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Migraines & Headaches Health Center

5 Important Lifestyle Changes for Migraine Patients

Daily habits may make a difference in your migraines.
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2. Nourish your body.

"When I get dehydrated or skip meals, that's a huge migraine trigger," Metzger says.

That's not unusual, Tietjen says. "People with headache tend to be much more vulnerable to the effects of dehydration."

Always keep a bottle of water and a snack handy: Peanut butter and an apple, or mild cheese and crackers, are good protein-carb combos.

3. Watch what you eat.

Some experts say that there's no such thing as a dietary trigger for migraines. 

But headache specialist Deborah Friedman, MD, professor of neurology and neurotherapeutics at the University of Texas-Southwestern, says probably half of her migraine patients can identify foods that bring on their migraines.

"The most common ones are, unfortunately, many foods we love, starting with chocolate," she says. "It's dose-dependent: If the food is a trigger for you, the more you eat, the more likely it is to cause migraine."

Many foods that have been linked with migraine contain a chemical called tyramine, which occurs naturally in food as it ages. This includes aged, smoked, and cured meats, and many aged cheeses.

If you find that cheese provokes migraine, try sticking with white and blander cheeses, like provolone, mozzarella, cream cheese, and cottage cheese.

Other common dietary migraine triggers include aspartame and artificial sweeteners, caffeine, and alcohol.

Interestingly, a mixed drink may be less likely to set off a headache than beer or wine. 

"Those beverages are aged and fermented, plus they contain sulfites, so they appear to be more likely to cause migraine than liquor in general," Friedman says.

4. Get moving.

"Daily exercise appears to be very helpful for many people with migraine, especially when they begin the day with it," Tietjen says.

She points out that a growing body of research suggests that yoga, in particular, is beneficial to migraine patients.

However, exercise is a migraine trigger for some people. The issue sometimes is making the workout too intense, too quickly -- or becoming dehydrated. So aim for moderate exercise and be sure to hydrate before and after. 

If you are not active now, you may want to check in with your doctor before starting a new exercise program.

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