The Crunchy Cookie

Equal parts deliciousness and hippiness

If you’ve ever suffered a migraine, you know that they’re more than just a headache.  Often accompanied by sensitivity to light, sound, and smells as well as nausea and vomiting, a migraine can disrupt your life and make you feel like jabbing a pen into your temple is a less painful option.  I began suffering migraines in my early twenties and have learned that the most important aspect of management is prevention.  I’m lucky in that I don’t have to turn to  more drastic measures such as blood pressure medication and that by eating healthily and regularly and keeping to a consistent sleep schedule, I can manage them fairly well.  Another thing that helps?  Riboflavin, that magic B vitamin.  A study published in the medical journal Neurology found that high doses of riboflavin (400 mg a day) were a safe prophylaxis for migraines.  The study’s participants had fewer migraines of shorter duration and lesser severity.  They also reported using fewer anti-migraine drugs.  Pretty promising, right?  If you have migraines, talk to your doctor about incorporating high-dose riboflavin into your treatment program.  Along with avoiding your triggers, it can help you manage a nasty and disruptive problem.

If you’re not sure what your triggers are, try keeping a migraine journal.  Write down anything you’ve eaten, been exposed to, etc. in the day or two preceding your migraine.  Note the duration and severity on a 10 point scale to try and find any patterns.  (Doing this helped me pinpoint that my migraines are linked to my hormonal cycle, lack of sleep, red wine, and maybe even the scent lavender.)  Then talk to your doctor about treatment and prevention measures, including alternative treatments like acupuncture.  Good luck!

When not busy expanding our knowledge of the universe, NASA occasionally researches topics with very practical applications here on Earth.  Like houseplants.  NASA has identified 19 different species of houseplants that are useful in improving indoor air quality and many have the added bonus of treating certain chemicals, like benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene that are found in household items like paint and building materials.  All 19 plants are easy to find at your local nursery and NASA recommends one of these plants for every 133 sq. ft. in your home to improve air quality, grown in pots of at least 6 inches in diameter.  Here’s the list of the top 15 (B=reduces benzene, F=reduces formaldehyde, and T= reduces trichloroethylene):

  • Philodendron scandens “oxycardium”, heartleaf philodendron
  • Philodendron domesticum, elephant ear philodendron
  • Dracaena fragrans “Massangeana”, cornstalk dracaena
  • Hedera helix, English ivy, B
  • Chlorophytum comosum, spider plant, F
  • Dracaena deremensis “Janet Craig”, Janet Craig dracaena
  • Dracaena deremensis “Warneckii”, Warneck dracaena, F
  • Ficus benjamina, weeping fig
  • Epipiremnum aureum, golden pothos, F
  • Spathiphyllum “Mauna Loa”, peace lily, B, T, F
  • Philodendron selloum, selloum philodendron
  • Aglaonema modestum, Chinese evergreen
  • Chamaedorea sefritzii, bamboo or reed palm, B, T, F
  • Sansevieria trifasciata, Mother-in-Law’s tongue, B, F
  • Dracaena marginata, red-edged dracaena, F

What’s great about houseplants is that they’re used to flourishing in low light, so they’re good for office environments as well.  Not included in the top 15 are the gerbera daisy and mums, which are considered decorative, seasonal plants and not true houseplants.  Both reduce benzene and the gerbera daisy also reduces trichloroethylene.

