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Migraines & Headaches Health Center

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Get Migraines? Find Your Food Triggers

Alcohol and Migraines continued...

So if you're going to drink caffeine, don't overdo it. Note: A cup of coffee packs 95 mg and a cup of tea contains about half that.

What about foods like aged cheeses and preserved meats? Rosen calls these "speculated" foods because there's no scientific proof that they trigger migraines. But many people say they do. Even trickier, Rosen adds, are triggers that aren't widely shared. For instance, he has two patients who get migraines when they eat garlic. "It's not common, but in these people it may be the case," he says.

Is Food Causing Your Migraine? Here's How to Find Out

For a food to be considered a trigger, it should regularly cause a headache within 12 to 24 hours. "If I drink wine with dinner, I usually feel fine when I go to bed," Ford says. "But my head is often pounding when I wake up."

The surest way to pinpoint your food triggers is to keep a diary. You can use a notebook or one of the many special migraine apps that are available. Most people have more than one trigger. So, you'll have the most success if you track long enough to capture 20 to 30 migraine attacks, Rosen says.

Once you've found what causes your migraines, try removing the triggers from your diet for a month, one at a time. Keep track of how often you have headaches and how bad they are. If there's no change, that food alone may not be the trigger. If there is a change, try to avoid eating the food, especially when your risk of migraine is high. In women, for example, this might be during certain times in their menstrual cycle.

If keeping a diary isn't your thing but you're willing to make changes to your diet, experts advise eating food that's as wholesome, fresh, and unprocessed as possible. That'll help you eliminate many of the supposed chemical triggers. This is the closest thing there is to a migraine-prevention diet.

Consistency Is Key

Another benefit to tracking what you eat is that it may reveal that you get a headache when you don't eat or drink regularly. "Skipping meals and dehydration are both significant triggers," Rosen says. "We know this from what's called 'Yom Kippur headache' or 'first day of Ramadan headache' since both events require fasting."

Experts recommend that everyone eat 5 or 6 small meals throughout the day. But this is especially important if you have regular migraines. Studies show it can reduce headaches. As a bonus, it fires up your metabolism and prevents weight gain, another link to migraines.

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Reviewed on December 22, 2015

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