What To Do With Diet and Supplements When You Have Migraines

Eliminate foods that trigger migraines or incorporate specific supplements in your diet

Author: Dr. Donna Schwontkowski (ret. D.C.), M.S. Nutrition, M.H.

If you have migraines, you’ll do anything to stop them. You’ve had enough of the nausea, vomiting and light and noise sensitivity, and enough of the interruption to your daily life.

Although there are several causes of migraines, the ones you have immediate control over right now are the ones related to diet. There are foods that can cause migraines and foods that can relieve migraines.

Foods That Can Cause Migraines 

The reason why foods can cause migraines varies. Some foods such as aged cheeses contain a substance called tyramine that acts as a trigger for headaches. The tyramine content may vary depending on how fermented or aged a cheese is or what microbe was used in its preparation. The cheeses most likely to have higher amounts of tyramine include Brie, Muenster, Swiss, Parmesan, Gorgonzola, Cheddar, mozzarella, feta and blue cheese.

Impurities during the processing of alcohol could also cause headaches.

Food additives such as nitrates are known to dilate blood vessels, thus causing headaches. A food sensitivity to an additive or preservative may also trigger migraines.

Food chemicals such as artificial sweeteners are known headache triggers. Fermented foods such as cultured dairy products or dried fruits may have a high content of microbes that can cause headaches. Similarly, yeast found in sourdough bread or other breads and baked goods could be the trigger for a headache. Some people with sensitivity to molds may react negatively to peanut and peanut butter or other nut/seed butters.

Caffeine may also be a headache starter for some people, and if you are quickly withdrawing from caffeine, that’s another trigger for a whopper of a headache. The caffeine doesn’t have to be only in a morning pot of coffee; it could be from sources such as tea, hot chocolate, chocolate bars, cocoa and green tea.

An Unexpected Cause of Migraines

It’s possible that the cause of your migraines could be food allergies and sensitivities. In one Turkish study of 21 patients with migraines and irritable bowel syndrome, all were tested for 270 food allergens and then told to stay on an elimination diet of foods they were sensitive to. Interestingly, there were half as many headaches during the elimination diet, and when the migraines did occur, they didn’t last as long and weren’t as severe.

What Researchers are Finding Helps With Headaches

Worldwide, scientists are determined to find solutions for those with migraines. In the past decade, there’s been more of a switch to find natural types of solutions.

Magnesium deficiency may be related to the true cause of a migraine attack, according to researchers in Iran. They found that magnesium levels fell in 50 patients who had migraines, compared to times when they didn’t have a migraine. Other researchers at the New York Headache Center found that a magnesium deficiency is much more prevalent in migraine sufferers than in healthy individuals. It was found in up to 50% of the migraine patients. The problem is that routine blood tests can’t find a magnesium deficiency.

Other studies on natural solutions to migraines have found benefits from acupuncture, aerobic exercise, relaxation training, biofeedback, riboflavin, coenzyme Q10, vitamin B12, B6, folate and the herb butterbur. There are solutions you can start right away! 

Resources:

Headache 2013 Mar;53(3):514-25.

Pan Afr Med J 2012;11:46.

J Neural Transm 2012 May;119(5):575-9.

Continuum (Minneap Minn) 2012 Aug;18(4):796-806.

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