According to the Migraine Research Foundation, migraine is the 3rd most prevalent illness in the world, affecting 1 billion people. That’s 12% of the world’s population. So, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve experienced a migraine in your lifetime, or know somebody who has. And now, help is on its way.
Stephanie Weaver, MPH, CWHC is an author, blogger, and certified wellness and health coach who had (unknowingly) suffered from migraines her whole life. After three scary bouts of vertigo, she was officially diagnosed at the age of 53. Knowing what an important role food plays in one’s health and frustrated with a lack of resources available to her, Stephanie wrote ‘The Migraine Relief Plan’, out today. The book outlines a detailed food plan to follow if you suffer from migraines, vertigo, or Meniere’s disease, complete with recipes to help you get on track.
We sat down with Stephanie to talk about her book and learn how Zumba® classes might play a role in migraine relief.
ZLife: Tell us about your experience with migraines.
SW: I was diagnosed after having really scary bouts of vertigo. I had no idea that vertigo was a migraine symptom, or that the “weather headaches” I had had my entire life were actually migraines. Since I wasn’t incapacitated for three days and I didn’t have classic symptoms like halos and flashing lights, I had no idea they were migraine attacks. Luckily, I found an expert who understood the connection between my inner ear symptoms and migraine.
ZLife: Why did you write ‘The Migraine Relief Plan’?
SW: I wrote the book that I needed, because it didn’t exist! My neurologist gave me a 3-page handout that simply listed foods in a “don’t” list. It didn’t explain why, or how, or how long to try it. At that time, I was having daily headaches, and 3-5 days of migraine symptoms a week, including wicked vertigo. So I was motivated to find a solution that didn’t rely solely on prescriptions. None of the existing books had the answers I was looking for.
ZLife: Who should read this book?
SW: Anyone diagnosed with migraines, vertigo, or Meniere’s disease. That’s 1 in 7 people. Anyone who loves someone dealing with any of those. Anyone who has chronic headaches, weather headaches, or sinus headaches. And anyone who has been told to reduce processed foods, get off sugar, get off gluten, or lower their sodium intake, because my gentle transition will do all of that for you. And people who love to eat! The recipes are mighty tasty.
ZLife: You outline such a specific meal plan to follow. How did you reach such conclusive decisions?
SW: My book is based on the work of Dr. David Buchholz, who has spent 30 years in his clinical practice refining his list. I used that as a starting point, and then read up on all the latest cutting-edge nutrition, attended medical conferences, and researched exhaustively at the medical library at UCSD. The book has been extensively vetted by a variety of doctors and nutritionists, many of whom provided testimonials for the book.
ZLife: How has your plan personally helped you?
SW: My daily headaches went away in about 7 weeks. I now have 1-2 migraine days per month instead of 3-5 per week. And I haven’t had a vertigo attack in 3 years.
ZLife: Aside from the plan you outline in your book, what do you recommend to anybody suffering from migraines and related conditions?
SW: 1) Track your symptoms to learn your unique pattern; 2) Regulate your habits as much as possible – sleeping, eating, drinking water, regular exercise (if you love dancing, Zumba classes could be a great option for you); 3) Get off of processed food as much as possible!
ZLife: Great! Finally, can you share some recipes with us?
SW: Here are a few and you can find so many more in ‘The Migraine Relief Plan’.
Creamy Not-ella Carob Butter
Makes about 16 ounces (450g)
Prep time: 10–15 minutes Cooking time: 20–30 minutes Passive time: 15 minutes
I created this recipe to give people an easy, luscious treat that still follows the Plan. While it doesn’t taste exactly like Nutella, it’s pretty darn close—even though I skipped the sugar, hazelnuts, chocolate, vegetable oil, soy lecithin, and milk powder. If you make up a jar of this, you’ll have it to spread on gluten-free toast or apples when you want a sweet snack. Perfect for stashing in your desk at work along with an apple. A huge hit with my recipe testers, who called it creamy, dreamy, and addictive.
1 cup (230g) raw, unsalted sunflower seeds
1 cup (160g) hemp seeds
Stevia to equal 8 teaspoons sugar
1/2 cup (50g) carob powder
1/4 cup (60mL) coconut oil
Budget friendly: Moderate (hemp seeds tend to be pricey)
- Preheat the oven to 300°F (150°C). Put the sunflower seeds on baking sheets lined with fresh parchment paper.
- Toast the sunflower seeds for 10 minutes, then stir and return to the oven. Turn off the oven and toast the seeds another 5 to 10 minutes. You want them just golden brown but not dark brown or burnt. Taste a few if you aren’t sure.
- Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack and let the toasted seeds cool for 15 minutes.
- Put the toasted seeds in a food processor fitted with the S-blade or a high-speed blender and blend into a fine powder, about 1 minute.
- Add the hemp seeds and stevia and blend for about 4 more minutes, stopping every minute to scrape down the sides. Eventually it will form a ball and become nut butter. Use the tamper if you have a Vitamix.
