Whenever somebody says they’re on a migraine diet, the first things that come to mind are migraine triggers. But there’s more to migraine dieting than avoiding foods like red wine, chocolate, and cheesecake. Even if you’ve established what not to eat, you still need to change the way you eat in order to use the migraine diet as an effective tool for preventing migraine headaches.
What are migraine triggers?
There are no food cures for migraines, nor has there been any scientific evidence stating that certain foods, stress, or weather changes directly cause migraines.
Rather, certain factors- foods or environmental stimuli- “activate” neurological reactions that cause migraine headaches in people who are susceptible to them. Those factors are called “migraine triggers.”
Eating healthy, exercising, and taking vitamins and supplements like won’t cure migraines, as much as they improve your brain’s neurological response to inflammation and migraine triggers.
What is a migraine diet?
There is no one-size-fits-all migraine diet. Migraine triggers vary from person to person. You will need to develop an eating plan that is tailored to meet your migraine brain’s needs. Because there has been little funding set aside for migraine research and dietary recommendations, you will have to do quite a bit of your own detective work. (Find out how to promote migraine support.)
Fortunately, we have some tips to get your started with your migraine diet:
- #1- Find your trigger! If you haven’t determined which foods contribute to your migraines, there’s no better time than today! You can’t possibly be expected to avoid all potential migraine triggers (over 100, according to this study on migraine triggers), but you can selectively eliminate the ones that count by following an elimination diet. This will also help in determining if you have any food allergies that might be giving you headaches. Some common food allergens are tree nuts, fish, spices, preservatives, gluten, and seeds.
- #2- Eat heart-healthy foods! This is great advice, particularly if you suffer from migraines with aura, which has been linked with heart disease, stroke, and seizures. Choose whole grains over processed starches, opt for lean meats and dairy products, and include plenty of fruits and vegetables in your daily diet. (Read more about fatalities among migraine sufferers- Killer Migraines Might be Fatal after All- Mortality Rates among Migraine Sufferers)
- #3- Watch your blood sugar! Sometimes, low blood sugar can trigger migraine attacks. So, never skip a meal, and never go more than four hours without eating. Eat small meals frequently throughout the day, and stick to a schedule. (The migraine brain loves regimented habits!)
- #4- Limit your salt! If you’re a slave to sodium, now is the time to break the chains. Eating a high sodium diet is linked with stroke, hypertension, and heart attacks. The USRDA for people with chronic illnesses is 1,500 mg per day.
- #5- Don’t limit your water! Sometimes, people become dehydrated and get headaches just because they were too busy to stop for a water break. Keep drinking water throughout your day, and make it easy. Set up “drinking stations” by keeping a supply of water bottles at home, in your car, and at work. Do you spend a lot of time at the computer? Keep a bottle handy, at a safe distance from your keyboard, of course. Can’t stomach tap water? (Read Stay Hydrated without Drinking Water- 5 Hydrating Foods)
- #6- Take extra vitamins and minerals! For some, vitamin deficiency is a hidden migraine trigger. Nip it in the bud by including high-quality vitamins, minerals, and herbs in your migraine diet. Some good nutrients to try are magnesium, vitamin B12 (cobalamin), riboflavin, calcium, butterbur, and coenzyme Q10.
- #7- Write it down in your migraine diary! This is an important tactic that is used for losing weight, and it is just as effective for losing migraines! Keep a migraine diet journal, including useful data like what you eat, when you eat, how you’re feeling emotionally, things you did, and so on. (For tips, read How to Make a Migraine Headache Diary)
Please tell us…
Do you keep a migraine headache diary? Has your headache specialist or neurologist shown interest in reviewing migraine diet with you? Have you discovered any migraine triggers that you hadn’t known about previously?
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Please share this information with anybody you know who suffers from migraines. Thanks!