I've been collecting data about my headaches and diet for almost four months now.  I don't see any patterns - annoyingly, I get headaches nearly every day, so there's not much information - but I thought I'd post the data set and see if anyone sees anything.  Here it is.  Hopefully someone finds this an interesting problem.

It's written in note-to-self format (abbreviations like "strawbs" for "strawberries"; if I mention a complicated dish once then I'll shorten it when I eat the leftovers, as "pasta" for "pasta with artichokes and spinach and pesto"; times given approximately and not in a consistent form and often without specifying if they're a.m. or p.m., though they are in chronological order).  Quantities aren't given, although if they're suspected to be relevant I may be able to remember specific instances (for unusual foods) or typical portions (for ordinary foods) - other details might also be recollectable similarly.  I also don't notice when headaches go away, so I don't know how long they last except when they last all day or become noticeably worse during their course.  My sleep schedule varied considerably over this period, but trends more night owl than early bird (for a while I was outright nocturnal).  I moved three time zones west at the end of July, should that matter at all.

I'm not soliciting commentary on my diet except insofar as it can be compellingly related to my headaches.

ETA: Assume that every single day I'm drinking lots of skim milk.  (2-6 cups depending on how much I eat and how it's spaced out.)  There's a couple of exceptions, mostly when I'm in transit for most of a day or run out of milk, but not many and they don't seem to correlate with headaches.

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FWIW, I'd like to point out that this is a better 'help me' post than most of the posts I see go by on LW, because Alicorn kept a data series. It's not perfect by any means and there's a lot of data she could collect in practice or theory, but still, she recorded something.

This could be improved by using the data more efficiently as well. Simply looking over the dataset won't reveal patterns like even a simple statistical analysis would.

I'm not trying to criticize - just pointing out more low hanging fruit.

I put 75% probability on you having celiac disease. It explains the headaches, iron deficiency anemia, peripheral neuropathy, swelling, and burning sensation in the skin (all reported in this thread). If it is not celiac disease, it is something that has not been mentioned in this thread; all of the other hypotheses given thus far are obviously implausible.

There are relevant blood tests, although they can produce false negatives. I recommend trying a gluten-free diet for two weeks, and seeing if your symptoms subside. Vitamins are also a good idea to mitigate some of the damage and help you recover.

Since you have supplied a probability, want to bet?

Since you have supplied a probability, want to bet?

Okay. I'll accept any bet that gives me better than 1:3 odds, up to a maximum risk of $100.

Please don't set up a perverse incentive to misdiagnose yourself, though.

I was thinking I'd just go to the doctor and ask to be tested for celiac. Since apparently the tests don't work if you haven't been eating gluten lately. Will that suffice?

Help me out with the odds: if you risk $100 how much would I be risking?

Help me out with the odds: if you risk $100 how much would I be risking?

You'd be risking an amount of your choosing up to a maximum of $33 1/3.

I'll take a round thirty against your ninety, is that okay?

Apologies, but Molybdenumblue bet against half my limit threshold before you, which makes the combination of these two above my limit. Also, in a comment before that I specified a 10-to-25 ratio (to make myself favor the bet, rather than be indifferent). I can bet 20 against 50 under the same terms I gave her; is that okay?

I have an appointment tomorrow (although I don't know if they will test me that very day or not; it may not be sufficiently routine). Molybdenumblue offered to withdraw, and I'm not very pleased with moving the goalposts from the initial odds ratio you'd offered (I'd've taken my $20 against your $50 if that were your original offer, but changing it later makes a social negotiation module in my brain complain). Do you want to bet my $30 versus your $90 or not?

Suggested parameters: I will get tested for celiac. If the test comes back positive, you win; if it comes back negative, I win; if for some reason the doctor thinks I can't reasonably have celiac and won't test me for it, the bet's off; if I turn out to have some non-celiac condition like an allergy that nevertheless means I have to avoid gluten/wheat, bet is off; if the doctor wants to pursue other possible explanations for my headaches first and one of them turns out to be correct, I win; if the test comes back inconclusive and the doctor tells me to go without gluten for a period of time such that I'm willing to try it, then the bet turns out according to the results of the dietary test; if the doctor says I need to try going without gluten for six months or something really intrusive like that without compelling evidence that I have celiac, I'm not going to do that, and the bet is off. If none of these conditions obtains by New Year's, bet is off.

Do you want to bet my $30 versus your $90 or not?

parameters: I will get tested for celiac. If the test comes back positive, you win; if it comes back negative, I win; if for some reason the doctor thinks I can't reasonably have celiac and won't test me for it, the bet's off; if the doctor wants to pursue other possible explanations for my headaches first and one of them turns out to be correct, I win; if the test comes back inconclusive and the doctor tells me to go without gluten for a period of time such that I'm willing to try it, then the bet turns out according to the results of the dietary test; if the doctor says I need to try going without gluten for six months or something really intrusive like that without compelling evidence that I have celiac, I'm not going to do that, and the bet is off. If none of these conditions obtains by New Year's, bet is off.


(I edited in another clause about the ambiguous case where I have, like, a wheat allergy or something else that is similar to but not identical to celiac; I can revise that if you want.)

