The first time it hit me, I was 6 months pregnant with my son. We lived in Washington, DC at the time, and it was summer. In case you don’t know, summers in DC are hot, very hot, and our little basement apartment lacked air-conditioning. I remember the aura, that strange visual disturbance, foreboding of what was to come. Everything seemed blurry, and there were bright lights dancing in front of my eyes. I thought it was the heat, but then the pain started, gradually intensifying until I cried. Unable to escape the drumming in my head, I stood in a cold shower, crying and vomiting all at the same time. My poor husband did what he could to help, but neither of us knew what hit us. So we got scared. Surely there must be something really, really wrong with the baby if I was so sick. But, thankfully, our son was fine. I was just having my first migraine.
The next day, the pain had receded and I called my mom, describing the experience. She told me it sounded just like her own migraines. And so my journey with head pain began.
I come from a long line of migraine sufferers. My mother, but also my grand-mother, one of my brothers, and many of my aunts, and uncles, and cousins, all suffer from migraines. So I have seen first-hand the endless cycle of very temporary relief that pharmaceuticals can bring. Managing migraine pain with drugs seemed complex, and very, very far from perfect. They worked for a very short while, before losing efficacy and causing all sorts of unwanted side effects, such as rebound headaches. I knew it was not a road I ever wanted to take. I was in the market for long-lasting solutions, and true healing. Besides, I was pregnant, and would not allow any chemicals to enter my body.
For some time, the migraines were manageable. They only came once in a while, and when they did, they would recede after a short hour of lying in a dark room with ice on my head and eyes. But, slowly, their length and intensity grew, and a few years later, there were times when I had 4-5 migraine days per week. To top it all off, my moods were also erratic, and I suffered from chronic anxiety. Not a good way to live.
Knowing that there was far more to life than what I was experiencing, I became desperate for answers. Instinctively, thinking that there must be some connection, I turned to food. In 2009, I attended the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, and it was the perfect catalyst for healing. It is there that I first learned about the intimate relationship between food and mood, and between food, and inflammation, and pain.
That is when I eliminated many foods from my diet – gluten, most dairy, soy, caffeine, vinegar, chocolate, most processed foods and vegetable oils, and alcohol of any kind… I also added lots and lots of veggies, got rid of chemicals in our home, started exercising much more regularly, and began cultivating a heck of a lot more joy. A couple of days after eliminating gluten, my anxiety was completely gone. The migraines took longer, a few months, but they gradually lessened in intensity and frequency until they also disappeared. I remember realizing at some joyful point that I hadn’t had a migraine day in months. No drugs, no masking of symptoms, the pain was simply and truly gone, and I felt better, and more vibrant, than I had in years. I had finally healed.
Was it easy? No, of course not. I gave up many of my absolute favorite foods – baguette or croissant dipped in coffee in the morning, a big slab of cheese licked off a knife, sushi with soy sauce, and, perhaps worst of all, my favorite boozy drinks of all time: mojitos and margaritas. I know, I am French, wine should be on top of that list. But, what can I say, my drinks of choice, the ones I looked forward to and still miss, were those citrusy wonders. On the rocks, with salt.
So, today, I bring you a slightly modified (and non-alcoholic), version – a ginger nojito, perfect for when you have something special to celebrate. The drink is called “no-jito”, because it is a mo-jito (a traditional Cuban drink made from lime juice, rum, sugar, mint and sparkling water), just without rum. Sounds lacking, you say? Try it. I think you will be surprised at how festive and refreshing it actually tastes. Of course, if alcohol is not a problem for you and you enjoy it, do spike this baby up with a little rum. But if not, I assure you that it stands on its own beautifully.
I added some pomegranate seeds before the season is completely over, and some chopped kiwi, for color and taste, but feel free to add whatever fruits you would like. Yes, it takes a bit of sugar to sweeten the sour bite of the lime juice, so keep that in mind and drink in moderation. I always line my glass with a little fleur de sel, because I simply adore the sweet-salty combo, but that is optional, of course.
Love and health!
- fleur de sel, for rimming glasses
- 2 limes, roughly chopped, plus more for the edge of the glass
- 1 thumb-size piece ginger, peeled, minced
- 1/2 cup packed mint
- 1/2 cup lime juice (from about 6-7 limes)
- 1/4 cup organic cane sugar
- sparkling water
- ice, for garnish
- 3 kiwi, chopped small, for garnish
- 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds (from about 1/2 pomegranate), for garnish
- Add a thin layer of fleur de sel to a small plate. Run a lime quarter along the edge of 4 martini glasses, then dip into fleur de sel to coat.
- Add the limes, ginger, and mint to a mortar and pestle. Crush together to release the juices (the longer you crush, the more flavor the mixture will have). Add the lime juice and crush again. Strain through a fine mesh sieve (I use a large tea strainer) into a bowl. You should have about 1 cup of juice. Add the sugar and whisk until dissolved.
- Add about 1/4 cup of the lime mixture to each martini glass. Add the kiwi, pomegranate, sparkling water and ice to fill the glasses.
- Serve immediately.