Migraines and Food Choices

Patient Expert

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Several people have asked if there are foods that can prevent Migraines. The simple answer is, "No, but..." Let's not stop there, but continue to look at a more complete and helpful answer as well as what other role foods may play in Migraines.

Although there aren't foods identified that can help prevent Migraines, that's not to say that what we eat can't help. No matter what illness or disease we're dealing with, what we eat can indeed make a difference. There's a very basic fact we should remember that applies here...

The stronger our overall health is, the less susceptible we are to our Migraine triggers, and that can mean fewer Migraines.

To eat as healthfully as possible and maybe reduce our susceptibility to our Migraine triggers, we don't need to diet, we need to permanently change our way of eating. Al balanced diet of healthy foods from all of the necessary food groups is the recommended way to go.

For Migraineurs, that may not be quite as easy as it sounds. We now know that having Migraine disease increases our risk of cardiovascular disease and events including stroke and heart attack. As we've discussed before, this isn't a reason to panic, but it is a reason to talk with our doctors about reducing our modifiable cardiovascular disease risks. One of the biggest of these is nutrition. Thus, a "hearth-healthy" way of eating may well be what is best for us.

If we have other medical conditions to handle, eating right can become even more complicated. For example: If you have diabetes AND are trying to eat heart-healthy, it can get very confusing. Foods that are lower in carbohydrates -- many people with diabetes work diligently to reduce carbohydrate intake -- are higher in fat, and people eating heart-healthy often try to reduce fat intake. So, what's a person to do? If you find choosing healthy foods to be totally confusing, you're not alone. Talk with your doctor. In most areas, you can get an appointment with a nutritionist who can look at any health issues you have and help you determine which foods are best for you. They can teach you how to read labels, make up healthy menus, and more.

A more definitive issue with foods and Migraines:

For some Migraineurs, there are foods that can trigger a Migraine attack. A few of the potential trigger foods are beans, pickles, citrus fruits, aged cheeses, whole milk, alcoholic beverages, and foods with preservatives.

Some of us have food triggers; some of us don't. For those who do, it varies from person to person which foods are triggers. The best way to determine if you have food triggers and what they are is to do an elimination diet. You start by eliminating the foods on potential triggers food list, then add them back in -- one at a time -- to determine if they're triggers for you. You can find more information on this and a free downloadable workbook in Managing Migraine: Migraine Trigger Foods.

Migraines and food allergies:

From time to time, someone suggests comprehensive allergy testing to detect food allergies as a way to prevent Migraines from food triggers. It's important to note that food allergies don't necessarily translate to Migraine triggers. You can be allergic to foods that are not Migraine triggers, and foods you're not allergic to can be Migraine triggers. If you want to have this expensive testing done for general health purposes, that's one thing, but don't go into it thinking it will reveal any Migraine food triggers you may have. It will not.

Summary and comments:

There are two main issues with Migraines and choosing foods:

  • Choosing the right "healthy" foods for a balanced diet and good nutrition.
  • Determining if we have food triggers, what they are, and how to avoid them.

Food allergies do not translate to food triggers.

If you need help determining which foods are best for you, not only for general health, but also for any condit8ions or health risks you may have, talk with your doctor or ask your doctor for a referral to a nutritionist.

To investigate the possibility of food triggers, download our workbook and diary, then try an elimination diet. Remember that there are "foods" in other products such as dietary supplements. Read the labels well.

Learning to read food labels is essential.

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Medical review by John Claude Krusz, PhD, MD

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