(I edited in another clause about the ambiguous case where I have, like, a wheat allergy or something else that is similar to but not identical to celiac; I can revise that if you want.)

Accepted. (I think this case coming up is very improbable.)

Sprue screening came back in the mail today. Negative. Do you want to see a scan of it, or just paypal me the ninety bucks? alicorn24@gmail.com is the paypal address :)

bread bread bread yay bread bread bread yay

Payment sent, with my condolences, as this means you still don't have a diagnosis and have to keep being unhealthy and miserable.

At this point, I would:

  • Crank the level of detail of your diet and headache logging all the way up. Note times, note serving sizes, and try to get everything, including snacks and water.
  • Get the tools for testing blood pressure and blood sugar, to see if these are different whie you have a headache than while at baseline. (These tests are worth considerably less if they are performed in a doctor's office.)
  • Look up the false negative rate of the particular test you had and compute a posterior probability (starting from my 75% bet and updating down). If it's high enough to justify (or if there's nothing else left to try), go on a low-gluten diet for a week.
  • Test CronoDAS's Ibuprofen-rebound theory with a longer detoxing period
  • Try changing many things at once, by adopting an entirely new set of staple foods for 2 weeks

But most of all, just remember: sooner or later you will figure this out, and when you do, your life and subjective well-being will take a dramatic upswing.

When you saw the doctor did ey have any other theories about your various mysterious maladies such as the headaches?

She thinks it was muscle tension due to bad posture. Getting a lovely thorough massage to my neck chases away some headaches temporarily, and when I feel about to have a headache I seem to be able to keep them at bay sometimes by, not exactly sitting up straight since that would only make my back hurt, but by keeping my head back against the wall I sit near instead of leaning it forward. So this is either a partial explanation for a complicated phenomenon or a placebo effect for something else.

Wow, same for me, with hurt back, and all. I think we might have the same problem. Let's figure out if we really do. I don't have a solution unfortunately, but here is a hint that might be relevant. It took me years to understand that bowing my head deep causes me a headache. To start a bad headache that might last for hours it is enough to look at my own navel for a few seconds. I picked up some slightly unusual habits since I realized this. For example, I pick up dropped objects without looking down, without any conscious effort. If I accidentally bow my head anyway, sometimes it helps if I immediately raise my head high to counteract the first movement. It is metaphor not an explanation, but it feels like blood is rushing to a part of my brain where it is not welcome, and the only way to avoid the headache is to quickly send it back to its proper place.

Another clue: for really bad headaches, it temporarily helps if I push my eyeballs very very hard. Is this the same for you?

Haven't tried pushing on my eyeballs. I will next time I get a headache and report back.

Edit: No effect whatever.

Minimum (you'd hardly want to risk $100 for $1 on a 95% probability).

The offer's open to anyone, as long as the sum of all bets made so far is less than my maximum.

To make the numbers round, and give myself a little expected-profit margin, I'll put up $25 against each $10 someone else puts up. Bets settle via PayPal, in my favor if a diagnosis of celiac disease is reached, in your favor if a different diagnosis is made and confirmed, or if no diagnosis has been made by Jan 1.

It wouldn't hurt to spell out the steps Alicorn should take to rule in or out a diagnosis of celiac, since the blood test isn't completely reliable. It's my understanding that following a gluten free diet can be challenging at first, one needs to carefully read labels. Salad dressings, sauces, etc. often contain gluten. A friend of mine bought a separate toaster for her daughter who has celiac. I suggest specifying a set time period that he should follow a gluten free diet while keeping a diary listing all foods eaten, as well as any symptoms.

Hey, if the blood test says I don't have celiac, I am not going to follow a miserable complicated diet for weeks just to win a bet.

I can understand your reluctance. May I suggest the following? How about if you get the blood test? If it's positive, then you'll know the problem and can fix your head. If it's negative, you really should work with a doctor and see if he can figure out what it is. Ask him to check out some of the other things suggested. If none of them solve your headaches, then you can try the gluten free diet - to be sure.

As far as the bet goes- what conditions are set are between you and Jim, I just think they should be clearly established, to avoid any misunderstandings. I strongly suspect that he's more interested in helping you figure out the cause of your headaches then in winning a bet.

I know people with celiac who follow the gluten free diet. My impression is that it takes some getting used to, but it isn't that miserable or complicated, once you get used to it. Nowadays supermarkets like Whole Foods have gluten free sections where you can buy special mixes, etc. which helps.

If it's positive, then you'll know the problem and can fix your head.

If Alicorn has celiac, then her quality of life will improve if she avoids gluten. However, this might not prevent her headaches.

I guess it would be kind of a dick move to monopolize the bet, so I'll put up $20.

I'll put up $20.

Accepted. ($20 against $50, exact terms in this comment)

I suggest the Cyrex labs tests. Gluten sensitivity testing is tricky.
Also, if you are not already taking Vitamin D, I'll bet you are deficient.

My sprue bloodwork included other things, including vitamin D, which I have been taking for a year and a half and still showed a deficiency in. Dunno how that works.

