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HeadWay, Issue #073 -- The Complex World of Food Triggers
November 21, 2009

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In this month's issue:

The Complex World of Food Triggers

Migraine and Facial Pain

Say what?!  Trigeminovascular

The Complex World of Food Triggers

Some of the most commonly discussed migraine triggers are food triggers.  Nuts, aged cheese, bananas and alcohol are commonly mentioned.

But there are actually many different approaches to dealing with food triggers, and many different opinions about why certain foods cause problems, while others don't.

One of the most common theories is that a compound known as tyramine is a major factor.  Tyramine is produced from the natural breakdown of the amino acid, tyrasine.  A low-tyramine diet is often prescribed, which means you're particularly avoiding aged foods (such as soy sauce, aged cheese and alcohol) and nuts.  Read more about tyramine here.

Another theory is that tannins are a factor.  Tannins are a type of compound known as phenolics found in plants.

Many foods contain varying amounts of tannins, but some of the worst are red wine, tea, vanilla, chocolate, and many herbal products.

Others believe that a major factor is MSG (in many prepared foods, even so-called all natural foods), which goes under many names (even spices or natural flavorings!).  Artificial sweeteners are also considered by many to be a common culprit.

But we're not done!  Some people find that a diet low in diary products helps them.  More recently, we've heard more an more people claiming a gluten-free diet kept their migraine attacks at bay.

Many doctors will suggest you try avoiding one or two common triggers for a couple of weeks, and if that doesn't solve the problem, they move on.  It's true that some people find a great benefit in just avoiding one or two types of food.  But as you can see, it's not always that simple.

Other doctors seem to think that a strict diet will solve practically every migraine issue.  While I do believe diet is a powerful factor, migraine is just too complex and different in each person... no one has yet found a cure-all.

Others believe that searching for food triggers is counter-productive - that it actually ends up making things worse in the long run!

Our purpose today is just to think about some of the differing opinions about diet, and some of the factors that may be involved.  In future editions of HeadWay, we hope to talk more about some of the strategies you can use to get through the diet maze.

It has been proven over and over that adjusting what you eat can be one of the most powerful migraine-fighters.  Stay tuned to look at some of the approaches you can take, including a powerful method you've probably never heard of.

Migraine and Facial Pain

Recently I was reading about a 44 year old woman in Belgium who was being treated for facial pain.  Treatment after treatment was tried - and nothing seemed to be helping.  What in the world was causing the pain?

Finally, an unusual diagnosis was made - migraine without aura, complicated by overuse of medication.

It's unusual to see facial pain from migraine by itself - in other words, without other common migraine symptoms at any time.  But facial pain from migraine is not as rare as you might think.  And the pain may not always come with other migraine symptoms.

A small study published in June suggested that almost 9% of migraineurs may have facial pain during an attack.

As with our friend in Belgium, this can commonly lead to misdiagnosis.  One of the most common is sinus headache, if the patient feels that the pain is coming from the sinus area.  In reality, migraine often includes not only facial pain, but also congestion.

If you're dealing with facial pain, consider that there might be a connection, and talk to your doctor about it.  The treatment you use for migraine may help with the facial pain as well.

Say what?!  Trigeminovascular

Trigeminovascular may be the most important migraine word you've never heard of, but it should sound familiar.  Trigeminal of course has to do with the main sensory nerve of the face.  Vascular refers to blood vessels.  So the trigeminovascular system refers to the nerve and blood vessel system that involves the face, including the eyes, mouth, nose and jaw.

Sometimes the current understanding of migraine is referred to as the Trigeminovascular Theory - that is, that migraine begins in the brain but involves the activation of the trigeminal nerve and blood vessels in the head.  Though the word doesn't seem to explain everything about migraine, it is a major focus of research.

Thanks for reading!  Remember, if you have feedback or ideas for future issues, visit the HeadWay MailRoom.  Your password is nomoache.
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