies, when I noticed several physical symptoms.  One of them was that my sleep seemed to be getting worse.  This was in spite of taking supplemental support (tryptophan and vitamin B6) as well as the use of essential oils like lavender and serenity.

Don’t get me wrong, I was sleeping.  But it wasn’t as restful as I was used to, I was waking more frequently, and I was noticing that my dreams had changed.

Food intolerances can create a cascading effect on the system due to the increased inflammation.  This inflammation can:

  • increase mucous production causing stuffy noses, full sinus, and post nasal drip
  • impact cortisol levels which in turn can cause a shift in hormonal levels affecting sleep
  • cause itching, rashes, and other skin irritations which can make for restless sleep
  • affect gut health which impacts the whole body and, again, can cause discomfort which can interrupt sleep
  • inflammation from food intolerances may also impact joint health or cause swollen tissues

Any and all of which can add up to less than optimal sleep.  And without sleep, well, many of us don’t function well.  I know this is especially true for me.

When we are dealing with health and wellness we sometimes forget to pay close attention to our bodies.  To listen, if you will, to what they are telling us.  The small, creeping clues of “not feeling well” can be indicators of a larger problem.  If there’s a pattern or consistency to that we need to pay attention.  Food journaling can be a great way to stay on top of this.  Most of us think that we will remember what we ate and how we felt.  But, as I frequently joke with others when I ask them to food journal, ‘I can’t remember what I had for breakfast on Tuesday how am I supposed to remember everything I ate and how I felt for an entire week?’   I knew I wasn’t sleeping well, I knew I was having more mucosal production, but I wasn’t paying attention.  Until I journaled myself and realized that there was a pattern.  That lead to testing which lead to answers.  Very simply, very straightforward.

How do I know I’m on the right track?  Because it’s getting better.  I confess, even though I’ve been doing this for years with other people, even though I’ve personally seen the benefits of changing what and how I eat to meet the needs of my bio-individual body, I’m always amazed when simple changes can have such a profound effect.  Within two weeks of modest changes I’ve started to sleep so much better.  The third night that I woke up realizing that I had “zonked out” I knew I was on the right path.

It’s not easy sometimes, but it is simple.  Getting better quality sleep is making me feel better.  I wake up refreshed and ready to hop out of bed and get started with my day.  It’s fabulous how much great sleep can help you feel so much better overall.  And feeling better is both it’s own reward and the motivation.

Want to know more?  Contact me for a free Food Journal page and find out if you have food related health patterns.


More info:  giving up dairy

photo:  PhotogLife

Understanding Food Intolerance Testing

Food sensitivities, or food intolerance, can cause a number of different health-related issues.  Some people refer to food sensitivities as food allergies.  It’s important to note that a sensitivity is different than an allergy, sometimes referred to as a True Food Allergy.  A true food allergy, such as a life-threatening response to peanuts, can be dangerous and may require the use of medication or, in extreme circumstances, an epi-pen.  Food sensitivities can cause significant discomfort but, to the best of my knowledge, are not life-threatening.

Symptoms of food sensitivities

One of the issues when it comes to diagnosing food sensitivities is that there may be a delayed hypersensitivity response, meaning it can take several days for symptoms to appear. 

Symptoms are varied and often can be misdiagnosed as being something else. These include:

  • Bloating
  • Coughing or continual throat clearing
  • General Malaise (feeling “under the weather”)
  • Hives
  • Headaches/Migraines
  • Irritable bowel symptoms
  • Sinus issues
  • Stomach ache
  • Repeated sneezing for “no reason”
  • Runny nose

My story

I noticed several significant changes in my health that lead me to believe I might be developing some food sensitivities.  I realized that I was getting frequent rashes or flushes on my neck, my sleep was more interrupted (I kept waking repeatedly for no particular reason), I also noticed occasional low level aches in my small joints, and I realized I had developed a craving for cheese.  Sadly when we “crave” foods it often turns out that this is because we have developed a sensitivity and become intolerant of them.

Because it had been a while since I’ve had food sensitivity testing I decided it was time to go ahead and retest myself.  Here is my thought process after I received my results and read the report:

  • Strong reaction – honey – “Darn!  My favorite sweetener to deal with seasonal allergies.  I often take a spoonful of raw, local honey in tea to help me through the winter allergy season.  Oh well, I guess I’ll have to give that up for now.”
  • Strong reaction – fusarium vasinfectum (an agricultural fungus) – “Rats!  Hard to deal with.  I’ll really have to be extra vigilant about washing produce and drying it carefully before use.  Time to get out the humidity monitor and make sure the house isn’t too damp.”
  • Strong reaction – sodium benzoate (a preservative) – “Say what?!?!  I’m guessing my exposure is coming from eating on the road because I KNOW I am not eating it at home.”
  • Moderate reaction – Blueberry – “Darn!  My favorite berry.  Luckily there are lots of other berries, I’ll just have to switch for a while.”
  • Moderate reaction – Canteloupe/Honeydew – “Huh?  Another fruit?  I don’t even eat that much fruit to begin with.”
  • Moderate reaction – Cottonseed oil – “Again probably from eating out, I certainly don’t have this at home.”
  • Moderate reaction – Cheese (cow) – “Dagnabit [and yes, I do say this, it’s my favorite “swear” word followed closely by dagnabitall] I was afraid of that.  NO CHEESE!  Seriously!”  [That’s when I realized the craving part was worse than I had thought]
  • Moderate reaction – Raspberry – “Excuse me??  What???  No berries????” [note: a food sensitivity to more than one thing in a food group often means that there is a reaction to the group as a whole.  For me the berry sensitivity means no acai, blueberry, blackberry, boysenberry, cranberry, elderberry, goji berry, gooseberry, raspberry, and strawberry for six months.]
  • Moderate reaction – FD&C Yellow #10 – “Oh man I seriously need to look at how much I am eating out or away from home.”
  • Moderate – Dibutyl Phthlate – “hmmmm, time to look more closely at my personal care products.”
  • Moderate – Ethylene Dibromide (a chemical solvent) – “no earthly idea where I could be getting exposed to this but I’ll have to be more aware of my surroundings.”

These reactions are very similar to the sort of mental gyrations that many of my clients go through when we review their results.  Although a significant reaction requires a six month avoidance of the substance and a moderate one only three months.  I often just ask that they avoid everything for six months.  We also embark on a healing gut protocol.

In my case I’m already doing most of what the healing gut protocol involves, however there are some gaps, especially when I travel.  I’ll be working hard to address those.

However, I’m going to confess that none of this will take place until after Thanksgiving.  The results came after I had planned my menu, purchased food, and started cooking.  I’ll admit that I’m human and not able/willing to completely revamp my holiday menu with just a couple of days notice.  I’m also not thrilled about mashed potatoes with no butter or cream, no homemade cranberry orange relish (made this year with kumquats picked fresh off the tree instead of oranges), no whipped cream on the pumpkin pie/custard.  But believe me, I know how much better I will feel once I start on my new eating plan and clean up my food intolerances.  I also know that the more compliant I am the better I will feel and that in six months it is highly likely that most if not all of these food sensitivities will have gone away.

Testing for food sensitivities

If you suspect you have food sensitivities you can talk with your doctor or order a test online.  The test I used looks at 212 different potential allergens.  You can see them listed below. 

EAB pg 1


EAB pg2



One of the reasons I like this particular company is because their test comes with a dietary rotation plan (you can get more information about what a dietary rotation plan is and how it works here).  The report also comes with a laminated wallet card. The wallet card is so you can take it with you to the grocery store or when you are on the road to help you remember what exactly you are supposed to avoid.