A few years ago I was tested for Vitamin D deficiency- probably for the first time. I came out at the low end of the normal range- which is probably normal in the Boston area, where I live. We don't get enough sunlight here for much of the year. My doctor prescribed a megadose of 10,000 units a day for 2 or 3 months and then retested. My levels were o.k. then, so she told me to take 1,000 units a day, which I do, in addition to the 400 units in my multivitamin.

My point is, maybe you need a higher dose- in addition to looking into the possibility that your really do have celiac disease, despite the negative test.

My sprue bloodwork included other things, including vitamin D, which I have been taking for a year and a half and still showed a deficiency in. Dunno how that works.

How much have you been taking? It might not be enough. And did you ever find out what the false-negative rate was on the celiac test? Vitamin D malabsorption is listed on the wiki page as another symptom.

2000 I.U. a day, which is what the doctor's note on my bloodwork report suggested (she must not have looked at the list of supplements I take, or something). I don't know the false negative rate but I can ask.

2000 IU is not very much. I suggest starting at 1000 iu per 25 pounds of body weight for light skinned individuals, and then testing and adjusting accordingly. (say, 1000 iu for every 10 ng/ml you want to increase)

And starting from there I suggest adding MOAR D until your bloodwork puts you in the mid-high range. ;)

Have you tried drinking a lot of water?

I frequently find myself insufficiently hydrated. Symptoms of dehydration are headaches, mood swings, and dizziness or lightheadedness. You mention that your headaches are worse when you work out, which may be a flag for this. Anemia also shares some symptoms with dehydration.

Thirst is not a good dehydration indicator for some people. I can easily get so dehydrated that I'll get dizzy when I stand up, and I still won't realize it was caused by dehydration until I go over everything in my health diary. It's possible your body doesn't signal thirst to you very well, so you're chronically dehydrated.

If you haven't already done this test, I'd suggest drinking a significantly higher amount of water for a week and seeing if that has any effect.

Do you know if tea is a good way to be hydrated? I now drink green tea mostly, because I'm too used to black tea with sugar and I'm afraid that that much sugar might be bad for health.

I haven't looked at Alicorn's data, but when I get a headache my first two hypotheses are that its caused by either dehydration or caffeine withdrawal. Either I drink something caffeinated or drink about 16-24 fluid ounces of water and then re-assess after about 20 minutes. If whichever I tried doesn't work then I do the other thing plus take a pain killer (choosing between aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen based on other considerations) because by that point I just want the problem to go away rather than to gain a bit of information about which particular solution fixed things. Usually, my first experiment works and no pain pill is required.

Caffeine is a diuretic (meaning it makes you pee) meaning you have to drink more than otherwise in the long run to balance this effect.

Something potentially worth noting if you're drinking a lot of green tea is that its cancer preventing effects appear to follow a dose response curve that has been experimentally observed up to six or seven cups a day, so drinking a lot of it can be worthwhile if that's important to you. Green tea's cancer-protecting mechanism is probably a body-wide up-regulation of apoptosis (programmed cell death) killing potentially cancerous cells earlier than otherwise. One minor worry with this (that I've never seen addressed in the literature which is more of an untrustworthy pet theory of mine) is that apoptosis up-regulation can presumably cause more neurons to die and apoptosis inhibiting mutations like BRCA1 have been suggested as leading to higher IQ. My guess is that there may be a trade-off here between raw biological longevity and high fluid intelligence.

For my body, three liters a day counts as 'a lot', but I work heavily as well. It's also a 'goal level' for work out periods, so it's factored to keep in mind the fact that I don't naturally want to drink that much. (Eg, that level is designed to buffer for the days I may forget or fail to do so)

I had to drink two full glasses of water a day for a bit more than a week when I was on antibiotics and noticed no effect except that I was really annoyed about having to drink that much water. Would the antibiotics have constituted a confounding factor if your hypothesis were true?

I wouldn't describe anything I do as "working out".

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drinking_water :

In the US, the reference daily intake (RDI) for water is 3.7 litres per day (l/day) for human males older than 18, and 2.7 l/day for human females older than 18[7]

Either they are very large glasses, or you are not drinking even close to an appropriate amount of water.

including water contained in food, beverages, and drinking water

I don't drink water straight very often, but I eat plenty and drink lots of milk and some juice.

I would still think that two glasses is not enough of a swing. Periods of high water usage can drastically change how much our bodies require. After a single one hour workout, the recommended fluid replacement can be as high as forty six ounces for some body types and activity levels; that's six glasses of water or well over a full liter bottle. Two glasses is comparatively microscopic. Antibiotics may also be confounding since they tend to come concurrently with other issues and could cause diarrhea.

I'd recommend picking up two one-liter bottles of Powerade* per day and using those as your drink gauge, in addition to your normal diet while you test. It's actually fairly hard to overhydrate yourself except in extreme circumstances, and taking a sports drink should be extra protection. If you find a flavor you like, it can help turn a chore into something you...well something you at least don't hate.

*Powerade contains more potassium than Gatorade and the same amount of sodium. Since most people have sodium in excess and are potassium deficient, Powerade is generally the better bet. Warning: that may be partial rationalization just because my local grocer tends to have it on sale for $0.50 a liter and I like the taste.

