In spite of having seasonal allergies and asthma Megan had been an active kid who played soccer all year long and lacrosse in the spring. She was an honor roll student who had good friends. Then, the migraines began.
When Megan was in eighth grade, she began having daily headaches. They began in early spring during her normal allergy season. The headaches had a pain scale that rated in severity from “can make it through the day at school” to “can’t even get off the sofa or read to do homework.”
Living with Migraines
At first the headaches weren’t so bad. She would miss school here and there but be able to get through most of time. The problem was they were just constant. By the Spring of Megan’s freshman year she was missing school and activities more often. She stopped hanging out with her friends as often or participating in the sports she enjoyed. None of the “normal” allergy symptoms seemed “normal” anymore. Her mom, Carolyn took her to the pediatrician who sent her to a neurologist who sent her to a neuro-opthamalogist. The doctors couldn’t really find anything that would cause the headaches. MRI’s and other tests showed nothing that would cause them. Megan was prescribed Topamax for migraines. The medicine didn’t get rid of the headaches. It just made them a little less painful. When the doctor increased her dose, she felt dopey and still had pain.
Her family worried. They tried to spend more time with her when they were home. After work, Carolyn would sit on the sofa with Megan to keep her company for awhile. She or Megan’s dad would read her school work to her and help her make up all that she was missing. Megan had always been a good student but missing so many days made maintaining good grades more of a challenge.
For dinner, they’d often order easy comfort food like pizza and fast foods. Carolyn gained weight and became depressed and anxious about Megan. Nothing was getting better in spite of the doctors and medicines for migraines. Carolyn was as worried for Megan’s mental health as she was for her physical health but didn’t know what to do. Nothing they were trying was working. Carolyn’s coworker heard about all that was going on; especially about how other doctors were not able to help. She suggested taking Megan to the Chung Institute.
The Chung Institute
They had an appointment with Dr. Chung at the end of freshman year. Megan was promptly diagnosed with gluten sensitivity and told this was the most likely cause of her migraines. Gluten was in all of those “comfort foods” she had been eating! Had they actually been making her sicker? Now there was finally an answer and there was something the whole family could do to help Megan feel better. Carolyn began to do her research and get to work to help the headaches go away. She decided the whole house would become gluten free.
With any new diagnoses and lifestyle change, a lot of learning must be done. Today, finding foods labeled gluten free is easy. Unfortunately, even those foods often have more gluten than a sensitive person can manage. The FDA issued guidelines stating how much trace gluten is permitted in gluten free foods. That’s right, there is still gluten in gluten free foods much of the time. It’s almost impossible to remove it all. The FDA created guidelines that gluten must be less than 20 parts per million.
Some fast food companies have gluten free food and it was so exciting to find gluten free fast food but they don’t take into account cross-contamination. Megan was excited to find “gluten-free” fast food but after eating it, she had a vision-blurring migraine. She didn’t know that the gluten free food had been cooked on the same griddle as food containing gluten. It was a hard way to learn about cross-contamination.
Megan visited Dr. Chung with another big headache despite having been so careful with all her foods. How can she still be testing for gluten? The doctor asked, is she drinking grass fed dairy? Dr. Chung explained to them that they needed to think like a nursing mother, what you eat goes into the milk. So if the cow is eating gluten, you drink it in the milk. This will cause another headache. Grass fed milk and butter and cheese were the only way Megan could consume milk without getting a headache.
Success Living Gluten Free
It was trial and error but painful trial and error. Carolyn and Megan became knowledgeable about all of it. Carolyn found products and recipes that work. Being a teenager and in a food driven society is challenging but Megan would rather not eat when she’s out with her friends than risk getting another headache so she follows this strict diet. The difference in how she feels makes it completely worth it to her.
Megan was off Topamax within six months of her first visit to Dr. Chung.
June 21, 2019 marked her first year of being gluten free. As an added perk, Megan’s asthma has become well controlled and she has been able to stop taking her Singulair and inhaler. She goes to school regularly. She switched sports from soccer to track and she’s so fast that she may be able to compete in college. Her grades are better than they were before the migraines began. Carolyn also had some bonuses from gluten free living. She lost twenty pounds, feels great and her skin looks amazing too. The right food really does make all the difference.
Helpful links for gluten free ideas
InstaPot Gluten Free Mac N Cheese
2 cups gluten-free elbow macaroni
2 cups water
1 Tbsp butter
½ tsp salt
Pinch of turmeric-just a pinch
1 ½ c freshly shredded sharp cheddar cheese
¼ cup heavy cream
- Add the macaroni, water, butter, salt and turmeric to the Insta Pot
- Secure lid, close the pressure valve and cook for 4 minutes at high pressure.
- Quick release pressure as soon as the time is up, then immediately stir in the cheese and heavy cream.
- Garnish with freshly cracked black pepper and serve.