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Can Eating Chocolate Cause Migraines

Why Do People Think Chocolate Causes Migraines

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There are a lot of anecdotes from people who claim that they get migraines after eating chocolate. These stories are not lies, but the mistake is concluding that the chocolate causes the migraine. In many cases, one of the two following things are happening.

1. Patients are craving chocolate prior to a migraine. Specific food cravings can be a symptom of a migraine. Some people crave cheese, salty snacks, or sweets a few hours before their headache begins. Others crave chocolate. When they crave chocolate, they reach for some and then when they get a migraine, they make the mistake of assuming the chocolate caused the migraine. Really, the migraine caused the chocolate!

2. Cravings and migraines come at the same time of the month for women. Many women experience migraines right before their period due to a change in hormone levels. This also happens to be a time when women tend to crave chocolate. Some patients mistakenly assume that eating chocolate causes the migraine when really, migraines and chocolate cravings have the same cause a sudden drop in estrogen levels.

People who eat chocolate then have a migraine share their experience with others. They tell other migraine patients to avoid chocolate, and the story spreads until everyone is avoiding chocolate.

Is The Caffeine An Issue

Caffeine is a known migraine trigger. It blocks the action of a neurotransmitter known as adenosine, which has an impact on blood vessel dilation. It seems that for most patients, its caffeine withdrawal thats most likely to trigger a migraine. Youre used to consuming caffeinated beverages every day, and then suddenly you dont, and you develop a migraine.

The common recommendation is that migraine patients avoid caffeine so they do not build a dependency and then suffer migraines when they withdraw from the substance. But how much caffeine does it take to build dependence? Is there enough caffeine in dark chocolate to trigger this response?

A standard, 8-ounce cup of coffee contains between 50 to 90 mg of caffeine, and most people drink more than 8 ounces in one shot. This is not a good idea for migraine sufferers dependency develops quickly at these levels of caffeine intake. The average dark chocolate contains 12 mg of caffeine per ounce. A Ghirardelli square weighs 14 grams, which is about a half ounce, which means one of these squares contains about 6 mg of caffeine. Thats less than the 15+ mg of caffeine found in some decaffeinated coffee drinks.

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There are many things that can trigger migraines, the debilitating pain that can sometimes lead to nausea, dizziness, and sensitivity to light and sound. If you have been suffering from migraines for a long time, then youd know that there are certain foods that can trigger an attack.Also Read – Omicron Threat In India: States Impose Curbs Ahead Of Christmas And New Year | Watch Video to Know Guidelines State-Wise

Dr. Vikram Sharma, Senior Consultant Neurologist, Department of Neurology, Sunshine Hospitals, Hyderabad says that migraine is a type of headache disorder that is classified as a neurological condition, associated with recurrent and debilitating headaches of moderate to severe intensity, accompanied by neurological symptoms. Also Read – 5 Lifestyle Changes You Should Make to Protect Your Heart

He further says that migraine symptoms may begin one to two days before the headache itself, which is known as the prodrome stage, which can include food cravings, fatigue or low energy, depression, hyperactivity, irritability, or neck stiffness. The migraine attack involves headaches with severe throbbing pain or a pulsating sensation, usually on just one side of the head, which can be accompanied by symptoms such as nausea or vomiting, or extreme sensitivity to light and sound . Also Read – Fitness Tips: Try These Full Body Low Impact HIIT Workout, Beginners Can Try Too | Checkout Video


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Eat To Minimize Your Migraines

How what you eat can affect your headaches

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The worst headache you could possibly imagine? That would be the description of a migraine.

If you don’t personally have migraines, odds are that you know someone who does.

So can what and how you eat and drink really help to improve your migraines? Thankfully, yes.

While stress is considered the No. 1 migraine trigger, food and beverages may be responsible for up to 30% of migraines, according to some estimates. If you consider that some other migraine triggers can have a connection to diet , it’s possible the percentage is actually higher.

Your diet can affect your headache risk in two ways:

  • Certain foods are thought to trigger headaches.
  • Dietary habits, like skipping meals and not drinking enough fluids, may also play a role.

What happens when migraine sufferers learn more about their food triggers and change their diets accordingly? In a recent study, headache patients were given one hour or more of diet counseling by a registered dietitian, who discussed things such as dietary triggers for headaches and label reading. The patients later reported a significant reduction in the number of migraines per week. At the same time, they reported they were consuming fewer migraine-trigger foods.

A Complicated Relationship

Here are some of the complicating factors:

Most-Wanted List of Migraine Triggers

Here is my list of the five most likely culprits.

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How you eat, in addition to what you eat, can also have an effect on headaches. The following tips can help you avoid headaches in general:

  • Don’t skip meals.
  • Make sure to eat breakfast every day.
  • Eat plenty of vegetables.
  • Eat a generally balanced diet.
  • Limit your intake of processed foods.
  • Avoid eating foods with labels that have ingredients you don’t recognize.

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Eat And Sleep On A Regular Schedule

Fasting or skipping meals can trigger migraine headaches. Make sure you eat within an hour of waking up and then every three to four hours. Hunger and dehydration both cause migraines. Make sure youre drinking enough water, and never skip a meal.

