Migraine diet

Is there such a thing as a migraine diet?  The answer is, yes - and no.  Don't get me wrong - the food you eat (and don't eat) is a critical step in treatment - one that really is overlooked a lot more than it should be.  So what should this kind of diet look like?

A typical approach

Banana - a typical migraine trigger

A common approach - and the one that doctors tried on me - is to cut out one or two "triggers" at a time, and see if there's any improvement over a few weeks.  Your doctor may ask you to cut out bananas and chocolate from your diet, for example.

This solution can work for many people - it's the quick-and-easy solution.  Many people do have problems with the "common" triggers, and if cutting bananas from your diet solves the problem, that's reason to celebrate!  (If you have to cut out chocolate, that's another story - how can we live without chocolate?)  To learn more about this approach, check out this article on migraine triggers.

Major triggers and many triggers

This approach, however, does not work with everyone.  Some people may find temporary relief, and may find no change at all.  Why is that?

One possible reason is that there are are several triggers that are causing a problem.  Many researchers today believe that triggers are not so much a matter of - eat one nut and get a headache, for example, but a combination of things that build up and eventually overflow into a migraine attack.

So a diet for migraine sufferers might end up being a general avoidance of several triggers.  Many migraine cookbooks are built around this idea.  The recipes avoid various common triggers to varying degrees, and it's up to you to find the foods that commonly cause problems, and simply avoid them more often than not.

Hot Dog - another common trigger

A "Hot dog headache"?

Sometimes triggers are not things like onions, but major things, such as flour, or food with tyramine or tannins.  When the list of things to avoid is long, a migraine diet may take even more sophisticated planning.

Dr. Seymour Diamond, founder of the Diamond Headache Clinic, has had a great deal of success with the Low-Tyramine Headache Diet.  He includes full details of the diet, including general guidelines and which foods to avoid or just eat with caution, in his books Headache and Your Child and Conquering Your Migraine.

Click the links above for more information on these diets.  By the way, MSG is another tricky thing to avoid that many migraineurs report having problems with.

Gut brain therapy

Some research today is suggesting that there may be a greater connection between our guts and our brains than we ever suspected.  Treatments are being created based on this idea, but it's just another reason to realize that taking care of our digestive systems in general is very important if we want to avoid migraine attacks.

Migraine diet - holistic approach

walnuts - another common trigger

Many of the treatments above may be helpful for you.  If there are major triggers for you, discovering those is a key beginning to your migraine diet.  But it's unlikely to be the whole solution over time.  I would encourage you (after seeing your doctor, of course) to start moving toward a healthier diet in general.

It's difficult for most of us to make a complete change all at once, especially if we lead busy lives and don't have a lot of time to cook for ourselves.  But why not start educating yourself today on basic nutrition, and start making changes little by little?

A diet for migraine sufferers will probably want to accomplish these things:

  • Avoid triggers the majority of the time
  • Integrate headache-fighting foods
  • Be generally healthy, balanced and regular

A healthy diet is going to avoid a lot of refined foods (like white flour and sugar), and focus on a rich selection of whole grains, vegetables, fruit, nuts (but be cautious here), and seeds.  I'm not necessarily suggesting a vegetarian diet, but I would bet most of us don't eat anywhere close to the amount of fresh food that we should.

Read this article for more ideas on starting a migraine diet that works for you.

A classic book on general good eating is the Good Food Book by Dr Gabe Mirkin and Diana Mirkin.  It's available free online here, or you can buy a hard copy for just a few dollars here.

In our free ezine, HeadWay, we talked about a complete plan for improving your diet using the PMFP - The Personal Migraine Fighter Plan.  Check it out.

Whatever you do, remember that what you put in your mouth matters, if not today, tomorrow or in future years.  Make small, wise decisions, and find a delicious variety of food you can enjoy!  A diet for migraine sufferers doesn't have to be a bore...

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