Migraine treatment is a process of elimination.
By Sunithi Selvaraj, RD
Personally, I have never suffered from migraines. Headaches, yes! But not the shooting pain that comes with migraines. I do have friends and relatives who suffer from migraines and have on occasion doled out "food advice." There are many triggers for migraine including noise, stress, body chemistry, genetics, external toxins, etc. and food is only one of them. What I am attempting to do in this post is to list some dietary changes that may help your migraines especially if they're connected to food triggers. These tips can be preventive in nature too. Eliminating certain foods and including certain habits may prevent the onset of the migraine before it happens or reduce the severity of the attack. I hope these tips help.
Nutritional Remedies For Migraines!
Keep A Food Diary: Apart from a general list of foods that should generally be avoided, you may be susceptible to certain foods and food combinations that trigger migraine. Certain foods may be alright eaten alone, but become a trigger when combined with others. By keeping a food diary you can identify your special triggers or the ones common to all migraines. Then eliminate them from your diet.
Detox Regularly: Detox is a means of ridding your body of toxic build up and since most migraines are associated with toxins, regular short detox plans will benefit you. A short and easy detox detox plan can be tailored to 2, 3 or 5 days. I recommend a short 3 or 5 day detox once a month for those suffering from migraines. I recently went on a detox and am feeling so much more clear-headed and energetic after it.
Even when not detoxing, drink plenty of water to flush your system clear. Dehydration is a common trigger and I cannot emphasize the importance of drinking plain water (8-10 glasses/day). Drink an herbal detox tea on a daily basis which will keep your liver in good condition and prime it for the next detox.
|Food Supplements and Natural Roots Proven Useful In Preventing Migraines|
|Ginger: This is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory tonic that has been found useful in treating migraines. It also prevents nausea, commonly associated with severe migraines. Use in teas, soups, salad, smoothies, fresh juices, stir-frys, etc. I add ginger to all my smoothie and juice concoctions. It gives additional flavor and spice, as in my Mango Ginger Pina Colada.|
|Fish Oil: Is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, chemicals that protect nerves and reduce inflammation in the body. Fish oil supplements seem to reduce the frequency and severity of migraine headaches. Make certain tablets are not rancid. Omega-3 fish champs are salmon, sardines, smelt and anchovies. I love omega-3. Apart from fish and supplements, other ways to get omega-3 are from walnuts, flax oil, flax seed, tofu and soybeans.|
|Feverfew: This is an herb that has the same anti-inflammatory properties as aspirin. If you don't like popping pills when headaches start, feverfew may be a good option. Unlike aspirin, it had been found to reduce frequency and duration of migraines. Pregnant women shouldn't take any herbs without physician approval since they may be harmful.|
|Magnesium: This helps to relax constricted blood vessels. Lab tests have shown that many migraine patients are deficient in magnesium, so a simple addition of magnesium either through foods or as a supplement may correct the problem. A good steady supply of magnesium is necessary for so many bodily functions. Food sources of magnesium are green vegetables like spinach. Also, some beans, peas, nuts, seeds, and whole, unrefined grains are good sources of magnesium as well.|
|Get Your Zzzzz's And Eat Meals: Fasting or skipping meals can trigger migraine headaches. Make sure you eat within an hour after waking up and then every three hours. Also, a good 8 hrs sleep is essential for those suffering from migraines. Some natural remedies for insomnia are available.|
Red Alert! Food Triggers That Migraineurs Should Avoid!
- Food additives and food preservatives except natural ones like salt, lemon, vinegar etc.
- Pesticides: Go as close to organic as you can. You can also use a fruit & veggie wash to remove pesticide residue.
- Artificial sweeteners except the safe ones (Stevia and agave nectar). It's preferable to use raw honey or raw sugar than any artificial stuff. Artificial sweeteners are a BIG trigger!
- Processed meats, processed foods, deli meats! Eat as close to natural as possible!
- Food that MAY trigger migraines! Avoid if they seem to trigger your headaches.
- Dark red wines and alcohol: Alcohol triggers certain people. Blood flow to your brain increases when you drink alcohol. It is believed that the headache could be caused by impurities in alcohol or by-products produced as your body metabolizes alcohol. Red wine, beer, whiskey, and champagne are the most commonly identified headache triggers.
- Aged cheese and other tyramine-containing foods: Tyramine in these foods develops as a result of fermentation. Other tyramine-containing foods are red wine, alcoholic beverages, and some processed meats. Tyramine is a common trigger for some but not all aged cheeses. Let the food diary be your guide.
- Caffeine: found in chocolate and cocoa. Beverages such as coffee, tea and colas can be trigger for some people. Caffeine is also found in certain medications.
- Some other foods that may be triggers. Let the food diary be your guide!!
- Soups made from meat extracts or bouillon. Certain fresh fruits including ripe bananas, citrus fruits, papaya, red plums, raspberries, kiwi, pineapple, peanuts, peanut butter, other nuts and seeds, sourdough bread, fresh baked yeast goods, commercial potato chip products, smoked or dried fish.
I dislike having to put so many possible foods on the list. But don't let this intimidate you! Allow the food diary to be your guide in elimination! Most importantly, don't stress! Stress is a huge trigger in the migraine process and can intensify a migraine! All the best and if you have some natural remedies or foods that have helped your migraines, do share!
About The Author
Sunithi Selvaraj is a Registered Dietitian with a sweet tooth and a passion for eating healthy. (Quite a combo.) She works as a community Nutritionist in Washington DC and has a practical approach to living a healthy lifestyle. She blogs over at Sue's Nutrition Buzz.
From The Editor
There is value in keeping a food diary. An acquaintance discovered that consuming cheese and nuts together triggers a migraine. Whereas, eating them separately, on different days does not. There are several neurological and physiological causes of brain pains. Some of which cannot be completely remedied with nutrition. Impingement in the cervical vertebrae is one example. Vertiginous migraines is a variant that presents different symptoms but may have overlapping triggers. Medical details are provided on the Migraines & Headaches anatomy poster featured in the sidebar. It is wise to consult a healthcare professional before pursuing home remedies. —ed