- In a separate bowl, blend the carob powder with the oil, then add the mixture to the nut butter. (If you add the carob powder and oil directly to a food processor, you will have a powdery carob explosion that is not fun to clean up.)
- Continue blending until you get the smooth consistency you want.
- Serve right away or transfer to a glass jar and store in the refrigerator. It will be spreadable when refrigerated, and just a little thicker than Nutella at room temperature. Eat within a month.
Cooks’ Note: If you cannot get hemp seeds, you can substitute sunflower seeds for them.
Per 1-ounce serving: 5g protein, 9g carbohydrates, 11g fat, 3g saturated fat, 6mg sodium, 61mg potassium, 2g fiber
Roasted Veggie Quinoa Casserole
Makes 8 servings
Prep time: 50 minutes Cooking time: 60–75 minutes Passive time: 10 minutes
It’s not easy following the Plan if you are vegetarian or vegan, as so many of your protein sources are potential triggers. The quinoa and black beans in this dish are high in protein, making it a hearty vegetarian one-dish meal.
1 cup (175g) quinoa, any color
1 cup (250mL) filtered water
1 (1.5–2 pound [680–900g]) butternut or other fall squash
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 stalks celery, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/2 cup chopped kale, stems included
1/2 cup cooked no-salt-added or low-sodium black beans, drained (optional)
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup (60mL) organic extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons no-salt-added medium–hot curry powder
11/2 cups (375mL) low-sodium vegetable stock
Budget friendly: Very
- Put the quinoa and filtered water in a glass bowl and set aside to soak while you are prepping the vegetables.
- Peel the squash, cut it in half, remove the seeds and strings, and cut into a 1/2-inch dice. Add to a large mixing bowl, along with the carrots, celery, kale, black beans, if using, and garlic.
- Drizzle the oil over the vegetables and toss. Sprinkle with the curry powder and toss until evenly coated. Set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Spray or oil a large lidded casserole dish. If you don’t have a lid, cut a piece of aluminum foil to cover. Set aside.
- Drain and rinse the quinoa.
- Add the drained quinoa and stock to the casserole dish. Gently agitate the dish to distribute the quinoa evenly, while keeping it submerged in the liquid.
- Carefully add the vegetables evenly on top, spreading with a spatula and keeping as much of the quinoa in contact with the liquid as possible.
- Bake, covered or wrapped tightly in foil, for 35 to 45 minutes, or just until the vegetables are fork-tender.
- Remove from the oven, uncover, and let rest for a few minutes before serving.
Cooks’ Note: You must use a casserole dish with a lid, or cover your dish tightly with foil, or the quinoa will dry out and not cook properly. Choose pre-prepped or frozen butternut squash to shorten prep time. You can prep all the vegetables a day ahead. It’s important to cut them uniformly; the small dice allows them to cook through.
Per serving (excluding black beans): 6g protein, 36g carbohydrates, 9g fat, 1g saturated fat, 202mg sodium, 868mg potassium, 6g fiber
Maple Sesame Glazed Chicken
Makes 4 servings
Prep time: 25 minutes Cooking time: 45–50 minutes Passive time: 1/2–8 hours
This Asian-inspired glaze is close to teriyaki without being sticky-sweet. This dish is shown on the cover with Wild Rice and Carrots (page 246) and Spicy Kale and Swiss Chard Sauté (page 243).
1 bunch green onions
2 tablespoons white vinegar (see Cooks’ Note)
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
13/5–2 pounds (0.8–1kg) boneless, skinless chicken thighs (5–6 thighs)
1 tablespoon coconut oil
2 tablespoons dry toasted tan sesame seeds
Budget friendly: Very
- Remove the roots and tips from the green onions. Cut the white parts into chunks and put them in a blender. Slice the green parts thinly and set aside.
- To make the marinade, add the vinegar, maple syrup, toasted sesame oil, garlic, smoked paprika, garlic powder, and ginger to the blender and blend, along with the white parts of the onion, until smooth.
- Put the chicken in a large bowl. Pour marinade over chicken. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes and up to overnight.
- Heat the coconut oil in large nonstick lidded skillet set over medium heat until shimmering. Add the chicken pieces and cook for 5 minutes on each side, or until browned.
- Drizzle any remaining marinade from the bowl over the chicken and sprinkle the reserved sliced green onions, stirring to coat chicken. Then, partially cover the pan and reduce the heat to medium–low. Cook for 10 minutes, turn the chicken, and cook for 10 minutes more. Leave a small opening between the cover and the pan so some of the steam can escape.
- Remove lid from chicken pan to check chicken for doneness. Cook just until done, either by checking with a meat thermometer for 165°F (74°C), or by cutting open. Sprinkle sesame seeds over. Remove from the heat.
- Serve right away or store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Cooks’ Note: Use skinless chicken for this recipe, as this cooking method will not deliver crispy skin. If you’re not sure about sesame oil, start with 1 tablespoon, then taste.
Per serving: 46g protein, 11g carbohydrates, 18g fat, 3g saturated fat, 196mg sodium, 681mg potassium, 2g fiber