New, Improved Hangry Chick: 100% Free of Gluten, Sugar, Dairy, Caffeine… and Pain
I think Lionel Richie said it best: “Hello… is it me you’re looking for?” If you have been looking for this Hangry Chick since my last post five months ago, you would have found me curled up in the fetal position, gripping my head or hugging a toilet.
I have been a migraine sufferer my entire life but since the end of last year, the migraines started visiting my brain more frequently than our mailman visits our house. To put this problem into sharper and more painful focus, I considered it a good week if I was pain-free for as many as two days. Financially, my migraines became worse than a coke habit: Every month I was spending a minimum of $450 on pain medication, above and beyond what my health insurance paid. Pharmaceuticals were failing me and monetarily draining me. My productivity plummeted to the ninth circle of hell. And my quality of life was drying up faster than a leech on a salt lick.
Desperate times do not always call for desperate measures. Sometimes, they call for introspection… education… transformation… and regeneration. (Please reread the previous sentence using Reverend Jesse Jackson’s voice.) One night in March, through the grace of God and the Public Broadcasting System, I channel-surfed right into the middle of a lecture by Dr. Mark Hyman on WTTW. He was talking about the devastating effects of gluten, dairy products, processed foods, caffeine and the most sinister villain of all, refined sugar. He had my attention because A) I happened to tune in just as he was saying, “…food is medicine and what you put at the end of your fork is more powerful than anything you will ever find inside a prescription bottle,” and B) I was viewing this program through a veil of pain thicker than wool, thanks to migraine #3,221,067.
The thought of telling my drug dealer, GlaxoSmithKline, to take a long walk on a short pier was nothing short of tantalizing. Even though I was skeptical of Dr. Hyman’s claim that his diet (reminiscent of the Paleo Diet) could cure my migraines, a shred of hope compelled me to buy his book, The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet. Buying that book – and completely eliminating gluten, dairy products, processed foods, caffeine and refined sugar – were two of the best health decisions I have made in my life.
Another brilliant book galvanized my newfound beliefs about food: Grain Brain by Dr. David Perlmutter. This book echoes many of the ideas featured in Dr. Hyman’s book, and it takes a deep and fascinating dive into the impact of food on our nervous system. Dr. Perlmutter, a neurologist and a luminary in the field of nutrition, masterfully explains complex biochemical reactions caused by gluten, sugar, dairy and processed foods. After getting schooled by the good doctors, consuming foods on the “do not eat” list is anathema to me.
It has been eight weeks since my diet was given the Hyman-Perlmutter makeover. During this time, I have had one migraine. ONE. And that migraine was my own fault. I made the decision to drink my weight in champagne at my sister’s bachelorette party. I will not do that again. My liberation from pain and pharmaceuticals is the most life-affirming experience I have had since my birth; therefore, I now feel inspired and dedicated to share my experience with anyone suffering from chronic conditions, including arthritis, fatigue, diabetes, IBS, sleep problems, weight issues, and the list goes on.
As part of my commitment to keeping my migraines buried in the past (where they belong) and helping others who are enduring problems needlessly due to foods that promote inflammation and other biological chaos, I am introducing a new feature to my posts: All of my recipes will be completely free of gluten, dairy products, processed foods and refined sugar. Even though I eat eggs and nuts, occasionally I will feature some recipes that do not include these ingredients as I know many people have sensitivities to both. As a reminder of these liberating dietary omissions, I will use the food allergy labels (to the right) with all the recipes I share.
Finally, I am not a registered dietitian, merely a person who is seeking the true definition of “optimal nutrition.” The amount of misinformation circulating about nutrition is staggering. Even more troubling is the amount of conflicting information that is continually bombarding us from highly respected individuals and organizations. For example, Grain Brain and the critically acclaimed documentary Forks Over Knives call upon respected leaders in the medical community to share their opinions on nutrition. In Grain Brain, eggs are the perfect food. In Forks Over Knives, eggs are verboten. In Grain Brain, animal protein is good; in Forks Over Knives, it’s bad. In Grain Brain, generous amounts of healthy fat are encouraged; in Forks Over Knives, “low fat” is their mantra. I hold a great deal of respect for both sources of information, but the differences of opinion exacerbate the confusion surrounding nutrition and health. Therefore, as consumers of information, I think it is important to be simultaneously discerning and open-minded.
