A woman who feared she might have a brain tumour after suffering crippling migraines claims to have been cured by ditching her favourite food: mac ‘n’ cheese.
Leia Harrison, 31, from Leicester, has a new lease on life after finding out about her intolerance to dairy products.
Prior to the discovery, she had been plagued by chronic migraines for almost two decades, but even the strongest painkillers failed to reduce her agony.
Her migraines brought on a strange ‘aura’ that temporarily blinded her in one eye – and also saw her almost crashing her car following an attack while driving.
At one point, Leia and her family feared she might have a brain tumour.
After suspecting that her migraines were caused by what she was eating, Leia took a food intolerance test from YorkTest Laboratories.
Through a blood sample analysis in February this year, she found out about her intolerance to dairy, as well as eggs, yeast and wheat.
And because her diet was crammed with cheese, she was forced to make drastic changes to her weekly shop, but her misery ended ‘almost instantly’ since giving up the cheese-based meals, including Leia’s go-to comfort food, mac ‘n’ cheese.
Leia, who works in management for a UK-based delivery company, said: ‘I didn’t get one [migraine] for two weeks, and then three weeks, and it snowballed. I couldn’t believe it.
‘I loved mac ‘n’ cheese, cheese toasties and cheese and pasta, but it didn’t love me. I’d eat things like pasta, bread and cheese-based meals several times a week because it was quick, cheap and convenient.
‘But now I know these foods weren’t agreeing with me at all.
‘For me, I’m able to function better at work. I can focus more and I’m not as tired and brain foggy after eating lunch, which is huge for me.
‘I don’t have to worry about a small headache turning into something crippling.’
For Leia, a substance called ‘tyramine’ – which can be found in certain cheeses such as cheddar, Stilton and camembert – as well as cured meats, can also be problematic.
Even in her teens, she endured migraines so agonising that she’d often be reduced to tears.
Leia coped by taking high-dose painkillers before attempting to sleep it off, sometimes for 24 hours or more, but the migraines continued.
‘My family started to worry it was something more serious, especially when several of my “attacks” would last well over a couple days, at their worst,’ she said.
‘One of my great uncles passed away from a brain tumour and had a lot of severe headaches before being diagnosed – that’s something that stuck with me when I was feeling unwell.
‘More recently, an attack came on just as I was leaving work.
‘I was helpless. I was in my car at the time and had the worst driving experience I’ve ever had – to the point I had to pull over and stop after nearly crashing.
‘It was awful. I didn’t think I’d make it home.’
It’s thought that around six million people in the UK suffer from migraines.
The condition made headlines last month after the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) said a revolutionary new migraine drug – Erenumab – would not be made available to NHS patients outside of Scotland.
This decision has been attacked by charities, with The Migraine Trust labelling it a ‘very bad day for chronic migraine patients’.
There’s a whole host of potential ‘triggers’, according to the NHS, including stress, depression, tiredness, poor posture, dehydration, changes in climate or very cold temperatures.
It’s said that diet can also play a key role – with alcohol, caffeine, chocolate and common citrus fruit all potential culprits.
Dr Hart, scientific director at YorkTest Laboratories, said: ‘There’s not a one-size-fits-all as your diet is unique to you.
‘So, it’s crucial to understand your own food intolerances and the effects it may have on your life.
‘The prevention of migraines can be problematic. It’s important sufferers realise how diet can play a role, particularly for those where medicines are not eliminating the issue.’
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