Lack of sleep can also aggravate symptoms, so make sure you clock in at least seven to eight hours. Even getting too much sleep can cause headaches, so dont try to make up for lost sleep by snoozing too long.

What Foods Cause Headaches

Some headaches are caused by things that happen in everyday life. Triggers can include sleep habits, posture, stress, and diet. If you get frequent headaches, you can adjust your lifestyle to avoid your known headache triggers. This may include removing headache-causing foods from your diet.

Experts believe that food-related headaches make up only about 20% of all headaches. The following foods are thought to contribute to headaches in those cases:

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Food Cravings Predict Migraine

According to the National Headache Foundation, some people who get migraines may have subtle warnings by way of food cravings between 4 and 72 hours before the actual onset of the migraine. Note: This craving doesnt necessarily mean your migraine is triggered by the food itself. For example, while chocolate can trigger migraines for some people, concurrently, people with migraine may experience chocolate cravings up to several days before their migraine. In these cases, the chocolate cravings and the migraine are correlated, but one does not necessarily cause the other.

What Foods Have Been Considered To Trigger Migraine In Susceptible People

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There are multiple foods that are thought to possibly trigger a migraine attack. Nearly all foods have been generated by patient self report and almost none have any scientifically valid backing from high quality studies.

The most commonly reported food triggers are alcohol and chocolate . Although the majority of headache sufferers cannot identify specific food triggers, headache patients are often given a broad recommendation to monitor their headaches after eating foods that historically have been thought to contain possible headache-triggering chemicals, such as tyramine , beta-phenylethylamine , and nitrates . In actuality, there have been no studies or only negative trials for headache provocation for cheeses, chocolate, dairy products, soy isoflavones and vegetables.

Processed meats containing high levels of nitrites and nitrates may be highly predictable migraine triggers in some individuals. Yet, only one patient has actually been studied with the result suggesting very pure nitrates, at high dose , induce attacks while dietary nitrates and nititrites may in susceptible individuals. Some foods can cause the blood vessels to dilate and so create the early changes seen in migraine attacks. Some foods contain a significant amount of tyraminean amino acid that can provoke the early blood vessel changes typical of migraine.

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Can Eating Chocolate Give You A Headache

Chocolate is an indigenous South American food. Traditionally, the bean of the cacao tree was brewed with hot water, producing a bitter drink often mixed with dried chili peppers. Adding sugar to create the hot chocolate that is drunk today, and adding fats to create chocolate candy, occurred in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. Chocolate can create a sensation of well-being and alertness, but it can also cause migraine headaches in some people.

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Bright Lights And Loud Sounds

Some people report that bright, flickering, or pulsating lights, or loud sounds, may serve as a migraine trigger.

A small study in European Neurology found that even brief exposure to sunlight may trigger migraine. Study participants reported getting some relief by:

  • wearing a hat
  • avoiding sunny places
  • getting more sleep

However, in a letter to the editor regarding that study, one neurologist noted that sunlight may not be a primary trigger for migraines. He stated that sunlight only triggered his own migraines if hed drunk wine the previous night.

He also mentioned that sunlight triggered migraines if he was already sleep deprived, stressed, dehydrated, or experiencing low blood sugar due to skipping a meal. His conclusion was that bright light may be a sort of secondary trigger.

People whose migraine attacks appear to be triggered by bright light should consider whether these other factors may also be triggers for them.

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Doctors aren’t prescribing chocolate bars to heart patients or migraine sufferers yet, but Katz said he can envision a recommendation to habitually eat dark chocolate.

“It’s not just giving people a license to do what they’re already doing,” Katz said. Americans already eat about 12 pounds of chocolate per year, most of which is the less beneficial milk chocolate. “But if they need a nudge to switch over to the dark side, this is a place science provides us to go.”

No guidelines have yet been determined about how to consume dark chocolate to maximize the health benefits. It is not clear how often and how much chocolate people should eat before the excess calories, sugar and subsequent weight gain becomes a problem, and this is one area where research could move forward.

Other areas for further research include expanding on some preliminary studies on how the antioxidants in chocolate could be harnessed to fight chronic diseases and cancer, as well as how food combinations — like chocolate eaten with fruits and nuts — might affect health.

“This is tougher because there are no surrogate markers like there are with heart studies,” Katz said. “In general, foods that are good for us are really just foods that are good for us and you can’t take care of just one organ at a time. If you’re cultivating health, you are reducing the risk of all the bad stuff.”

Foods That Can Trigger Headaches

Common Foods and Drinks Can Trigger Migraine

There is nothing more annoying than a pounding or throbbing headache. Although common, headaches can disrupt your sleep or productivity.

According to the World Health Organization, almost half of the adult population have experienced a headache at least once within the last year.

If you are suffering from frequent headaches but are unsure whats causing them, it may be the foods you are eating. Certain foods trigger headaches due to the chemicals and ingredients in the foods such as tyramine and histamine. Foods that give you headaches range from chocolate and alcohol to citrus fruits and aged cheese.

