There are three questions that are frequently asked about migraine and foods:
- Which foods trigger migraine attacks?
- Which foods can help prevent migraines?
- Which foods can stop a migraine when we get one?
Migraine Trigger Foods:
Any food can be a migraine trigger for some people, but there are some that are fairly common. They include:
- any food with MSG;
- aged cheeses;
- whole milk;
- sour cream;
- citrus fruits;
- dried fruits;
- alcohol, especially red wine; and
- breads, soft pretzels, and pizza crust with yeast.
Identifying food triggers is complicated by the fact that a migraine triggered by foods can occur immediately or up to 72 hours after the food is consumed. The best way to identify food triggers is through an elimination diet. For information about the elimination diet and a free downloadable workbook, see Managing Migraine - Migraine Trigger Foods.
Foods to Prevent Migraine:
There’s little evidence that specific foods can help prevent migraine attacks. There is some thought that foods rich in magnesium may help. Magnesium-rich foods include dark leafy greens, fish, nuts, whole grains, and bananas. Note, however, that some of these are also migraine trigger foods.
Foods to Stop a Migraine:
There is no evidence that any foods can stop a migraine attack in progress. You may have seen people online suggesting a green drink or mixing salt in water and drinking it. There is no evidence that either one works, and the salt could actually be problematic as it could raise blood pressure.
A Fourth Issue to Consider:
An issue to take into consideration when thinking about migraine and foods is overall health and nutrition. When we’re healthier, we’re less susceptible to our migraine triggers. It’s much like getting a cold. When we’re run down or not as healthy as we could be, we’re more likely to succumb to the cold virus. Thus, it behooves us to eat for our health. Many doctors’ offices have a nurse or other staff member who can advise us on proper nutrition.
Putting It All Together:
There’s little evidence for foods to prevent migraine and no evidence for foods to abort a migraine. Doing an elimination diet is the best way to help identify food triggers. Identifying any food triggers we may have can be quite beneficial since knowing them can help us avoid some of our migraine attacks. Eating properly can help us be less susceptible to our migraine triggers as well as helping our overall health - a true win-win situation.
More Helpful Information:
10 Common Triggers of Migraine (infographic)
University of Vermont. “Tyramine Diet for Headache Prevention.” University of Vermont Health Services. December, 2008.
Silberstein, Stephen D.; Lipton, Richard B.; Goadsby, Peter J.; Smith, Robert T. “Headache in Primary Care.” Isis Medical Media. 1999.
Marks, David R., MD. “The Headache Prevention Cookbook.” Boston. Houghton Mifflin Company. 2000.
Young, William B.; Silberstein, Stephen D. “Migraine and Other Headaches.” AAN Press. 2004.
Robert, Teri. “Living Well with Migraine Disease and Headaches.” HarperCollins. 2005.
_Reviewed by David Watson, MD. _
Teri Robert is a leading patient educator and advocate and the author of Living Well with Migraine Disease and Headaches. A co-founder of the Alliance for Headache Disorders Advocacy and the American Headache and Migraine Association, she received the National Headache Foundation’s Patient Partners Award and a Distinguished Service Award from the American Headache Society. Teri can be found on her website, and blog, Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Google+.