To that end, this page will be used as our repository of resources about food as it relates to industry, policy, research and education. Please contribute to this page! Post your recommendations and check back here frequently as we continue adding books, videos and websites that are worthy of your time and attention. I have just one request of you: Please do not post any information that claims red wine is not good for us. I just eliminated bread, pasta, cake, candy in all forms, ice cream, coffee, hard liquor and pizza from my diet. My break-up with Starbucks was painful. Dr. Perlmutter condones a glass of red wine a day and on this blog, we are going to regard it as the 11th Commandment. Peace be with you.
Forks Over Knives
This 2011 American documentary film was directed by independent filmmaker Lee Fulkerson; it advocates a low-fat whole-food, plant-based diet as a means of combating a number of diseases. (Available on Netflix.)
A Place at the Table
This 2013 American documentary film was directed by Lori Silverbush and Kristi Jacobson. It shows us how hunger poses serious economic, social and cultural implications for 50 million people in the U.S.; one in four children don’t know where their next meal is coming from, despite our having the means to provide nutritious, affordable food for all Americans. (Available on Netflix.)
Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead
This 2010 American documentary film follows the 60-day journey of Australian Joe Cross across the U.S. as he follows a juice fast to regain his health under the care of Dr. Joel Fuhrman, Nutrition Research Foundation’s Director of Research. Following his fast and the adoption of a plant-based diet, Cross lost 100 pounds and discontinued all medications. (Available on Netflix.)
TEDTalks: Chew On This: “Dan Barber: How I Fell in Love with a Fish”
This 2010 TED talk is presented by Chef Dan Barber who squares off with a dilemma facing many chefs today: how to keep fish on the menu. He shares a humorous love story with a fish, simultaneously tackling a more serious issue in the food world: sustainability. (Available on YouTube–click here.)
Killer at Large
This documentary examines many causes of obesity, including our toxic food environment, the problems with school lunches and vending machines and the impact food lobbyists have on determining government policies. It includes interviews with dozens of people who have tried to bring attention to the obesity problem including former president Bill Clinton, Kelly Brownell of Yale University and consumer advocate Margo Wootan of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
This 2013 book, a #1 New York Times bestseller and a finalist for a 2013 Books for a Better Life award, explores the harmful effects of wheat, sugar, and carbs on the brain and includes a 4-week plan to achieve optimum health. Renowned neurologist David Perlmutter, MD explains what happens when the brain encounters common ingredients in everyday “healthy” food, why your brain thrives on fat and cholesterol, and how you can spur the growth of new brain cells at any age. He offers an in-depth look at how we can take control of our “smart genes” through specific dietary choices and lifestyle habits, demonstrating how to remedy our most feared maladies without drugs. (Click here to buy on Amazon.)
The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet
This 2014 book, written by Dr. Mark Hyman, presents strategies for reducing insulin levels and producing fast and sustained weight loss. Dr. Hyman explains how to: activate your natural ability to burn fat–especially belly fat; reduce inflammation; reprogram your metabolism; shut off your fat-storing genes; de-bug your digestive system; create effortless appetite control; and soothe the stress to shed the pounds. (Click here to buy on Amazon.)
The Blood Sugar Solution Cookbook
This 2013 cookbook, written by Dr. Mark Hyman, offers recipes that support his “Blood Sugar Solution” lifestyle. Following Dr. Hyman’s scientifically based program for re-balancing insulin and blood sugar levels, this cookbook presents 175 recipes that are free of allergens and harmful inflammatory ingredients. (Click here to buy on Amazon.)