Research shows surprising links between migraines and food. Some foods can trigger migraines, while others can even treat or prevent them. For instance, coffee can sometimes kick out a migraine and foods that are rich in calcium, magnesium, fiber and complex carbohydrates have been widely used to treat migraines. Many studies suggest that simple looking ginger-the commonly used kitchen spice-can actually help prevent and even treat migraines without any side effects often associated with drugs. The herb feverfew can also prevent migraines attacks in many placebo-controlled studies.
A migraine is simply not a bad headache. It definitely has a characteristic pattern, and may occur in just one side of your head. It’s accompanied by throbbing pain rather than constant, dull headache, often accompanied by vomiting, nausea, and some sensitivity to sounds an light.
See Your Doctor
It’s best to see your doctor for getting your headache evaluated, especially if it’s new , and is usually persistent and severe, or is accompanied by any one of the following characteristics:
• Change in your coordination, strength, or sense
• Back or neck pain
• A chronic run-down feeling with intense pain in joints and muscles
• Difficulty in concentrating or thinking
• Difficulty sleeping
• Headache follows a head trauma
Try To Find Your Migraine Triggers
In 1987, researchers at the Hospital for Sick Kids in London reported results of their study of 89 kids with severe, frequent migraines who began their elimination diet. In this group, 75 recovered completely, and 14 improved greatly. In addition, some kids who had seizures found that their seizures have completely stopped. The researchers then reintroduced some foods and found that some of them sparked migraine attacks in all but twelve. In their subsequent tests using some disguised foods, majority of children again became completely symptom-free when they avoided all trigger foods. Migraine symptoms returned when they added trigger foods.
Since that time, some additional research was also carried out till 1995 which confirmed that dietary factors have a big role in triggering migraines in adolescents and children.
Anywhere between 22 and 57 percent of adults also experience good reduction or even elimination of their headaches when they identify and avoid trigger foods.
Comprehensive Migraine Diet-Some Pain Safe Foods For You
• Pain-safe foods never trigger headaches or numerous other painful conditions. These include:
• Cooked green vegetables, such as spinach, broccoli, collars, or Swiss chard
• Brown rice
• Cooked yellow vegetables, such as summer squash
• Cooked orange vegetables, such as sweet potatoes or carrots
• Plain or carbonated forms, is fine. Other beverages-some herbal teas-can be triggers
• Dried or cooked non-citrus fruits: cranberries, cherries, prunes, pears (but not apples, citrus fruits, peaches, bananas, or tomatoes)
• Condiments: Small amounts of salt, vanilla extract, and maple syrup are usually well-tolerated
Common Migraine Triggers
Common migraine triggers can cause headaches in some people. Just as foods sensitivities can lead to rashes on your skin, migraine sufferers have certain reactions in their nerves and blood vessels. We are discussing below food triggers, also famous as the “Dirty Dozen,” in order of their importance:
• Dairy products (includes whole or skimmed goat’s milk, cow’s milk, yogurt, cheese, etc.)
• Eggs (includes pork, beef, turkey, chicken, fish, etc)
• Citrus fruits
• Wheat (bread, pasta, etc.)
• Nuts and peanuts
Certain additives and beverages are also among the worst possible triggers, including caffeinated drinks (colas, teas, and coffees), alcoholic beverages (red wine), aspartame (NutraSweet). nitrites, and monosodium glutamate.
Foods that are neither on the common trigger list or the pain-safe list should be considered possible, but unlikely, triggers. Almost any type of food, other than the ones on the pain-safe list, has triggered migraine headaches in some individuals in research studies, so it’s not right to consider them completely above suspicion, but they are definitely far better than most likely culprits.
The Two-Week Test Is The Best!
The first important step to tackle your migraines is to ascertain if any trigger is causing them. To do this successfully, you should simply avoid these foods. Simultaneously you should include many pain-free foods in your diet and see if your migraine occurs, and, if so, check its frequency.
Here are few tips to start with anti-migraine foods. For two weeks:
• Take large amounts of food from the pain-safe food list
• Avoid all common triggers completely
• Foods that are not on either of this list can be eaten freely
• The key is to be bit careful in avoiding common triggers.
• Confirm Your Food Triggers
If you find that making changes in your diet eliminates headaches or they become less frequent, the next important step is to confirm which of the foods are your migraine triggers. You can do this easily by reintroducing the eliminated foods (one at a time), every three days, to see whether any symptoms result. It’s best to start right at the bottom of the list (bananas), and gradually work your way upwards to more riskier foods, skipping the ones you do not care for. If you want, you can also check beverages and some additives on the common triggers list.
As you do this, try to have good amount of each new food, so that you understand whether or not it results in symptoms. If there are no symptoms, you can include it in your diet forever. Any food that causes headache should be immediately eliminated again. Then, after two or three weeks, try the suspect foods once again for final confirmation. Try to keep your diet simple so that you can easily detect the effect of each of your newly added foods.
Diary products, meats, and eggs are best left off your plate forever. They are not only worst migraine triggers, but also disturb natural hormone balance in the body, which may lead to migraines, as we will see shortly. Their fat, cholesterol, and animal proteins are directly linked to serious health issues included hypertension, heart disease, cancers or colon, prostrate, and breast, and osteoporosis, so it’s best to avoid these problem foods forever.
