If you are one of the 12% of people in the US who is a migraine sufferer, you will understand the drive to find a solution to help ease the pain. Among the possible solutions you may have looked to, you may want to consider adopting a migraine diet as a way to pinpoint what nutritional aspects cause these debilitating conditions.
A migraine diet can take many forms and is mostly based on an individual’s response to certain foods. However, there are a few commonly identified food items that seem to trigger frequent occurrences of the condition in people. Knowing what these are and monitoring which cause a trigger for you personally can help you to avoid bringing on a migraine.
Trigger Foods To Avoid
When putting together your migraine diet, research shows that there are a few things you should consider to be a potential risk for triggering your symptoms. Some of them will probably come as a bit of a shock.
In the fruit family specifically, you may want to keep an eye out for:
If like most, you were shocked to see fruit on the list, you are not alone. The problem with the fruit in the list above is the fact that they may contain pollen and other allergen compounds. These items cause histamine, one such organic compound, to be released, which can result in you getting a migraine after eating them.
Like most things that nutrition-related, different foods may cause some people to have migraines and not others. We’ve found a few common ones which have been known to trigger symptoms in people including:
- Alcohol (Especially beer and red wine)
- Cured meat
- Preservatives for your food e.g. MSG, artificial sweeteners, nitrates and nitrites
- Smoked fish
- Yeast extract
- Wheat-based products
Why These Items Can Be Triggers
We explored a few of these items to find out why they should not be a part of your migraine diet.
Caffeine is a staple for many people, widely enjoyed and revered. As an everyday beverage and stimulant, it is often not a drink that people would give up easily.
Like most things, however, too much of it can be bad for you and lead to symptoms of the severe headache you are trying to avoid. As such, it is recommended that you follow a case by case self-assessment in terms of your caffeine needs and where they fit into your migraine diet.
Aged Cheese and Cured Meat
In foods such as aged cheese and cured meat, too much salt can cause dehydration. It is for this reason that foods too high in salt may not be the best for you to consume often if you are prone to suffering from the condition.
Food with considerable amounts of sodium, additives, and artificial elements such as sweeteners are likely to cause migraines and should thus be avoided.
Interestingly, alcohol also contains the histamine compound (as mentioned earlier) and ethanol, a convertible chemical that can cause a major headache onset. Alcohol also encourages the production of more histamine from one’s immune system which only lends to the potential eventuality of a migraine onset increasing.
Aside from the histamine reaction we previously spoke about, the acidity in fruits such as oranges and lemons can also irritate your stomach and result in a migraine being triggered. Hence, these may be necessary items to exclude from your list.
As unfortunate as the thought of having to cut down on your chocolate intake might be, it might be a reality that you have to face if you want to avoid triggering symptoms. However, to dispel your worries a bit, we thought we’d let you know that chocolate itself may not be the direct cause of migraines.
Instead, the correlation can be drawn to hormonal changes that your body goes through. When you experience these, you may feel a craving for chocolate. It is said that it could be the hormonal changes, rather than the chocolate which can trigger the migraine condition.
Why are chilies a possible trigger to avoid in your migraine diet you may wonder? Well, the ingestion of chilies is suspected to cause our bodies to react negatively to certain pain receptors, thus making a strong headache that much more possible.
What Should You Eat?
Fortunately, there is a great deal of research available on triggers so that you don’t have to go through with testing everything out yourself. Should you be looking to tackle nutrition as the first step towards putting preventative measures in place, you’re on the right track.
Additionally, you might like to consider keeping a journal if the migraines are not subsiding. In your diary, you should monitor how frequently they occur, their intensity each time, and what you have eaten or done before the onset. This will be helpful to take along to your doctor for a more detailed and accurate diagnosis. For the more technically inclined, there are clever apps to suit your needs too.
Implementing a Migraine Diet
When browsing the shelves of the grocery store, you need to be thinking “real deal” all the way. With this in mind, you may ask yourself what real means? Well for starters, it is suggested that you leave the items with preservatives or artificial flavorings behind.
If it is whole and natural, this can work in better stead for your migraine diet. Admittedly, the thought of standing in the aisle, reading the ingredients for each purchase can sound a bit heavy. However, it will be worth it eventually and before long you will get a feel for choosing the correct food straight away.
During a migraine itself, nausea, dizziness and sensory sensitivity is an awful, uncomfortable pain for anyone to have to endure. Sometimes, nausea can be helped by snacking on something like a slice of toast or plain crackers – their lack of taste can help to counter your nausea.
Monitoring Your Eating Habits
We all have those days of unexpected interruptions and errands to run where you don’t get a moment to stop and take a lunch break. However, missing meals can cause the glucose levels in your bloodstream to drop which may result in a pounding headache emerging.
To help this process, we would recommend better meal planning where you can. However, we realize that this is not always possible. As such, it may be an idea to rather eat a few smaller meals in a day in order to keep your blood sugar levels steady and avoid the dreaded migraine.
This may be a tad new and daunting at first, but if you do decide to start making different lifestyle choices, you will have to be intentional about it. Depending on the severity and occurrence patterns of your headaches, you will need to practice these changes at all times, including at work, events, or social gatherings. Some people have found it helpful to embark on plant-based, ketogenic diet, or veganism as pain-safe migraine diets.
Diets that are typically conducive to reducing triggers include the following foods:
- Rice (Brown rice in particular)
- Natural Sweeteners e.g. vanilla extract, maple syrup
- Dried fruit that is not part of the citrus group e.g. cherries, cranberries.
- Orange, yellow, and green veggies
Women who are going through menstruation tend to be more susceptible to migraines, which may be linked to their lowered estrogen levels. As a result, women should try to aim for 7-10 servings of fruit and vegetables as healthy food options. These provide plant estrogens to offset the body’s fluctuating levels.
The darker green your vegetables, and the more whole grains and beans you have, the higher the levels of magnesium will be, a factor which is commonly found by people with lower migraine occurrences.
Should you be wondering where you may incorporate some non-veggies into the mix, you can definitely hunt down some fresh meat, fish, and poultry without too much worry about upsetting your nutrition train. One thing to remember is that it is important to bear in mind that processed, smoked options should be avoided alongside items prepared in broths or tenderizers.
A food diary may help to track everything you eat, including your body’s response to certain foods. Another way to go about this change is to embark on a two-week challenge of safe eating. With this purpose in mind, you can incorporate the recommended safer options into your routine. Try to only focus on eating those, all the while being constantly aware of your migraines, their intensity and their rate of occurrence.
Once your two weeks are up, you can bring more food groups back into your diet slowly and cautiously, being aware the whole time of how your body is responding to them. This should help you to more easily realize where the problem areas are and to remove them from your eating plan.
While major dietary changes may sound like quite a task at the outset, you will have to be kind to yourself and give yourself some grace to take it one day at a time.
Bear in mind that there are other natural and holistic solutions to dealing with this condition. From a lifestyle point of view, you could incorporate a yoga practice into your daily routine. It has shown to have benefits for the sympathetic nervous system which regulates your body responses such as experiencing migraines.