I second this advice. I have observed on myself quite a strong correlation between dehydration and headaches. Perhaps you should record how much have you drunk and when.

Headaches can be a symptom of a wide variety of things. You previously wrote an article about having been anemic, and starting to take iron supplements. This seems like the place to start. Your blood iron could still be weird; the anemia could be a symptom of something else, which also causes headaches; and having had one serious deficiency, it is much more likely that you have another.

The following additional data would be useful. (The symptom-related questions are mostly things that showed up researching iron deficiency-related things on wikipedia.)

  • A transcription or photo of the nutrition facts panels of every dietary supplement you take, and an estimate (based on how often you restock) of how often you take it. Also mention any supplements which you have tried taking which didn't work.
  • Your entry on May 20 mentions feeling "tremory". Have you had that feeling multiple times? Could you describe it in more detail?
  • Do you get paresthesia ("pins and needles" feeling) in your extremities? Numbness? If so, where and how often?
  • What is your blood pressure?
  • Have you had a HbA1c or fasting glucose test in the past two years?
  • Have you noticed any of the following (and if so, how often): palpitations; sore throat; bloodshot eyes; mouth ulcers; dry skin; itching after exposure to warm water?

One other thing I notice about the log is that it's very high-carb and low-fat. It's worth trying a switch to a radically-different (eg low carb) diet; that changes many things at once, some of which might be relevant.

  • I take an iron pill and a vitamin D pill every day except when I forget. I had blood tests to check up on my iron a few months ago; they were fine.

  • The tremors turned out to be a side effect of an antibiotic. It went away when I adjusted the dose.

  • My limbs fall asleep when I spend too long in a weird position but not at arbitrary times. I don't get numbness.

  • I don't remember my exact blood pressure but it's been taken many times in the last year and never alarmed anyone.

  • I don't think I've had a glucose test.

  • Palpitations yes; sore throat only occasionally; bloodshot eyes not really; mouth ulcers maybe depends what you mean but they're not a big deal; dry skin not especially; itching after exposure to warm water not really.

I would be more open to switching to a low carb diet if anyone could name something that crunches the way toast does.

I take an iron pill and a vitamin D pill every day except when I forget. I had blood tests to check up on my iron a few months ago; they were fine.

So no standard multivitamin? Have you at least tried taking one for a week and seeing if it makes a difference?

I don't think I've had a glucose test.

You can buy HbA1c test kits over the counter for ~$30 at most pharmacies. (HbA1c is a 30-ish-day average of your blood sugar concentration. It detects diabetes (high) and hypoglycemia (low).)

I would be more open to switching to a low carb diet if anyone could name something that crunches the way toast does.

Surely you can tolerate any diet, no matter how untasty, for long enough (2 weeks) to find out whether it gets rid of your headaches.

One more hypothesis: celiac disease (aka gluten intolerance). This study says that conditional on being in a high-risk group that you're in (because of the iron-deficiency anemia, which celiac disease causes), its prevalence is 9.6%. Update up for having other symptoms in need of explanation, down for not having unexplained weight loss. It that were it, then avoiding gluten for awhile would get rid of the headaches and other bad things.

I will obtain a multivitamin and try it.

How do you get blood out of yourself with those tests? I'm not sure if I could do that.

Surely you can tolerate any diet, no matter how untasty, for long enough (2 weeks) to find out whether it gets rid of your headaches.

Be less sure of this.

I will obtain a multivitamin and try it.

In addition to a regular multivitamin, I also recommend a large-dose B-complex pill, since I suspect you may have a malabsorption-related deficiency which a regular multivitamin would not fully solve, and those have no significant downsides.

How do you get blood out of yourself with those tests? I'm not sure if I could do that.

You use a lancet, which is a thin spring-loaded needle that creates a small puncture in the skin of a finger, squeeze the skin around it to force blood out into a small droplet, then press that against a surface that absorbs it through surface tension. Extensive research effort has been put into making lancet devices that are as painless as possible, since all diabetics use them several times per day.

Should I start the B vitamin and the multivitamin at the same time?

Are the lancets like the ones that the Red Cross use to check iron levels etc? Those I could probably do as long as they don't require me to have steady hands, which I lack.

The timing doesn't matter; start the B- and generic-multi vitamins whenever you get access to them.

Are the lancets like the ones that the Red Cross use to check iron levels etc?

It's the same idea. There are many minor variations, and I don't know which variation you saw or which one you'll get, but they generally don't differ in any important respects.

Low carb isn't the same thing as no carb. How much toast per day do you need to be satisfied?

I usually eat like four slices of ciabatta a day. But after I posted that comment I realized that I would also be quite put out if I had to restrict my sugar intake. (My mental organization system doesn't lump sugar and starch into a reference class or I'd have said that in that comment.) I also really like rice at Indian restaurants, and I'm not sure how I'd go about enjoying curry without either that or naan...

I usually eat like four slices of ciabatta a day.

That isn't in your food log. The fact that you really like a food doesn't mean you can rule it out as a poison.

I realized that I would also be quite put out if I had to restrict my sugar intake.

