An impressive study, The Journal of Headache and Pain, found that a plant-based diet reduces migraine pain. “By avoiding dairy products, eggs and cheese, some of the worst headache triggers are off the plate,” according to Anne Bunner, Ph.D., the associate director of clinical research.
The key to finding real relief for migraine suffers is to learn how to avoid what triggers an individual’s headaches. Research has shown astonishing links between migraines and food. Certain foods can trigger migraines, while others can prevent or even cure them.
Coffee can sometimes alleviate a migraine (while for other individuals it may actually be a trigger) and foods rich in magnesium, calcium, complex carbohydrates, and fiber have been used to prevent migraines.
The migraine diet concept is to limit the foods you eat and to choose those not commonly associated with headaches. The suggested time frame of this elimination diet is between 2 and 4 weeks. Then introduce foods back in one at a time allowing 2 days in between each new food. This will help you get rid of migraines without drugs.
- Eating a certain food should trigger a headache within 12 to at most 24 hours.
- Limit the food of concern and monitor your headache frequency, severity and timing. Keep a food/headache diary.
If there is no change in your headaches that food may not be the trigger. However, it could be a trigger when combined with another food so may not be altogether on the “do eat” list.
Foods that have been pickled, fermented, or marinated often contain monosodium glutamate also known as the flavor enhancer MSG. MSG has been shown to trigger migraines. The FDA maintains that MSG is safe, but it remains controversial.
Aged cheeses like blue cheese, Parmesan and cheddar, dried and cured sausages and smoked fish as well as onions all contain Tyramine which occurs naturally in these foods and is known to be a migraine trigger.
Many diet sodas, snack foods, and low-calorie treats contain aspartame (also known as NutraSweet or Equal). This sugar substitute has been linked to headaches and migraines, especially in people who consume it regularly over a long period of time.
Common triggers often cause headaches in people that are susceptible to them. Here are the common food triggers in order of high probability:
- dairy products: cow’s milk, goat’s milk, cheese, yogurt
- citrus fruits
- meats: beef, pork, chicken, turkey, fish, etc.
- wheat (bread, pasta, etc.)
- nuts and peanuts
Worst known triggers include alcoholic beverages (especially red wine), caffeinated drinks (coffee, tea, and sodas), monosodium glutamate (MSG), aspartame (NutraSweet) and nitrites.
Some foods have been deemed “Pain-safe foods” since these foods rarely contribute to headaches or other painful conditions. These include:
- Rice, especially brown rice
- Cooked green and/or yellow vegetables
- Cooked orange vegetables, carrots or sweet potatoes are good choices
- Cooked or dried non-citrus fruits: cherries, cranberries, pears, prunes (but AVOID citrus fruits, apples, bananas, peaches)
- Water: Plain water or carbonated. Other beverages including herbal teas can be triggers.
- Condiments: Small amounts of salt, maple syrup, and vanilla extract are usually safe foods.
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