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What Foods Are Migraine Triggers

Foods And Beverages That Can Trigger Migraines

Worst Foods to Eat with Migraines (Dietary Triggers)

Certain types of foods and lack of eating can cause migraines. As many as 60% of people report that food can trigger migraines. When people report having a migraine to their primary care physician or headache specialist, they often report alcohol, caffeine, and chocolate as being a common trigger for their migraine. Sometimes, foods that we associate as being healthy can also bring on migraines. For example, aged cheeses, fermented foods, and certain types of cured meats can bring on a migraine. Fermented foods, while being great for promoting gut health, contain an amino acid called tyramine, which can trigger migraines. Tyramine is also a common trigger found in aged cheeses.

Beverages containing certain additives such as artificial sweeteners can also cause migraines. For example, diet soda contains both caffeine and aspartame. In certain cases of people who have clinical depression, aspartame can worsen migraine symptoms. Alcohol is also a common migraine trigger. In particular, red wine and white wine may trigger migraines in individuals. Red wine triggers migraines in about 19.5% of people with migraine while white wine may trigger migraines in about 10.5% of people with migraine.

At The Burger Joint: Skip The Pickles Try Raw Cucumber

A few favorite burger toppings can be migraine triggers for some, all thanks to tyramine, so the next time you hit up your fave joint, be wary of a few items like raw onion, cheddar or blue cheese and sauerkraut . Pickled food can be high in tyramine, too, so you might consider laying off that pile of pickles. It might sound weird, but raw cucumber can give you that same satisfying crunch, so you might ask your server for a swap-out.

Light Smell And Sound Sensitivity Can Also Trigger Migraines

Migraine is a disorder of neurological overactivity and oversensitivity. The neurological wiring in patients with migraine is set at a much lower threshold for triggering a migraine, as compared to someone without migraine. Sometimes, elements in our environment can also be attributed to the onset of migraines. Direct sunlight can be a primary trigger for migraines. Driving by a white picket fence alternating with bright light in between, fluorescent office lighting , flashing strobe lights, or looking at the sun reflecting off a shiny surface are commonly reported visual triggers. While the outdoors and exercise are great for health, wearing a cap or sunglasses and finding a shady area may help alleviate the onset of migraine. Sometimes, direct sunlight can make an existing migraine worse, especially if the migraine was triggered by sleep deprivation, dehydration, or skipping a meal.

Prolonged loud sound can also trigger migraines in some individuals. For example, loud concert music and high decibel noises can trigger a migraine. In addition, some noises can become more bothersome or disturbing for someone experiencing a migraine, such as chewing noises, clocks ticking, and doors opening and closing.

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Foods That Might Trigger Migraines

Written byMat LecomptePublished onNovember 8, 2021

Anybody who suffers from migraines knows how they can upend your day. The pain can be unbearable, and they can hit out of the blue, leaving many victims essentially incapacitated.

Sometimes the cause is completely unexplainable. Experts have identified various triggers, like stress, sleep, medications, and more, but its hard to determine a firm number on how heavily they contribute.

Food is another cause. And while it can be hard to say just how diet contributes to migraine risk, estimates suggest that roughly 20 percent of migraine sufferers can attribute flare-ups to diet.

Certain foods and drinks contain substances that can trigger migraines, while others do things to the body that may enhance the risk. Meal timing and weight may also play a role.

Common foods that may trigger migraines include:

The best way to identify potential dietary triggers is with a food diary. Pay attention to what you eat, what the ingredients are, and if you feel any symptoms. Food can trigger a migraine anywhere from 20 minutes to 24-hours following consumption.

Eliminate one potential trigger at a time for one month to see if there is any change in your migraine patterns. Also, note any other potential factors that may have induced a migraine, like stress levels and sleep quality.

Gutbrain Axis And Probiotics

Common Foods and Drinks Can Trigger Migraine

Several studies have shown different gastrointestinal diseases to be associated with migraine . Migraine is often accompanied by gastrointestinal symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, dyspepsia, and bowel disturbances . A link has also been found that headaches occur at a higher rate in patients with gastrointestinal disorders . Abdominal migraine is an entity affecting children . Studies have also suggested that migraine is associated with inflammatory bowel disease and celiac disease .

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Blame The Cold For Headaches After Eating Ice Cream

The stabbing headache after eating ice cream is a reaction to the cold, not the ice cream itself. An ice cream headache is more likely if you are overheated. The pain peaks in about 30 to 60 seconds. “Cold foods, like ice cream, may be migraine triggers for people who suffer from migraines, but for most people, the pain goes away quickly. The solution is to eat your ice cream or drink your cold drink more slowly,” advises Daroff.