Not all headaches are triggered by foods but if your headaches are, it is important to know your triggers and how to avoid them.

Here are 10 foods that can trigger headaches according to the National Headache Foundation:

10 Foods That Trigger Headaches

1. Excess Caffeine

Some of the most common reasons people experience headaches are drinking excess caffeine and caffeine withdrawals. Although a healthy amount of caffeine can treat oncoming migraines, too much caffeine can trigger a headache according to the American Migraine Foundation.

2. Alcohol

Studies show that two chemicals, tyramine, and histamine, which are found in alcohol, especially red wine, trigger headaches and migraines. According to the American Migraine Foundation, about 1/3 of migraine sufferers reported alcohol to be a trigger for their occasional migraines.

3. Milk chocolate

4. Citrus fruits

6. Yeast

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Be Consistent With Lifestyle Habits

Any type of disruption to the body’s normal homeostasis can lead to inflammation, so it pays to be consistent with things like diet, activity and sleep. Because poor sleep is a trigger for both inflammation and migraines, try sticking to a regular time to go to bed and wake up. Set up your bedroom to be conducive to sleep and remove technology like your phone or TV. These small changes can help your body stick to its natural sleep-wake cycle. Also, eating meals at regular times each day provides the body consistency as well.

Is Chocolate Good For Migraines

When enjoyed in moderation, dark chocolate has a whole array of health benefits some of which might even help prevent migraines in a round-about way. Several studies have found that eating cocoa-containing foods helps lower blood pressure, which is important to note since high blood pressure is linked to migraines.

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Red Wine And Other Alcoholic Beverages Are Foods That Trigger Migraines

Sulfites, used as preservatives in red wine, are included in the list of foods that trigger migraines. Alcohol in any drink causes increased blood flow to your brain and can also result in dehydration, both of which might be headache triggers. “People with migraines tend to get worse hangovers from any type of alcohol,” notes Robert Daroff, MD, professor of neurology at the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine in Cleveland and past president of the American Headache Society. Alcohol will also trigger a headache in someone going through a period of cluster headaches.

How To Identify Your Headache Triggers

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It can be helpful to keep a headache diary. This is a simple listing of:

  • When your headache developed
  • The intensity of the headache
  • What helped, if anything

If you’re not sure if a food is triggering your headaches, try limiting your intake of that food for 4 weeks. Then, notice if your headaches improve or not, using your diary to track your headaches.

If there is no change after 4 weeks, then it’s possible that food is not a headache trigger. It’s also still possible it is a trigger, but something else is also a trigger.

Experts do not recommend trying to restrict your diet if you are pregnant. They also do not recommend trying this method for children or teens.

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The Safest Way To Indulge In Chocolate Without Triggering A Migraine

If your period is coming, if a thunderstorm is coming, if you’ve had a migraine in the past 48 hours or have been under heavy stress – these are triggers you can’t easily control. Migraine triggers are additive.

My quasi-scientific method of migraine risk management: 3 or more and I pass. Meaning, if I am exposed to 3 or more triggers, I skip the optional risk of a chocolate fix. Or I take one tiny bite just to enjoy the taste – not a whole cookie, cake or sundae.

Chocolate in any form is a vice that I genuinely enjoy. Calories are incidental – it’s the migraine onset I fear with every bite. Migraine has caused me to miss out in my share of celebrations, and I hate to miss any part of anything fun when I’m not in a sufferin’ state.

There is, of course, the possibility that chocolate is not a migraine food trigger for you. After all, food triggers are very personal and vary from person to person. Despite the well-known connection between migraines and chocolate, research shows that it may not be a true food trigger after all.

Even if you notice migraine pain after eating chocolate, there’s still a chance that the migraine attack was coming on before you ate the chocolate. Dr. Andrew Charles of UCLA explains:

If you’re ready to indulge in chocolate without fear, pay attention to the effect chocolate actually has on your migraines for two days after you eat it. Be sure to write down your observations in a headache diary.

What Does The Science Say

Some studies have found an association between chocolate and migraines. However, these studies are not always set up in a way that allows the researchers to conclude that the chocolate really caused the migraines. What they could sometimes be seeing is the relationships discussed above chocolate cravings as a symptom prior to migraine or due to hormonal fluctuations that also cause migraine.

Other studies have found no causal relationship between chocolate and migraines. In one study, patients who were given chocolate were no more likely to develop a migraine than those given a placebo. Other known migraine triggers, like alcoholic beverages and fasting, definitely did increase the frequency of migraine beyond that seen with a placebo. Based on these results, it seems unwise to lump chocolate in with other migraine triggers.

When you give up alcohol, fasting, or high-stress environments because theyre giving you migraines, thats fair those are unhealthy habits and theres real evidence they can trigger migraines. When you give up chocolate, and dark chocolate in particular, youre giving up something that can be beneficial, and theres just no evidence that doing so is necessary. The science is mixed, and chocolate might be a trigger for some patients, but recommending that all migraine sufferers avoid chocolate is quite a reach based on the current science.

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