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Migraines & Headaches Health Center

Head Off Pain

Examine your diet to keep a migraine off the menu. Plus, a trigger-free recipe for white sangria.
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WebMD Magazine - Feature

Your head feels tight, the pressure builds, and pretty soon pain is all you can think about. Hello, headache. You're having one of the recurring tension or cluster headaches that afflict 45 million Americans every year, according to the National Headache Foundation. Another 29 million suffer from migraines.

Research shows that some headaches, primarily the severe migraine type, can be triggered by your diet. Keep a headache diary, say experts. Look for patterns. Do any foods or beverages consistently cause headaches? Once you've identified a potential trigger, cut it out of your diet and see if the result is fewer or less severe headaches. Start your hunt for triggers with these common pain-producing culprits:

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Basilar Migraines

When someone has a basilar migraine, there is a disturbance in the brainstem or lower part of the brain. Even before the migraine headache begins, the person may experience an ''aura,'' consisting of a variety of symptoms such as dizziness, double vision, and lack of coordination. An aura is a neurological phenomenon that occurs about 10 minutes to 45 minutes before the headache starts. Basilar migraines are known by several different names: Basilar-type migraine Bickerstaff syndrome ...

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Formed naturally from the breakdown of protein as it ages, tyramine is found in red wine, overripe bananas, beer, ale, nuts, seeds, soy, chocolate, pickled or fermented foods, and aged cheeses like Camembert and Parmesan. For a trigger-free cheese plate, choose fresh cheeses, such as jalapeno jack yogurt cheese, soy cheddar, mozzarella, chevre, and mascarpone.

Drinking more than the equivalent of two cups of coffee a day means increased blood flow to the brain, which can bring on a nasty headache.

Alcohol increases blood flow to the brain, which can trigger a cluster or migraine headache or cause dehydration and lead to a hangover headache.

The increased sodium intake from monosodium glutamate, or MSG-an ingredient commonly found in meat tenderizers and in Chinese food-may result in a hangover-type or migraine headache.

Usually associated with red wine, tannins are also found in apple juice, black-berries, coffee, tea, chocolate, and carob.

This food additive, found in processed meats such as hot dogs and lunch meat, can increase blood flow to the brain and cause a migraine.

Ice cream
This dessert and other very cold foods can irritate a nerve in the back of the throat and bring on "brain freeze," which can trigger a headache (although not a migraine).

Recipe: A Safe Substitution

White Sangria
12 half-cup servings

1/2 cup sliced oranges
1/2 cup strawberries or raspberries
1/2 cup sliced apples
1/2 cup sliced pears
2 cups sparkling cider or champagne
1 cup white grape juice
1 cup ginger ale, lemon-lime soda, or sparkling water
Fresh mint and lemon slices (optional for garnish)

1. Slice fruit (substitute any fruit you desire) and place into a large bowl.
2. Combine all liquids, pour over fruit, and let marinate for a few hours.
3. Pour into festive wine glasses and (if desired) garnish each glass with fresh mint and a slice of lemon.
4. Enjoy!

Per serving: 65 calories, .2 grams protein, 9.25 g carbohydrate, .5 g fiber, 0 fat, 0 chol, 5.4 mg sodium.

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