What Triggers Migraines

The exact causes of migraine are unknown. But we do know migraines can be triggered by foods and your lifestyle.

It is widely accepted by scientists that migraines are sensitive to diet and that some dietary ingredients trigger migraine attacks.

Long lists of potential migraine triggers in food exist but theres still some controversy over which exactly trigger migraines.

Why is there controversy? As we always say, everyone is different. What triggers migraines in you might be fine for someone else! Thats why personalised nutrition is so important so you learn to avoid migraine triggers in food which are personal to you.

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How To Avoid Food

“Migraine disease is complex and affected by many factors,” says Simy Parikh, MD, program director of Thomas Jefferson University’s Post-Graduate Certificate Program in Advanced Headache Diagnosis and Management and Assistant Professor in the Department of Neurology at Thomas Jefferson University.

Here Parikh offers some steps you can take to potentially reduce migraine triggers:

Eat healthily and consistently. You may have noticed that the migraine trigger list was lacking a few major food groups “healthy” foods such as fruits, vegetables, and protein, in particular. A 2020 review showed that most “migraine-friendly” healthy eating plans, such as low-fat diets, provided a decrease in the frequency of migraine attacks.

In addition to eating healthy foods, it’s important to keep a consistent eating schedule to avoid migraines.

Low blood glucose can trigger headaches,” says Parikh. To keep your blood sugar steady, eat at roughly the same time every day without an extended amount of time between meals, she says. Parikh also suggests to all of her patients to maintain a healthy diet and weight.

Track food triggers and eliminate them from your diet. Since multiple factors contribute to migraines, many sufferers keep a headache diary. This is where they can list the frequency, duration, and intensity of migraines, as well as possible triggers, including food and drink.

Is It A Trigger Or A Warning

Migraine Headaches : Foods That Trigger Migraine Attacks

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.

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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.

How Else Can Migraine Be Treated

Some over-the-counter headache medications can help with the pain, such as Tylenol or Excedrin . If your migraine attacks are more severe or frequent, your doctor may prescribe medications or other treatments for you.

For relief without pills, your doctor may suggest trying Botox injections or using a neuromodulation device like the Cefaly Dual.

Resting in a dark, quiet room helps some people. For extra help, a cold compress on the head can have a numbing effect. There are also natural remedies you can try, including supplements like:

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What Is An Elimination Diet And Should I Try One

An elimination diet consists of removing a long list of foods from your diet that may be triggering a Migraine attack.

Elimination diets are a hot topic of debate within the Migraine community. Despite little proof of efficacy, the American Migraine Foundation explains that an elimination diet can be considered to reduce Migraine triggers. But they should be done under medical guidance so that medical and nutritional support is provided

“Besides red wine and MSG, in terms of food triggers, there really is not good enough evidence to justify elimination diets,” said Dr. Charles. “An elimination diet can really interfere with someones quality of life, and that kind of interference may be unnecessary.”

Why Does Food Trigger Migraine

Foods you least expect to be migraine triggers! Repin to ...

Doctors and researchers dont know the exact cause for migraine. Most doctors agree that when brain activity briefly changes, it can lead to an attack. What prompts these changes is not entirely clear. However, numerous studies, have found potential links to certain environmental and behavioral factors that are consistent enough in migraine patients to be considered triggers. This includes certain foods that seem to cause migraine attacks in about 10% of the migraine population.

Research indicates that certain elements in food such as sulfites, nitrites, histamine, phenylethylamine, and tyramine are have a significant role in migraines caused by food. It is believed that these foods and elements in them affect certain migraine phases by prompting the release of norepinephrine and serotonin. This can elicit several responses, all of which can cause headache or migraine:

  • The blood vessels dilate , causing the blood pressure to decrease
  • The blood vessels constrict , causing the blood pressure to increase
  • Directly stimulate the brainstem, trigeminal ganglia, and cortical neuronal pathways.

Therefore, it stands to reason that when these foods or food additives are eliminated from the diet, the head pain will not be triggered, thus allowing the patient to avoid or prevent food-triggered migraine.

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How Many People Report Food Triggers

According to studies, between 10% and 80% of people report food triggers. Why would the numbers vary that much? Perception is one factor. Some people and some cultures are more centered on diet as a migraine trigger.