Looking For Other Food Triggers
After being on a two weeks anti-migraine diet if you don’t see any reduction in your headaches, the next important step is to check whether any food that’s not on list of common migraine triggers is causing your migraine symptoms. This happens sometimes, and you can be sensitive to different foods. You can handle this easily with eliminate diet.
A Simple Elimination Diet
The elimination diet has been designed to specifically track down all unusual pain triggers. It can be used for many other conditions as well, particularly digestive issues and arthritis. Start at first by building a menu with only pain-safe food, avoiding all others for the moment.
Once your headache symptoms have diminished or gone, which may take two to three weeks, you can add few other foods (one at a time), every other day, to see which of them causes symptoms. Again, it is important to have good amount of each new foods to see if they cause symptoms. If not, you can keep them in your diet. At this moment, avoid adding any foods listed on “Dirty Dozen” list and any of the beverages or additive triggers until last.
Here Are Some Useful Tips To Help You Identify Triggers:
• Sometimes offending foods can be your favorite ones, and they are the ones you least suspect
• Foods responsible for headaches were mostly eaten within four to six hours of the migraine attack
• If you’re affected by many foods, eliminating one or two may not make a big difference. This sometimes leads people to believe that foods are not a problem
• Sometimes headache symptoms may not show up until you’ve eaten large amount of the culprit, perhaps over a few days
• You may find that you can consume small amounts of trigger foods without getting headache symptoms, while consumption of large amount can being on the headache
• Your food triggers can change over time.
• Your tolerance can vary at different times. For instance, a women can eat a box of chocolate without any problem, but as she approaches her period days, even one piece can trigger the migraine. The main reason is that natural hormonal changes that may occur over a month can affect her body’s sensitivity
• Sometimes doctor can prescribe special blood tests to detect your food sensitivities. This can be expensive at times, but is much faster than these elimination diets. Some information is available from patch tests but they are of little use for identifying migraine triggers, since they can only detect some kinds of allergies
Feverfew: The Powerful Anti-Migraine Herb
Feverfew gets its name from the fact that Greeks and many other later societies used this herb for treating for fever. Researchers working at City of London Clinic found in a study that feverfew can eliminate 1/3 or migraines in selected group of migraine patients, which is almost similar in effectiveness of many migraine drugs. While some get the desired results with this herb, others get none at all. Averaging all users, it eliminates headaches in about ¼’th of all headaches. This is just an estimate.
You can get feverfew in all health food stores. To prevent migraines, it’s dosage should be kept in the range of 60-120 milligrams a day. However, some practitioners take up to 200 milligrams a day in standard capsules on an empty stomach. If you can get fresh leaves, the usual dosage would be three to four leaves a day.
Thousands around the world have successfully used feverfew for years without any adverse effect on their health, and research studies also don’t point to any serious risks. I would advise you to avoid it if you’re pregnant, but there are no indications that it causes birth defects. You should consult doctor if you’re on anticoagulant for some clotting disorder. Otherwise, my best information is that you can stay on it indefinitely.
Using Some Foods To Fight Migraine Symptoms
Always emphasize pain-safe foods- cooked vegetables, such as collard, broccoli, chard and spinach, brown rice; and dried or cooked non-citrus fruits.
• Avoid all common trigger foods completely- If your migraines have ceased or diminished, you can reintroduce some of the trigger foods you like one at a time to assess their effect in detail.
• If steps one and two fail to diminish your migraine headaches, an elimination diet can surely help you identify food trigger(s).r
• Minimize your hormone shifts by keeping vegetable oils to minimum, avoiding animal products, and having lots of fiber rich whole grains, vegetables, beans and fruits.
Try these natural supplements, in consultation with your doctor:
• Calcium- Reduce your calcium loss by avoiding caffeine, animal proteins, excess sodium, tobacco and sugar. Take only 1,000-2,000 milligrams of elemental calcium, without around 200 IU of vitamin D. Regular physical activity will keep calcium in your bones intact.
• Ginger-1/2 to 1 teaspoon (fresh powdered) ginger is sufficient per day.
• Feverfew- Three to four fresh leaves or 250 milligrams per day.
• Magnesium- 500 to 700 milligrams per day total (foods and supplements, if used) or 200-250 milligrams per day as elemental supplement alone.
If A Migraine Hits You
If you feel migraine coming, try the following:
Although caffeine can trigger migraine for some, for others it can also work as treatment. Just take one to two cups of strong coffee when you feel migraine coming.
Include starchy foods (potatoes, rice, bread, or crackers) in your diet. Some wheat products can be migraine triggers for some, but if you can tolerate them, they might actually help. Some people love starchy foods during migraines and feel that digging into crackers, toast, potatoes, pasta, or other starch foods reduces nausea or headache, and sometimes even shorten the attack. Only experience will tell if these foods can help.
Calcium can help treat migraines and even prevent them. A research in 2011 reported a case where a 32 years old women was able to stop early migraine by chewing 1,000 to 1,500 milligrams of elemental calcium. Again, avoid the temptation to get calcium from yogurt, milk, or any other animal source. They can do more harm than good.
Fresh powdered ginger, 600 to 800 milligrams in a glass of water can be helpful. It can be repeated every few hours, up to about 3 grams per day.
Lie down in a dark room, and try to sleep if you can. Use cold or hot compresses, and gently massage the blood vessels at the temples.
Acupuncture and biofeedback have been helpful for many people as well.