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Fighting Food-Related Headaches

Are your favorite snacks to blame for migraine headaches?

Avoid Additives continued...

Unlike classic migraines which affects are also triggered by a substance and are felt on one side of the head, headaches induced by additives or other substances are usually sensed on both sides of the head:

  • Occur within a specific time after substance intake
  • Disappears when a substance is eliminated or within a specific time thereafter

Monosodium glutamate-induced headaches, previously known as Chinese restaurant syndrome, occur within an hour after ingestion of MSG and can cause at least two of the following:

  • Pressure in the chest or face
  • Burning sensation in the chest, neck, or shoulders
  • Dizziness
  • Abdominal discomfort

Experts continue to debate the effects of MSG, an additive found in soy sauce, Chinese foods and many packaged foods. "MSG is a big one," says Galvez-Jimenez.

But Diamond, who is currently executive chairman of the National Headache Foundation, says new research may show MSG is not a typical trigger after all.

Beware of "Brain Freeze"

Most of us have experienced that brief stab of severe pain that comes with eating or drinking something too cold. Previously called ice cream headaches or "brain freeze," this sensation usually lasts less than five minutes. This type of headache is usually felt in the middle of the forehead, but for migraine sufferers this pain can be felt in areas that are affected during a migraine. For people prone to migraines, it can be the beginning of a full-fledged attack.

"You eat ice cream or another cold food and the next thing you know, boom, a migraine starts," Galvez-Jimenez says. According to The Cleveland Clinic, more than 90% of migraine sufferers say they have to be cautious with cold foods and drinks.

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