Can Food Affect Migraines
In the past, certain foods like cheese, chocolate, and caffeine were thought by many people to trigger migraine attacks. But while these foods may bring on migraines in some people, there isnt a lot of scientific evidence to suggest that this is true for a majority of people with migraine.
What experts now believe is that the food thought to trigger the migraine is sometimes a craving that is part of the pre-headache phase of the migraine. Confused? Lets look at an example.
You eat a whole bar of dark chocolate one night. The next day you wake up with a migraine. You assume the chocolate triggered it. But what is probably going on is that in your pre-headache phase, you are experiencing heightened sensations that are coming out as a craving for dark chocolate. So, the craving for dark chocolate is actually part of the migraine, not the trigger.
Heres what we know for sure about food and migraines: Skipping meals is reported as a trigger in 57% of migraines, alcohol in 38%, and food in 27%.
Chocolate A Subject Of Conflicting Research
A study in the September issue of the Journal of Internal Medicine showed that heart attack survivors can reduce their risk of a second heart attack by eating chocolate several times per week.
But experts caution that if chocolate is eaten in large amounts, its fat and calorie content could negate the positive effects of its antioxidants and other chemicals.
“If we’re going to make this a ‘food as medicine’ , the public does need guidance,” Katz said. “Some is good for you, more is bad for you … there is a sweet spot in a certain range, like alcohol.”
But some may continue to avoid chocolate due to its reputation for triggering migraines in some people who may be sensitive to the chemicals.
As yet there is no solid evidence of what chocolate’s relation is to headache, including today’s study from the IHS, an animal study that may not translate to humans and only postulates that the anti-inflammatory properties of cocoa could have an indirect effect on migraine headaches, which is an inflammatory disease.
New Theories Oust Old Migraine Conventions
But new theories about what causes migraines could do something to relieve the notoriety chocolate has gained in the field.
In other words, eating chocolate an hour before an imminent migraine might lead a person to believe that the chocolate caused the migraine.
Managing A Headache With Good Food Choices
The Cleveland Clinic notes that most information about food that triggers headaches was gathered from people self-reporting their experiences. There have been research studies conducted in the past, and many ongoing right now. The challenge for researchers is that each case is different. The first step is avoiding foods that are known to trigger headaches. Should a headache develop, there are foods that may spur a faster recovery period.
Knowing what to eat when your head hurts can help you make good choices. The most common foods and drinks that have been reported to help headaches include:
- Leafy greens
- A small cup of coffee for a caffeine headache
Avoid consuming processed foods, aged cheeses, smoked or dried fish, cultured dairy products, high sodium foods like potato chips and foods high in carbohydrates and sugar. Sometimes, headache relief comes from knowing what not to eat.
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Coffee Can Stop A Headache Or Cause One
Coffee contains caffeine, which is added to some types of headache medications. But you can get too much of a good thing coffee may lead to caffeine rebound or a caffeine withdrawal headache, according to the National Headache Foundation.
A cup of coffee is a quick fix for this type of headache, says Brown. Its important to remember that caffeine can stay in your system for up to five hours, she says. For some people, this may lead to an afternoon headache once their morning cup of coffee wears off, she adds.
If your caffeine consumption is causing withdrawal headaches, you might try cutting down by drinking half caff or decaffeinated coffee, suggests Brown. Even decaf coffee has some caffeine in it, she adds.
Are You Experiencing Episodes
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Berries May Relieve Sinus Pressure
Smaller fruits tend to have more exposure to pesticides, and so Brown recommends getting organic berries whenever possible.
Coeliac Disease And Gluten Sensitivity
Coeliac disease is a serious condition where a persons immune system reacts when they eat gluten and causes damage to the lining of their gut. When this happens, they have symptoms such as diarrhoea, bloating, vomiting and stomach cramps. There can also be serious complications if it is not treated, such as anaemia. There is no cure for coeliac disease and people with it need to avoid gluten all their life.
There have been studies into the link between coeliac disease and migraine. There is no evidence to suggest that coeliac disease causes migraine. It is thought that if people with coeliac disease and migraine follow a gluten-free diet, this may help with both of their conditions.
Gluten sensitivity is when a person has a bad reaction if they eat gluten. They may have similar symptoms to coeliac disease, but there is no damage to the lining of their gut or the risk of serious complications that can happen with coeliac disease.
Gluten is found in foods that contain wheat, barley or rye. These include pasta, bread, cakes, some sauces and most ready meals.
One of the symptoms of gluten sensitivity is headache. But there is no evidence that gluten sensitivity causes migraine. However, if you are sensitive to gluten, you may find that if you eat food containing gluten, it makes migraine attacks more likely or the symptoms more painful.
