Back to Back Issues Page
HeadWay, Issue #028 -- What to eat!
November 21, 2005

*Please note: URLs may wrap onto the next line. To visit the website, cut and paste the entire URL into your address bar on your browser*

In this month's issue:

The Food Connection

Wish list for 2005

Say what?! Nitrates

Do you need to know?

Is there something you're concerned about, or want more info on? Drop by the HeadWay MailRoom, enter your password (nomoache) and leave your suggestions!

The Food Connection

It's a great time of year for a little review when it comes to headaches and food. Migraine has become closely linked in people's minds to food choices - the dreaded food trigger is a common concept for most migraineurs. And many people have found that headaches from other sources can be brought on by certain types of food.

It's hard to find a common theme, but one there is one unsurprising thread. All that common advice on nutrition that you've heard will play a big role in minimizing your pain. The more you can eat things that are fresh, and things that have been processed as little as possible, the better. You've heard this in varying degrees in varying formulas, but the underlying concept is usually the same. And remember, eat everything in moderation.

Specific food choices

After you get past this foundation, it's really different for everyone.  For those with migraine, certain people find certain things to be triggers.  MSG, for example.  There's a theory that foods with tannins (found in red wine and tea, among other things) are triggers, though little research has been done to date.  Caffeine is a major trigger for some - or, perhaps more often, a change in caffeine levels.

A more widely accepted theory is that food with tyramine is a major culprit.  Hundreds of people visit the site looking for more on this infamous amino acid, found in high quantities in foods which are aged, dried, fermented, salted, smoked or pickled.

Beyond the speculation about what chemicals are the worst, most researchers and doctors warn about specific foods that are the top offenders.  These include cheese, alcohol, caffeine, chocolate, aged meats, nuts, and yeast.  But everyone is different, and many find that something not on the list is the top offender for them.

Some foods in particular may be beneficial to the headache or migraine sufferer.  Some common favourites are peppermint, cayenne pepper, ginger, fish, dark green vegetables, oatmeal, and garlic.

So what's the answer?  First, eat a healthy, balanced diet.  Second, try eliminating what you suspect may be a problem.  Keep a headache diary for a few weeks and see if it makes a difference.  Then try something else.  With a little detective work, you can drastically cut down on the headaches and migraines.

New!  A free headache and migraine diary is now available at the website!  My gift to you. :)

Wish list for 2005

Of course, any time of the year is a great time for giving gifts.  But what do you give the headache sufferer who has everything?  What do you get the clusterhead whose name you got in the office gift exchange?  What about the migraineur who happens to be your Mom?  Here are my top picks for 2005:

  • Culture:  The new 2005 book Headache Through the Ages explores the impact of headache and migraine sufferers through the ages.  How did they express themselves in poetry - in art?  Did they stay silent, or make the world a richer place?  Check the National Headache Foundation to see if the autographed copies are still available.
  • Comfort:  Still a favourite, the luxurious flax lavender eye pillow
  • Health:  These recipes are so good you forget they're good for you - the Migraine Cookbook
  • Relax:  Quickly becoming one of his most popular recordings, Dan Gibson's brand new 2005 Rocky Mountain Suite includes the sounds of nature and newly composed music featuring guitars, mandolin, dobro, dulcimer, violin, piano, keyboards, bass and percussion.
  • Cop-out central:  There are some great health products out there that we could try if we had the money.  Get someone a vitacost gift certificate.  The well known online health store has unique health products and supplements not available in your local health store.
  • Say what?!  Nitrates

    Nitrates and nitrites, used in some foods and medications, are migraine triggers for some.  On the food side, nitrites are often used in foods like preserved meats (bacon, ham, hot dogs) to preserve the colour and prevent bacteria growth.  Some plants naturally have high nitrite/nitrate levels, such as beets, radishes and spinich.

    Heart medications sometimes use nitrates/nitrites to dilate blood vessels.  Many countries limit the amounts of nitrites and nitrates in food, after concerns were raised about cancer.  But chances are you're still eating nitrates and nitrites, and they may be adding to your pain.
    Back to Back Issues Page