You'd go into withdrawal, but the withdrawal symptoms and cravings would go away within two weeks. The body uses sugar first for energy, then fat; if you're eating lots of sugar, it needs to transition to metabolizing fat (ketosis), and it's short on energy in the interim, which is a little unpleasant. But it's better on the other side.

That isn't in your food log.

Yes it is. "Toast". Or "eggs on toast", "sandwich", etc.

Also, rice is fairly benign. In my mind, the only issue with white rice is that it crowds out more useful sources of calories, and just provides empty carbohydrates.

You can buy an HbA1c test for around 9 dollars from Walmart. I strongly suggest avoiding the instant read tests, as they have accuracy/precision issues. Get the one that requires you to mail in the blood spot for the test results.

Low carb is a relative thing.

Looking over your diet you seem to eat very little, for which I have a bit of jealousy--if I tried to eat like that my headaches would be from transitioning in and out of ketosis (I get mild headaches when I don't eat enough, and on fasting days they are most annoying) and you only eat meat (usually in the form of seafood) every other day or once every three or four days.

As I don't know you well, I wonder if this is circumstance (you're in depressed economic circumstances), or if this is a choice? I remember (but could be wrong) that you're somewhere out there on the Autism Spectrum, and many folks with ASD have food "issues" of one kind or another.

Either way, the concept of a low carb diet can either be targeting a specific and low amount of carbs a day, or it can be looking at the total energy balance consumed--to pull an example out of the air 20% carbs, 40% protein, 40% fats. Looking at what you've posted, and without actually doing the math I think that you're probably more around 10-20 percent protein, 60-70 percent sugars and carbs (you eat a good bit of fruit, but that's mostly fructose and glucose, not the longer chain starches) and the balance protein. I don't think this is a very healthy balance, but others with as much or more knowledge disagree. Whatever.

Either way it doesn't mean you can't eat crunchy stuff like pretzels or potato chips, it just means when you do you have to cut something else, or increase other things (diet, fats, proteins) to compensate. I guess if you eat a horrendously strict low carb diet those things are out, but this is more about goals than religion, no?

Given your current diet it may be enough to simply add calories and if you then start to see unhappy body-shape consequences modulate overall diet and exercise to adjust. As an example eat a 1/2 pound of chicken breast, a 8 ounce pork or beef steak, salmon and some other fish in comparable quantities every day. This will up your protein, and if you can find good pastured/grazed cattle and pork will increase your omega-3 intake and other essential fatty acids.

My two biggest downfalls where low-carb and gluten free is concerned is Pizza and Pretzels. Oh, and ice cream. The ice cream here in AUS is still made with real sugar and real cream. Even the stuff in the little stop-and-robs. Oh Man.

Pizza we tried to work around by accepting that it's not going to be "low carb" in that sense and restricting it to once a week. Gluten free we tried to solve by finding a gluten free pizza dough recipe.

That didn't go so well, so we're back to flour based pizza dough. Pretzels I can usually avoid, but they're in the junk food machines at work (the facility I work in is about 20 miles from the nearest other source of food in a secure building with armed guard etc. etc., so you pretty much either bring your own food or eat in the cafeteria) so I occasionally succumb to temptation. So what--the point isn't to be a purist, the point is to achieve specific goals, and with my waist the smallest it's been since 2000, I'm ok with falling off the wagon every so often.

The point is that if you can modify your diet enough to reduce the frequency and severity of headaches, it's an overall win right?

So there are two things wrong with wheat based grains. One is the gluten, which can cause Celiac or celiac-like responses, and the other is phytic acid. Now, there's a lot of BS on the net about foods and health, so I'm always skeptical about stuff like this but it seems that phytic acid reduces mineral (including iron) and vitamin absorption in the gut. There are two ways to get rid of phytic acid--soaking/fermenting, and avoidance. Breads and dough based foods made with long-rise yeasts will have less phytic acid than short rise yeasts. Beans soaked for 12-24 hours will have lower phytic acid than those soaked for shorter periods of times etc. etc.

Your diet doesn't appear to be horribly heavy in wheat based stuff, but you were diagnosed with iron deficiencies, so this plus some steak/beef if your dietary preferences allow it may help.

To more narrowing focus on the crunch part, once you address your overall energy budget and eliminate gluten from it, there are some things you can do to get the crunchy back in.

1) Rice based bread. Carb heavy, but gluten free. The stuff I got at Trader Joes was a rather dense bread and bit on the moist side for good toasting, but you might have some luck with it.

2) You're across the harbor from S.F.. Sourdough bread HAS to be done with a long-fermentation process (long enough to reduce the phytic acid content significantly) SF is the sourdough bread capital of the world.

3) Rice cakes. Yeah, the crunch isn't as good as crackers or toast, but it's there.

4) Sourdough crackers. Crackers tend to have a bit less overall sugar/carbs in them than bread, and sourdough crackers with cream cheese and smoked salmon is a marvelous breakfast.