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Kale Might Help Migraineurs
Related to cabbage and broccoli , kale is also packed with magnesium about 32 milligrams in one cup of chopped leaves. Kale is tougher than spinach and more of an acquired taste. Its also high in fiber, which is essential for an overall healthy diet.
If you prefer eating your greens raw but dont like kales toughness, chop the leaves fine, squeeze with lemon juice, and let sit for an hour to soften the leaves a bit. Check out this Greek kale salad recipe for inspiration . You can then toss the kale in salad or a quick stir-fry. You can saute kale like spinach, add it to pasta dishes, or roast it to make crispy kale chips.
Dark Chocolate Health Benefits Migraines And Headaches: Friend Or Foe
Dont eat that chocolate, it will give you a headache! If you suffer from migraines, youve probably been given this advice, at least once or twice, by a well-meaning aunt or friend. Maybe youve read it on the internet or in a natural healing book that promises to cure your migraines with a clean diet and the right oils.
Im going to let you in on a little secret: theres no clear scientific evidence that chocolate causes migraines or makes them worse. If you love and enjoy chocolate, like I do, you may not need to give it up completely in order to manage your migraines. Dont develop a 5-a-day Hershey Bar habit thats unhealthy for a whole host of other reasons but dont feel bad if you enjoy a square of dark chocolate after lunch. It most likely wont give you a headache, and it will benefit you in other ways.
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How Can I Modify My Diet To Prevent Migraines
If youre not sure whether or not certain foods trigger your migraines or what those foods might be it doesnt hurt to opt for healthy, natural foods that are beneficial to everyones health.
Natural, whole, and minimally processed foods without preservatives or artificial flavorings such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and eggs
Fresh meats, fish, and poultry like chicken breast, salmon, and lean beef or ham
Natural sweeteners like maple syrup and raw honey
Anti-inflammatory foods and supplements like omega-3s and turmeric
Coming Up Next On Shockingly Delicious Another Migraine
Get the recipe for Spicy Kale and Swiss Chard Saute, also from The Migraine Relief Plan, on Shockingly Delicious next.
About the author:Stephanie Weaver is a writer and health coach with expertise in changing diets and recipes for health reasons. Her book The Migraine Relief Plan: An 8-Week Transition to Better Eating, Fewer Headaches, and Optimal Health debuted on Feb. 14, 2017 and has been a #1 new release and best seller in 5 Amazon categories. Find over 350 recipes coded for special diets in her Recipe Index.
Disclosure: Reprinted with permission from The Migraine Relief Plan,copyright 2016 Stephanie Weaver. Published by Surrey Books, an imprint of Agate Publishing, Inc. Photos by Laura Bashar.
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What If I Need To Lose Weight
Its tempting to save on calories by skipping meals. In fact it is less difficult to diet, if you have small meals, frequently compared with larger meals, infrequently.
Cutting down on fat in the diet actually helps migraine. A low fat diet is a good way to lose weight.
People with migraine should avoid unusual or trendy diets that rely on unnatural food combinations e.g. zero carbohydrates, or combinations of a small number of foods .
Watermelon Provides Fluids To Keep You Hydrated
Interesting fact: Watermelon is actually considered a vegetable because of the way its grown, although some people would argue it belongs firmly in the fruit category because of its sweet flavor and higher sugar content.
Watermelon also has a lot of water in it. Its actually 92 percent water, according to the National Watermelon Promotion Board. Getting plenty of water both by drinking it and by consuming foods that contain lots of water will help you stay hydrated.
Getting enough fluids is important for all aspects of health, including migraine, says Brown. About one in three people with migraine say dehydration is a trigger, according to the American Migraine Foundation.
Many fruits and vegetables can have a hydrating effect, and the fresher it is, the higher the water content, says Brown.
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What Is A Natural Way To Get Rid Of A Headache
Here are 18 effective home remedies to naturally get rid of headaches.Drink Water. Inadequate hydration may lead you to develop a headache. Take Some Magnesium. Limit Alcohol. Get Adequate Sleep. Avoid Foods High in Histamine. Use Essential Oils. Try a B-Complex Vitamin. Soothe Pain with a Cold Compress.More itemsFeb 4, 2018
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.
In 2014, Italian researchers published a paper that looked at the history of chocolate as a migraine trigger
Even better, one study found that chocolate can actually help your migraines by repressing CGRP, one of the proteins involved in a migraine attack
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:
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Herbal Teas Have Multiple Headache Benefits
Tea can help with overall hydration, which in itself can prevent or relieve a headache, and depending on the type of tea, there are other benefits as well, according to Brown.
