The frequency and severity of headache attacks largely depends on the lifestyle people follow. Scientific research has confirmed the surprising link between recurrence of migraine attacks and food intake. While some foods can prevent and even treat pathology, others, on the contrary, play a big role in terms of triggering symptoms that complicate the patient’s condition. A well thought-out daily diet is just as important as drug therapy. By understanding which foods should be avoided and which ones play the role of natural medicine, you can significantly improve your well-being.
In the 1980s, British scientists began to actively investigate the influence of human nutrition on the frequency of headaches. The subject of the study was a group of 88 children suffering from severe migraines.
In the study, scientists have excluded from the children’s habitual diet certain foods that they “suspected” had the capacity to increase the incidence of seizures. As a result, 78 out of 88 patients improved their condition, and some even stopped getting seizures altogether. When scientists reintroduced the suspected trigger foods to the diet, 80 children began to relapse. The result of the experiment led scientists to conclude that nutritional factors may be key in the development of migraines in children and adolescents. In adults, avoiding trigger foods reduces the frequency and severity of seizures by 20-50%.
What is the most dangerous food for migraines?
Let’s determine what are the most detrimental foods for migraine sufferers. Generally speaking, these are primarily products containing nitrites, the amino acid tyramine, a food supplement monosodium glutamate (MSG), histamine, caffeine, copper (in large quantities), and simple sugars. Nitrite is a common ingredient in ham, frankfurters and sausages. This additive gives meat products a delicate pink color, and for people suffering from migraines, a probable headache attack, as it causes a sharp narrowing of the cerebral vessels.
Tyramine, which gives expensive aged cheeses a deep aroma and a particular sharp taste, quickly narrows and dilates blood vessels, and causes a deficiency of serotonin in the body (a lack of this hormone leads to migraines). Tyramine is found in large quantities in beer, pickled herring, chicken liver, yeast, and citrus fruits. Drinking red wines containing ethanol, sulfites and tyramine also leads to vasospasm and dehydration. Both conditions are preconditions to developing migraines.
While serotonin is sorely lacking in the common migraine pathology, its antipode, the hormone histamine, is found in excess and intensifies headache attacks. In order not to further increase the concentration of histamine, patients should cut down or avoid eggplant, tomatoes, avocados, cheeses, sausages, beer, red wine, and sauerkraut.
Products with monosodium glutamate (E621) are likewise not recommended for consumption. This food supplement, usually added to food to enhance its taste and make it more addictive, causes increased activity in some areas of the brain, which provokes a migraine attack.
Although it does promote secretion of serotonin, chocolate isn’t considered safe for migraines. In fact, it contains three main migraine provocateurs. These are phenylethylamine, caffeine and theobromine. Foods to reduce to a minimum in terms of managing the incidence of migraine include: aged cheeses (brie, roquefort, cheddar), cream, sour cream; chocolate, cocoa; meat and fish (smoked, dried, fatty types), red caviar; offal; apples, bananas, citrus fruits, pineapples; corn, garlic, onion, sauerkraut, horseradish, radish; alcoholic (red wine, beer). how to treat migraines?
Although there are “official” contraindicated and recommended products, how any substance and food reacts in the body is unique to each individual. To do this, it is important to completely exclude foods from the list of contraindicated foods from the diet for two weeks and see what happens. Then, introduce one food at a time to your menu and note the effects. After introducing any of them, if headaches resume, this means that the food in question is, in fact, aggravating to the body. Typically, a food can cause headaches within 3-6 hours after ingestion. If there is no relapse, however, the product or food group can be reintroduced to the diet long-term. It is also worth knowing that the list of individual dietary triggers can change several times throughout life.
Generally, women with migraines should be especially attentive to the migraine diet. For hormonal reasons, their personal triggers may be hormonal and can happen each month. For women, during any major hormonal changes (menstrual period, pregnancy, lactation, menopause), it is even more imperative to closely monitor the diet and limit the use of foods that provoke headaches.
People with migraines should not skip meals, have non-rational snacks, or even go hungry. Hunger and malnutrition are common factors that cause severe headaches. During the period of attacks, doctors advice giving up salty, fatty, pickled foods, sweets, and red wine. You also need to limit the use of starchy foods (semolina, pasta, white bread) that can cause the release of insulin, which can also trigger a migraine attack.
During seizures, you should not carry out food experiments and introduce new or exotic foods to your diet. And there’s one more recommendation to keep in mind. People suffering from migraines should not eat ice cream and drink very chilled drinks in hot weather, as the head can be aggravated due to rapid temperature changes. In fact, one in five individuals suffers a 2-day migraine due to these tactics.
Scientists studying the relationship between foods and migraine attacks have found that certain dietary nutrients have beneficial effects on the bodies of patients. Coffee, for example, helps many to cope with the first attacks of migraines, and food rich in magnesium, calcium, vitamins A, B, C, and fiber, is generally considered medicinal.
Belgian scientists have concluded that vitamin B2 can help relieve headaches. For this reason, it can be beneficial to eat sardines, lentils, mushrooms, and salmon. Vitamin B6 promotes the production of serotonin, which means that it may also reduce the risk of migraines. This substance is found in asparagus, baked potatoes, sunflower seeds, bran bread, or whole grains. Another important element is magnesium. During stress, its reserves in the body sharply decrease, and this, again, can be followed by severe headaches. Eating brown rice, chestnuts, and nuts can help boost your magnesium levels.
Not all fat-containing foods are forbidden for migraine sufferers. Conversely, food containing omega-3 acids (cod, salmon, and other sea fish) helps prevent attacks. It is believed that these fatty acids improve the condition of nerve cell membranes, making them more resistant to the factors that cause migraines.
When it comes to vegetable fats, unrefined flaxseed, olive, and soybean oils are the most beneficial for headaches. Indeed, flaxseed oil, in addition to beneficial fatty acids, contains hormone-like substances prostaglandins, which return the dilated and inflamed vessels of the brain to their normal state.
When it comes to healthy foods, ginger should be mentioned with high regard. This root is known as a natural migraine medicine and a treatment for nausea. The composition of the root contains a large amount of analgesic substances. With an attack, it is recommended to use 0.5-1 tsp. of chopped ginger or to drink hot tea.
Another important component of the migraine diet is water. It has been scientifically proven that even a slight dehydration of the body triggers processes in the brain that provoke migraine attacks. The optimal amount of liquid to be consumed should not be less than 1.5 liters per day.
What’s useful for migraines?
Foods that could be useful for migraine prevention: rice (especially brown), oatmeal, buckwheat; poultry, sea fish; bran bread, made from wholemeal flour; feta cheese, cream cheese, sweet cottage cheese, low-fat milk; pear, cherry, cranberry; broccoli, spinach, chard, cauliflower, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, carrots, zucchini, beets, pumpkin, turnips; dried fruits, walnuts; vegetable oils (corn, olive, linseed, soy).
Eating well for migraines is important in terms of preventing or relieving headache attacks. But food, however healthy, cannot replace a complete treatment program that includes the Migraine Stopper Device (you can find more detailed information on their website). In no time, this device can stop symptoms from worsening in their tracks, while you figure out the causes of the trigger.
If the attacks are repeated often, accompanied by severe headache, nausea, vomiting, disorders from various systems and organs, it is important not to waste precious time and seek help from a therapist or neurologist as soon as possible. Indeed, timely prescribed treatment combined with an appropriate migraine diet will help improve a migraine patient’s long-term quality of life!