Oh, that reminds me. One way of altering your energy/protein balance is to simply drink a protein drink/shake every morning and evening. I have been getting 5 pound bags of this http://www.trueprotein.com/Product_Details.aspx?cid=46&pid=536 and mixing 2 scoops with 16oz of water for breakfast every morning. The plain unsweetened stuff is like weak milk, which I don't care for, but can swallow. The unsweetened chocolate is much more palatable. I'd guess that with 2 scoops a day 2 pounds would last me a month. I bought 10 pounds last order, but just to see if you can stomach it 1 pound ought to get you along the way. Just to add--no financial interest on my part, yadda yadda.

One other thing to look for--and this may have come up before or later in the thread. Some folks are particularly sensitive to different preservatives, to caffeine or other stimulants etc.. Your food diary, while much more accurate than I could generate over that same time, lacks the sort of minute specificity that would let a doctor or a someone with far more knowledge than I pick out the one or two chemicals that are fucking with you.

I routinely get headaches of various kinds, some due to "whiplash" when I was 19, some due to swelling of the sinuses (some due to infections, some not) and finally I wake up most days with a mild headache (sort of like you describe where moving the head increases the pain, but lying there doesn't make it go away). Usually it will subside if I get up and get through the initial pain, but some days that's damn hard to do.

Good luck.

I wouldn't claim to eat very little. As I said, this diary doesn't include portion size - in particular, the word "candy" might mean several handsful over the course of a day, "ice cream" might be just a little or two bowls, etc. etc.

I'm a pescetarian.

So up your intake of fatty fish (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oily_fish) and chicken (chicken is cheap) and (mother)try to get more fresh vegetables.(/mother).

I'm just looking at what you're reporting and seeing a trend of someone who eats worse than I ever did, except for a very short time when I was in school and not working and would eat a plate of rice and soy sauce for lunch, with maybe a bagel and cream cheese if i had extra money, and then dinner would be half a pound of baloney and some french bread. Breakfast was caffeine.

And yeah, I had a LOT more headaches back then, and would just not bother to go to class on some days. meaning not leaving the house. When my finances got better...no, when my fiancee moved in and started insisting on "real" food (what, mac-n-cheese and hotdogs is real food!) things got a bit better.

I realize there's individual differences, but try to track not only what you're eating, but how many calories you're getting. If it's less than 1500 a day (which is fairly low, but you live in a moderate climate and don't get much exercise) I'd suggest adding aiming for 1800-2000 calories of "quality" food (vegetables, fish or chicken, more eggs (especially pastured eggs if you can afford them). Also nuts are a good source of proteins, fats and longer lasting starches.

My wife's doctor recommended magnesium supplementation for her headaches. Magnesium levels weren't tested, but the doctor said it may help, and some "real" studies seem to agree (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9523054?dopt=Abstract).

Also, if you're on hormone therapy for either cycle stabilization or pregnancy prevention...No, it started way earlier than that, so that's not the cause. OTOH there was a study some 20 years or so ago linking use of birth control hormones with stroke, so if you're getting worse headaches consult your doctor to see if those risks are still relevant (this shouldn't have to be an office visit, merely a call to the clinic should do).

Pescetarian. Not going to eat chicken. I can eat more salmon, tuna, and trout, though. I already eat what seems like a ridiculous amount of eggs; I've been on this egg kick. Didn't use to eat them much.

I actually took magnesium supplements during part of the logged period (I was trying to fix my annoyingly high levels of fasciculation). They didn't have any effect on anything.

I am not on hormones for anything.

Sorry, the definition of Pescetarian I read said "fish but no meat". Since fowl is neither fish, nor "meat" in some circles, and you ate eggs, I thought the full grown chicken/turkey was ok.

How long did you take the magnesium? Week, two weeks? Sometimes this stuff takes days or weeks to 'load up'. My wife started taking B for some memory issues (she was tested low in B something or other) and it took a couple weeks for me to notice an improvement. She never noticed it, but that's because she was the one forgetting.

I took the entire bottle; I think it was about a month.

I would be more open to switching to a low carb diet if anyone could name something that crunches the way toast does.


something that crunches the way toast does.

Bacon on paper towelling (to soak away grease) in a microwave until it's cooked is crunchy, but not quite the way toast is.

Also it's bacon, so it's probably sufficiently different from toast that texture is overwhelmed.

You should probably drop that constraint until you find a diet you can be healthy on, then maybe add it back once you know what the constraints are.

The headaches are a lifelong problem, and I didn't become a pescetarian until I was 17. So I'm pretty sure they're not caused by meat deficiency. Putting my vegetarianism on a hiatus would be injurious to the long-term commitment thereto.

(note: somewhat orthagonal to the discussion of diet v.s. headaches)

I do understand commitment--I have been married over 15 years, and the last 4 have been not worth the effort, but I'm not really suffering because of it (and there's a little kid involved, which is a separate commitment).

But you're basically saying that if my wife starts punching me in the mouth every day, then I should stay with her just because I made a long term commitment. As the kids today say "that's fuxord"

Almost every human being has distinct genes, and once we hit the world and those genes start to express themselves we get wildly divergent results.

if I could prove to you that a cheese burger a day and ONLY a cheese burger (or some sort of steak) would greatly reduce the severity and frequency of your headaches, would you STILL insist on a diet deficient in dead cow flesh? (leave aside that you ate cheese burgers as a kid and it didn't help).

