Migraine headaches are a common neurological disorder, and studies show that their prevalence has increased in the last twenty years. The cause of the increase in prevalence is not known. The stress of a more hectic and competitive life-style is postulated as a factor, but changes in dietary habits may be equally responsible. The dietary factors known to activate the headache mechanism are called “migraine triggers.”
Foods & beverages that may trigger migraines
• Aged or strong cheese
• Cured meats (hot dogs, bacon, ham, and salami)
• Citrus fruits
• Fatty or fried foods
• Chocolate, nuts
• Canned soups, or food based with Monosodium glutamate
• Food dyes, additives, aspartame, nitrites, sulfites.
• Pickled herring, chicken livers
• Ice cream – cold foods and beverages
• Yogurt, sour cream
• Meat and vegetable extracts
• Pork and seafood
• Canned figs, broad beans, tomatoes
• Caffeine-containing drinks (coffee, tea, soft drinks)
• Caffeine withdrawal
• Alcoholic drinks (red wine, beer)
What to avoid
Tyramine is a substance that forms from the breakdown of protein in certain foods. The more a food ages, the greater the tyramine content is. For people with sensitivity to tyramine, the following types of cheese should be avoided: cheddar, feta, mozzarella, parmesan, swiss, blue and processed cheese. Other foods high in tyramine include processed meats, pickles, onions, olives, raisins, nuts, avocados, canned soups and red wine.
• Avoid Additives
Certain food additives, including nitrites and monosodium glutamate, are also common headache triggers. Like tyramine, these additives may increase blood flow to the brain causing headaches in some people.
• Beware of “Brain Freeze”
Most of us have experienced that brief stab of severe pain that comes with eating or drinking something too cold. Previously called ice cream headaches or “brain freeze,” this sensation usually lasts less than five minutes. 90% of migraine sufferers have to be cautious with cold food or drinks as it might also be a trigger for migraines.
• Don’t Skip Meals
While many people have sensitivities to particular foods, others develop headaches when they don’t eat. Anything that disrupts your body’s normal stability can cause a headache. Therefore, it is important to have all 3 meals throughout the day at more or less the same times to avoid headaches.
• Avoid Dehydration
Headaches and migraines thrive on dehydration, so drinking enough water every single day is super important to prevent them. Drinking water during a headache or migraine attack can help it from getting worse, and can make it go away if it was caused by dehydration. Make sure you are drinking at least 2 liters of water per day.
• Identify Your Triggers
If you get headaches when you skip meals, the connection may be obvious. But if your headaches start after meals, it can be difficult to determine exactly which foods are to be blamed. Keeping a headache diary is another way to spot connections between your headaches and your diet. Map out when your headaches start and what you have eaten that day and the day before.
Tips & Advice
• Each day have 3 main meals and 2 snacks throughout the day.
• Avoid eating high sugar foods on an empty stomach, when excessively hungry, or in place of a meal.
• All food, especially high protein foods, should be prepared and eaten fresh. Be cautious of leftovers held for more than one or two days at refrigerator temperature. Freeze leftovers that you want to store for more than 2 or 3 days.
• Eliminating the migraine triggers the diet should prevent or lessen the number and severity of migraine attacks.