One other thing to consider is the delay to include a food as a trigger. If you choose a short delay, less food will be potential triggers. If you decide to consider everything you ate over the last 48h as a potential trigger, well, it becomes a bit difficult to establish causal links.

The international classification recommends a maximum delay of 12h to consider a link between a food intake and a migraine attack.

How To Identify Migraine Food Triggers

Not everyone has the same Migraine food triggers. Triggers can also be additive, meaning: a specific food may push you over the threshold into an attack only when youre exposed to other triggers at the same time, like poor sleep or extra stress.

To identify your personal food triggers, use a headache diary or app, such as Migraine Buddy or N-1 Headache , for 60-90 days.

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Diet And Headache Control

Merle L. Diamond, MD and Dawn A. Marcus, MD

Perhaps the best migraine prevention diet is one that is as wholesome, fresh and unprocessed as possiblethereby eliminating many of the supposed chemical triggers for migraine. In addition, eat these foods in small portions spread throughout the day averaging five to six calorie controlled portions. This eating behavior assists in preventing headache due to hunger, avoids large amounts of any supposed chemical trigger at any given time, and finally, fires up ones metabolismpreventing weight gain, which is a likely factor contributing to risk of headache progression.

Patients who suffer from migraine attacks try to determine what they did wrong each time that a headache occursthat is, they try to identify the triggers that put them at risk of having another episode. For many years, headache specialists have debated the possibility that certain foods cause the so-called migraine threshold to drop, which allows a window of opportunity for migraine to start.

Food triggers appear to be important in a minority of migraine sufferers, but other factors may be complicating an understanding of food triggers. For example, so many foods and beverages have caffeine, which has clearly been associated as a trigger for headache in individuals with high caffeine consumption.

Canned Or Processed Meats As Migraine Trigger

Migraine trigger foods

We defined dairy products as the first group of food triggers, as a second group, within the list of 27 foods that trigger migraines, we could categorize canned or processed meats. The problem with this type of food is that contains nitrites. With the ingestion of a large number of nitrites, you could increase their level and provoke a migraine.

Therefore, the bacon, salami, hot dogs and ham are on thislist.

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Managing Migraine Food And Drink Triggers

Once you know what your triggers are, you can avoid those foods and drinks. If skipping meals brings on a migraine, you know to focus on regular meal times. If dehydration is a trigger, you can carry a water bottle everywhere.3

When it comes to alcohol, know your limits. Some people cannot drink any alcohol while others can enjoy an evening cocktail fairly often. If you feel a migraine coming on after drinking, take an acute migraine drug right away.3

Bread Grains And Cereals

  • most cereals, except for those containing nuts, dried fruits, or aspartame
  • plain or sesame seed bagels
  • quick bread, such as pumpernickel or zucchini bread
  • most plain pretzels and potato chips
  • unflavored crackers, such as saltines or Club crackers
  • white, wheat, rye, or pumpernickel bread from a store

Foods to avoid:

  • flavored crackers, such as cheddar cheese crackers
  • fresh bread that is homemade or from a grocers bakery
  • pizza, as it is also a fresh bread
  • highly flavored or seasoned chips
  • soft pretzels
  • food preservatives, such as nitrates, nitrites, MSG, and artificial sweeteners
  • smoked fish
  • yeast extract

Not eating anything at all can also lead to an increased incidence of migraines. For some people, prolonged hunger and not eating enough are known headache triggers. This may be due to a link between low blood sugar levels and worsening migraine headaches.

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How Stress Can Cause Migraines

Stress is a very common cause of migraines and this isnt the only problem that it can bring on. If youre under stress over a long period, it can cause your adrenal glands to become fatigued and bring on Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome .

The adrenals are a pivotal part of your NeuroEndoMetabolic stress response, the bodys primary system for stress control and protection. When you experience stress, the NEM stress response causes your adrenals to excrete cortisol and prompts a range of reactions in other organs and systems in your body. These are natural processes and very beneficial in most cases. However, if youre under ongoing stress, then the NEM stress response can become overworked.

The stress that results in AFS can come from several different sources. Its ongoing, causes low levels of inflammation throughout the body, and can lead to wear and tear on many other systems. Some causes of this kind of stress can be work pressures, relationships, environmental toxins, a sedentary lifestyle, and a poor diet.

This creates another connection between stress and migraines. People who are chronically stressed often eat on the run and make poor food choices. This means that theyre more likely to indulge in all the worst foods for migraines. Imbalances in the neuroaffect circuit may also be an important cause of migraines.


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