All Jimrandomh is suggesting is that you may want to be willing to test whether some combination of foods will help. If, in the end it doesn't, well ok. If, OTOH your find that my cheese burger fixes you this doesn't mean that you can't go back to the diet you've committed to, but at least then you know (sort of) why you have the problem and if you need to modulate it (for example you know a tough week is coming up) you can take steps.

(that said, while i think that well raised pork and beef are healthy in appropriate quantities, you can have a healthy diet without them and I would be really surprised to find out that they helped your problem)

Oh, and again to the crispy thing: I seem to remember my mom making fried zuchini at some point. I couldn't stand it.

But you're basically saying that if my wife starts punching me in the mouth every day, then I should stay with her just because I made a long term commitment.

No, I'm saying that if a masked person breaks into your house and punches you in the face and runs away, and it could be any of a couple dozen people only one of whom is your wife, divorcing her probably isn't the first step.

Well then bacon is definitely sufficiently different from toast!

I think you're on the right track with diet - headaches on a semiregular daily schedule sounds a lot like consumption of food on a semiregular daily schedule. Nothing in the data set jumped out at me straight away, so I expect it will be a hard-to-find dietary problem. "All your life" suggests a widely available property, such that its presence is invariant over changes in location and diet.

Ctrl-f "no headache" didn't help much.

Based on this line of reasoning, I suspect a mild gluten intolerance. The only test I'm aware of is rather expensive: buying gluten-free bread, and avoiding cereal and pasta for two-ish weeks.

Searching for what giving up gluten is like regarding headaches: gluten withdrawal is apparently a thing (see the July entry), so if gluten-free makes the headaches worse, it's one of those arduous treks through low-utility space to get from under a local optimum.

I'd recommend more research on gluten-free to be sure of details.

I don't think going gluten-free has to be expensive if you don't go for gluten-free products which resemble foods that would normally have gluten. On the other hand, you do have to take complete control of what you're eating. For example, most soy sauce has gluten in it.

Alicorn, this is a tentative suggestion, as in it might be worth the aggravation but I'm not sure. Have you posted a detailed description of your headaches?

Are you only listing one of the meals you ate or is this complete? You are often only eating one meal a day?

That's a list of foods I eat on each day. They're not separated into meals. I think the only time on there I ate only at one sitting was the day with the strouganoff.

I didn't look at your diet, but I presume you'll proceed to look for non-diet factors you could manipulate to reduce your headaches if you find no promising dietary ideas.

I use to get migraines. Now when I go out, I wear good sunglasses. The headaches went away.

I sometimes go days without leaving the house at all. Unlikely to be related.

Is it possible that this is a factor? I get a headache if I don't leave the house for more than 16 hours or so.

Unlikely. I've been getting out of doors much more often in the last month and a half since moving to a place with supernaturally lovely weather and this hasn't yielded any improvement.

None from personal experience, but I was thinking of Seth Roberts' reports about migraine-sufferers identifying some triggers (e.g. fabric softener!)

Obvious things that can be manipulated to probably cause headaches: noise, stress, erratic sleep, physical exertion, dehydration*, allergies, altitude (obviously you're not likely varying your altitude, and most people adjust to any reasonable <7000 ft level), reduction in caffeine, alcohol (and also sulfites in wine) - you're probably considering the last two under 'diet'.

[ * ] I guess I have personal experience nearly fainting from without-noticing-I'm-thirsty dehydration; never a severe headache I'd associate with dehydration without also enough exposure for a nice full body sunburn.

I don't think it can plausibly be an environmental factor. It's a lifelong problem and I've moved around a lot (also changed my sleep schedule plenty of times). My default consumption of caffeine and alcohol is zero.

I think scented cleaning products are common enough that people are likely to be exposed to them unless a deliberate effort is made to have everything unscented.

I don't usually expose myself to cleaning products at all. When I do they're usually just water. I spent a year and a half living in an apartment where neither my roommate nor I even owned a scented cleaning product. My laundry detergent is scent-free.

Okay, good luck then! You can try playing with subsets of environmental factors that may have been present across all those moves, but I'm not optimistic that you'll have many interesting (and controllable) possibilities. Maybe you can find something that decreases your headaches' frequency or severity even if they can't be eliminated entirely.

I was trying to decide whether to supplement lipoic acid, and happened to notice convincing evidence that for migraine sufferers, LA supplementation definitely reduces both migraines and regular headaches. (600mg/day, which is not an extremely high dose)

Migraines are hemispherical, right? I only sometimes have headaches that confine themselves to one side.

I have a hypothesis. It is possible that painkiller withdrawal is the cause of at least some of your headaches. According to Wikipedia, ibuprofen can cause rebound headaches, and you've been taking ibuprofen regularly for a long time.

I am aware of the risk of rebound headaches, but I don't think I'm taking enough of it to cause that problem; I avoid medicating unless a headache is bothering me more than usual, and since they've gotten worse lately I'm explicitly alternating days. (Today is a no-ibuprofen day :()

I don't have any specific suggestions for you about headache causes.