Peppermint can be effective in relieving sinus pressure, says Brown. Sinus congestion and pressure are common symptoms of a sinus headache, brought on by inflammation and swelling of the sinuses, according to the American Migraine Foundation.
Peppermint oil is used as an essential oil for headache or migraine. You could put peppermint oil or fresh peppermint in a cup of hot water and inhale the steam and also drink the liquid, says Brown.
A study published in 2019 in the International Journal of Preventive Medicine found that a drop of diluted peppermint oil dripped into the nose was effective in decreasing the intensity of headaches caused by migraine in about 42 percent of participants who tried it.
There is some evidence that ginger tea can help with a tension headache, according to Brown.
Also, a study published in Phytotherapy Research found that drinking a half teaspoon of powdered ginger in warm water helped reduce migraine severity.
How Our Diets Affect Migraine
Many things can trigger a migraine attack, including what we eat and drink.
According to the Migraine Research Foundation, foods that trigger migraine may only do so when combined with other triggers. But this combination and any trigger in general is highly individualized, making research difficult.
Theres no such thing as a universal migraine trigger. But there are some common triggers that can cause or contribute to migraine episodes in some people.
But according to the American Migraine Foundation, caffeine can actually help stop oncoming migraine attacks. It can also offer headache relief with occasional use.
Foods and drinks with caffeine include:
one study , over 35% of the participants with migraine reported that alcohol was one of their common triggers.
Red wine in particular was reported as a trigger in over 77% of the participants who reported alcohol as a trigger.
Alcohol can cause dehydration, which is a significant contributor in developing headaches.
According to the American Migraine Foundation, chocolate is thought to be the second most common trigger for migraine attacks after alcohol. They say it affects an estimated 22 percent of people who experience migraine.
Chocolate contains both caffeine and beta-phenylethylamine, which may trigger headaches in some people.
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Seeds And Nuts Provide Magnesium And Fiber
Magnesium deficiency is one of the most common nutritional causes of persistent or cluster headaches, says Sarah Thomsen Ferreira, RD, MPH, a registered dietitian with Cleveland Clinics Center for Functional Medicine in Ohio.
Prioritizing ample amounts of magnesium-rich foods daily is one of the best ways to keep these headaches at bay, Ferreira says.
Flaxseeds, sprouted pumpkin seeds, and chia seeds are all good , says Ferreira. Pumpkin seeds are also high in fiber, preventing the constipation that sometimes comes with migraine. Cashews are high in magnesium, too, she says.
Does Chocolate Trigger A Migraine Probably Not
The life of a person with Migraine is “choc” full of caution signs: Don’t drink. Don’t smoke. Don’t do caffeine. And so on. It hardly seems fair that, in our pain-filled world, any halfway empathetic doctor should suggest we can’t have our chocolate fix. Please.
More and more evidence says it’s actually GOOD for us, like this 2017 study that says chocolate improves brain function
After all, the Aztecs discovered and refined this elixir to the gods. It stimulates our pleasure centers in a way that few foods can – and it tastes heavenly. From birthday cake to Easter bunnies to Valentine’s candy and Christmas cookies, chocolate is a centerpiece of our American holidays and celebrations.
Just say no to chocolate? I think not!
So how can we safely consume this magical confection without bringing on a 5-day migraine? The answer is simple: pause and consider the past two days and the next two days.
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Is It A Trigger Or A Warning
We know that the brain of someone with migraine likes balance, like regular sleep and meal patterns. We also know that migraine can be triggered by alcohol and the menstrual cycle. The evidence for other triggers, such as exercise, eating chocolate and bright light, is less certain.
It can sometimes be difficult to tell if something is really a trigger, or if what youre experiencing is an early symptom of a migraine attack.
Studies have found that sometimes what you may think is a trigger is actually to do with the premonitory or warning stage of a migraine attack.
During this stage, you may get symptoms such as changes in your mood or emotions, cravings for certain foods, and being more sensitive to light, sound or smells.
These symptoms can lead to you think that something is triggering your migraine attack. For example, at the beginning of a migraine attack, you may start to crave sweet foods. You may then eat some chocolate to satisfy the craving. When you then get a headache, you may think that eating chocolate was the trigger. But actually you were starting to have a migraine attack when the cravings started and the cravings were the warning sign.
The same could be true for other triggers. If you are more sensitive to light in the warning stage, you might think bright lights are a trigger. If you are more sensitive to smells, you might think certain scents are a trigger.