Eat to Avoid Pain
Many people with migraines find that certain foods trigger their headaches. Keeping a food diary can help you see which foods tend to trigger a headache -- and find out if avoiding that food helps prevent a migraine from striking.
Hunger and Headaches
If you’re prone to migraines, it’s especially important to eat regular meals. Skipping meals can cause a drop in blood sugar that may trigger a migraine. Eating balanced meals throughout the day will help keep your blood sugar on an even keel and keep migraines at bay.
Aim for meals and snacks that pair a protein with a complex carbohydrate, such as peanut butter on whole-grain bread.
Pass on Alcohol
Certain substances in alcohol, such as tyramine, are thought to trigger migraines. Because alcohol increases blood flow to the brain, the effects may be even more intense. If alcohol is a trigger for you, but you'd like to enjoy it on occasion, ask your doctor about taking preventive medication or choose a beverage that doesn’t trigger a migraine. Some preventive medications are prescribed daily and some are given periodically.
Avoid Deli Meats
Processed meats such as cold cuts often contain tyramine, and food additives such as nitrites, which trigger migraines in some people. Headaches caused by food additives are usually felt on both sides of the head (in contrast to a classic migraine, which affects one side at a time).
Processed meats include:
- Deli meats
- Hot dogs
Ice Cream Headaches
Many people experience that brief stab of severe pain that comes with eating or drinking something too cold. Often called "ice cream headaches" or "brain freeze," this sensation occurs in the middle of the forehead and usually lasts less than 5 minutes. But for people prone to migraines, it can be the beginning of a full-fledged attack. According to experts, more than 90% of migraine sufferers say they have to be cautious with cold foods/drinks.
Avoid Aged Cheeses
For some people, aged cheeses trigger migraines. The culprit may be a substance called tyramine. The longer a food ages, the more tyramine it may contain. Cheeses to consider avoiding include:
- Blue cheese
- Processed cheese
If you eat any of these cheeses and get a migraine, log this information in your headache diary to help you identify possible food triggers.
Other Food Triggers
Be aware of foods with migraine-triggering additives:
- MSG (monosodium glutamate)
- Caffeine and chocolate
- Processed foods
- Aspartame and other artificial sweeteners
- Peanuts, other nuts and seeds
- Potato chips
- Organ meats
- Smoked or dried fish
- Sourdough bread
- Some fruits like ripe bananas and citrus
- Dried fruits
- Soups made from meat extracts or bouillon
- Cultured dairy products like sour cream or yogurt
Some studies suggest cutting unhealthy fats from your diet to help reduce migraines. On the flip side, the National Headache Foundation reports boosting your intake of healthy fats called omega-3 fatty acids may also help decrease migraines. More research is needed. For now, add omega-3 rich foods like salmon to the menu twice a week!
Talk to your doctor before starting a new diet or taking any new medications, including vitamins and supplements.
Experiment With Food