Curetogether is crowdsourcing site to help people help each other figure out what's causing their health problems. The founder started it to deal with her headaches: http://quantifiedself.com/self-experiment/ http://curetogether.com/chronic-daily-headache/survey/symptoms/

Time of day seemed to be a significant factor in discovering the cause for her. That may be something you want to add to your logs.

There are always a lot of factors, and formalizing your experiments may help you figure out what the most significant causes are. You may want to try eating the same things every day for a while, at the same time, to reduce variation. You may also want to do things you don't usually, and stop doing things you do every day.

Chronic pain is a huge drain on one's life. I wish you all the best in moving towards decreased pain.

I can't tell from your log when you ate in relation to when the headaches come on.

One possibility that occurs to me is that your headaches might be occurring when your glucose levels are low, if you are prone to hypoglycemia. You can figure that out by observing if you tend to get the headaches when you haven't eaten for a few hours or more or/and by testing your glucose levels. If that does tend to be a problem, making sure that you have protein or/and some fat with your meals and frequent meals or snacks should help. Also, trying to avoid too simple carbohydrates and sugary foods, which cause glucose levels to spike and then plummet will help.

Does caffeine help your headaches? Caffeine is a vasoconstrictor, which can help with certain kinds of headaches. This could help determine what kind of headaches you have.

I do not consume caffeine except for in chocolate. Can anyone think of a not-coffee, not-tea, not-carbonated, not-a-long-list-of-mysterious-chemical-ingredients caffeine source for me to try? (I think there is caffeine powder in the house somewhere, so if the answer is "mix X milligrams caffeine powder in with Y compatible liquid" I can possibly do that.)

As a frequent sufferer of headaches, the only over-the-counter medication that works really well for my headaches are the Excedrin formulations that include acetaminophen, aspirin and caffeine. Each of those ingredients alone is nowhere near as effective in my experience as the combination.

I meant it more as a diagnostic test than a solution. I'm not sure of the mechanism of action of acetaminophen and aspirin, but I think they would reduce the information you could get from this test.

Ditto, and caffeine by itself often makes a headache worse for me.

No-Doz is inexpensive, just caffeine, more convenient to prepare, and easier to take than caffeine powder, if the powder route proves too much of a trivial inconvenience.

I think there is caffeine powder in the house somewhere, so if the answer is "mix X milligrams caffeine powder in with Y compatible liquid" I can possibly do that

I believe anhydrous caffeine powder, as the name indicates, dissolves nicely into water. (I seem to recall this being the case for me, although I cannot test it now since I long ago turned all the caffeine powder into pills.)

It does dissolve reasonably into water, but tastes pretty terrible. Can dilute it with fruit juice if that's a problem, or just ignore it.

I think the first thing to check (due to being reasonably likely as well as easy to test) is eye sight: If you don't wear glasses maybe and eye test would show that you are near or far sighted. (That you woke up with a headache suggests otherwise but it is still a possibility)

I wear glasses whenever I'm awake. The prescription was last updated in January of last year. The headaches are pretty much a lifelong issue, and I've had glasses since the second grade regularly checked for ongoing compatibility, so I doubt it's that unless several different eye doctors have been making a consistent mistake. The reason I was moved to post today is that ibuprofen is slowly ceasing to work as decisively as it used to.

Sorry for coming in late, but: headaches that start abruptly (as in "four months ago"), are this disruptive, and keep going on for months should be checked out by a doctor.

You moved three time zones in the middle of the problem, and you are not reporting a big change in frequency/severity. This makes random outside factors less likely. While food can be a cause of headaches, it is actually not that frequent of a cause, and usually a clear link can be found - especially if someone gathers extensive data like you did.

If you really want to avoid medical professionals, try washing out your sinuses with saline (Neti pots often work well) once a day for a few weeks - an indolent sinus infection could be a cause. But if this continues (and especially, if it gets to the point of causing nausea), please try to get to a doctor ASAP.

My headaches mostly went away with daily flaxseed oil or fish oil. I have no particular reason to expect you'd see the same, but it's easy to try. I take 1 or 2 tablespoons of flaxseed oil per day.

I recently tried drinking oil for the Shangri-La diet and it made me want to puke; is there some tasty preparation you recommend?

If you do take oil in capsule form, I suggest biting one open every once in a while to check for rancidity. Also, store them in the fridge.

biting one open every once in a while to check for rancidity

One gets the impression you make sure your revolver's unloaded by putting it to your head and pulling the trigger.

The taste test seems more reliable than smell. I sidestepped the issue and take liquid fish oil instead.

You could grind seeds in a coffee grinder, as BillyOblivion suggests. (I don't because the extra stuff in seeds disagrees with another body issue of mine.) Sometimes I take around 5 gelcaps a day while traveling, which isn't as effective but makes most of the difference for the headaches.

What I do is put on a swimmer's nose clip, drink the oil by alternately taking in a mouthful of water and floating a swallow of oil down on top of that; follow up with a banana or something because I've found taking it on an empty stomach to disagree with me; have a bit more water; then take off the noseclip. The clip is mainly to help with Shangri-La appetite control, which I consider just a bonus.

The first time I took this it gave me heartburn -- starting with a smaller amount the first couple of times might be smart.