A Note About My Family’s Experience with Going Gluten-free: After consulting with our doctor, DG and I decided to maintain a gluten-free household about a year and a half ago and now, it seems that gluten-free menus and options are everywhere I turn.  Which is good for us, but maybe bad for people in general.  It seems to be the next big thing in diets, which makes me cringe because reaching for something just because it’s labeled “gluten-free” isn’t best if you don’t do your homework.  Gluten-free living can and has helped thousands of people who suffer from things like celiac disease and IBD but it’s not necessarily a healthier lifestyle for everyone: in fact, many gluten-free foods are higher in fat, calories, and carbohydrates  and lower in fiber than their glutinous counterparts.  (Now if you want to discuss removing processed foods from your diet, that’s a horse of a different color.)  If you’re considering going gluten-free, please consult your medical provider and not something like Elizabeth Hasselbeck’s book that promises that it’s “the secret to a healthy life”.  And now back to the post…

The American Dietitic Association recently published a study that analyzed the amounts of gluten found in supposedly naturally gluten-free foods.  The results are reason for the gluten-intolerant and gluten-adverse to be concerned: 7 out of the 22 samples showed gluten levels above the proposed FDA rule for gluten-free labeling.  The study states that “gluten contamination of inherently gluten-free grains, seeds, and flours not labeled gluten-free is a legitimate concern.”

If you’re gluten-free, you probably already know that gluten can pop up in unexpected places, including oatmeal (which is naturally gluten-free but grown and processed in such a way that it’s usually contaminated by gluten), sauces, milk and meat products.  You probably also know that the FDA currently has no definition for “gluten-free” and that gluten-free labeling is voluntary and not regulated or enforced.  What this new study shows is that we also now have to be extra careful when buying things like rice flour because they may be contaminated by gluten.  In my mind, it’s probably safer to buy flours and products labeled “certified gluten-free” because even though they are generally more expensive, they have been tested  to ensure that they don’t contain gluten above 10 ppm.  If a product is simply labeled “gluten-free”, there’s no guarantee that it has been tested and it may just be a marketing ploy because of the gluten-free diet’s new-found popularity.  Sigh.  We’ll just have to wait until the FDA actually decides on a definition for “gluten-free”, a process that’s been in the works since 2006.

Do you have any tips for or questions on healthy gluten-free living?  Please post in the comments section below or write me at sarah@thecrunchycookie.com!

The New York Times just published an interesting article on vitamin D, the so-called “sunshine vitamin”.  Many studies have suggested that many cancers and diseases such as Type I diabetes are caused by vitamin D deficiency and what I’ve heard from many people is that they’re choosing to forgo sunscreen in an attempt to increase their levels.  I really liked the New York Times article because it gives a good, general prescription for safe-sun levels in the summer that will help you get your vitamin D fix for the whole year.  Here’s the takeaway:

  • Those most at risk for vitamin D deficiency are the sun-phobic, babies who are exclusively breast-fed, and the elderly, especially those in nursing homes.  It’s very hard to get adequate amount of vitamin D purely through diet.
  • The amount of sunscreen you use, the color of your skin, and the amount of sun exposure you get, as well as when and where you get it, affects your ability to produce adequate amounts of “quality” vitamin D.
  • To get enough vitamin D, the general prescription is to go outside in the summer between 10 am and 3 pm for 5-10 minutes, wearing “minimal clothing” and no sunscreen, two to three times a week.  (It’s okay to always wear sunscreen on your face and neck.)
  • In general, you can fill your reserves of vitamin D for the year by getting limited but direct sun exposure in the summer.  If you’re concerned about your levels, you can ask that your doctor check them by doing a blood test at your next physical or wellness appointment.

It seems pretty easy to get more vitamin D, at least according to this prescription, and it also seems easy to incorporate your “dose” into other healthy behaviors.  Take a walk at lunch or during a break at your office or school.  Walk or bike to do errands on the weekends.  Try mediation or yoga outside and feel the warmth of the sun on your body.  Garden with exposed arms and legs.  Take some reading with you outdoors.  But keep in mind that you should be wearing sunscreen and using sun protection most of the time.  Be aware that chemical sunscreens often take 20-30 minutes from application to be effective while mineral sunscreens like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide take effect immediately.

There is a balance to be struck between getting vitamin D and practicing safe sun: do you have any tips for doing so?  Please share them in the comments section below or by emailing me at sarah@thecrunchycookie.com!