Trupti Gokani is a neurologist who practices an integrative and Ayurvedic approach to treat her migraine patients. Ayurveda focuses on three “doshas” that govern each person’s body: vata, pitta, and kapha. Knowing your dosha, and recognizing when it’s imbalanced, is the heart of Ayuvedic medicine. In 2015 Gokani published The Mysterious Mind: How to Use Ancient Wisdom and Modern Science to Heal Your Headaches and Reclaim Your Health. Here, I asked her to give an overview for patients how best to use her book.
Who did you write the book for, doctors or patients?
This book was initially written for patients. It is very challenging for me to get through all of these concepts in our shorter clinical visits.
How can a patient use this book on their own, if they only have access to a traditional doctor?
Knowing that each individual who reads this book may not have a provider that is willing to work with them integratively, I have done my best to give as much information as possible to help one start the process of healing on their own. The self-assessment quizzes are written to allow you to do your own evaluation without a provider to interpret the results.
Simply connecting with your doshic imbalance will then allow you to choose foods that can balance your mind and body, along with making specific lifestyle changes to start the process of healing.
Understanding the symptoms that occur when the dosha is imbalanced, or if the digestion and/or adrenals are not in harmony, will start to create a connection of the bigger picture of migraine, mood disorders, and sleep issues to the rest of the mind/body.
If a patient gets laboratory test results that are within normal range, they can see if they fall into what we consider to be suboptimal range. If they are, the patient can request the physician to recommend a different protocol and be a much better advocate for their health.
How do you suggest patients with migraine educate their doctors about an alternative approach?
When symptoms occur, the patient can break it down based on the dosha and try some of my suggestions. Then they can report (case-study style) the results to the clinician. The doctor may not, at first, know what Vata imbalance is, but the more the patient teaches the doctor concepts of the wind/fire/earth state and how changing diet/adding supplements or utilizing other tools have helped, doctors will naturally become curious and want to learn more. If a patient reports feeling better with approaches tried that are non-conventional, most physicians will support the approach as long as no harm is being done.
If this isn’t the case, I advise the patient to move on to a doctor that will honor the work the patient is doing to heal. Often, my patients have a team of support: the MD or DO, a chiropractor, an acupuncturist, or massage therapist. This team needs to speak the same language and communicate. It takes work on the part of the patient, but having a good team is essential to healing.
How can a person “eat for their dosha” but still avoid migraine trigger foods?
For example, if I am trying to balance vata dosha, the list of recommended foods includes citrus fruits, vinegar, fermented foods, and alcohol. All of those are known migraine triggers.
The diet is likely one of the most challenging conversations to have. The truth is, it’s very individual. I would recommend that first all migraine patients avoid the foods that consistently trigger migraines for them. If they are not sure about a food, I recommend they continue eating it. If patients avoided everything on the trigger list, they may be actually depriving themselves of foods that truly lead to no issues at all. I would rather them remove the definite items and then only remove other items if their headaches are not improving after a couple of months on the initial protocol.
Once they have decided which foods must be avoided (such as MSG), then I would recommend following the dosha-specific diet. If foods are on the list that are classic triggers (such as citrus foods in your example) those would be eliminated.
The same is true for allergy foods. While dairy is good for the Vata dosha, if someone has a strong dairy intolerance, I would recommend withholding dairy or would say to have only small amounts of dairy if it is boiled and spiced (such as in chai).
Is there a time period you find that people need to follow the dietary recommendations to see improvement?
Yes, they often need to follow the dietary changes for a minimum of two months to see the full effects of elimination on the mind and body. Then I would reintroduce one item at a time, very slowly, and carefully monitor the mind and body for reactions.
If you wanted a patient to take away one idea from your book, what would it be?
There is hope for all migraineurs—it is never to late to heal headaches as it begins with connecting with your authentic self.