Migraine headaches are a debilitating condition, often resulting in pain and symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sounds. Although there is no single identified cause for migraines, some people seem to be more genetically predisposed to migraines than others. Moreover, if you are susceptible to migraine headaches, you may be affected by certain triggers, including stress, hormonal changes and lack of sleep.
For some individuals who suffer from migraines, specific triggers include certain types of foods. Moreover, some foods can help to decrease the frequency of migraines or provide some relief from their symptoms. While there is no single miracle food that can guarantee to cure you from migraines, taking a nutritional approach may be helpful in migraine treatment and prevention. Here are some helpful tips to make your diet migraine-friendly and to help you decrease your incidence of migraine headaches.
Avoid foods high in tyramine
Tyramine is a naturally occurring compound derived from the amino acid tyrosine, and occurs in some foods in higher concentrations than others. This amine molecule originates from the breakdown of the amino acid tyrosine, and can be found in aged, fermented or preserved foods. Tyramine has been identified as a common dietary migraine trigger, and if you suffer from frequent migraine episodes, it is recommended to avoid tyramine-rich foods. These include aged cheese, fermented sausages (including pepperoni and salami), processed meats and smoked fish.
Eat your greens
Leafy green vegetables, such as spinach, kale, swiss chard and green collards are nutrient-dense foods and contain vitamins A, C and K, as well as calcium, folate and carotenoids. According to research from Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), leafy greens are considered to be «pain-safe.» Eating a diet rich in leafy green vegetables also provides many other health benefits, such as decreased risk of obesity, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
Watch your sugar intake
For some people prone to migraine headaches, eating too much or too little sugar can act as a migraine trigger. Sugar in an essential fuel for the body and the brain, and rapid changes in blood sugar levels caused by eating too much or too little sugar can result in headaches. Having high blood sugar levels is called hyperglycemia, while having low blood sugar levels is referred to as hypoglycemia. Individuals who consume too much sugary foods or beverages, are insulin resistant, or have diabetes are more susceptible to blood sugar fluctuations. Rapid swings in blood sugar levels can cause hormonal changes, specifically in the hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine. In turn, hormonal changes can affect the blood vessels in the brain, potentially triggering a migraine.
Cut down on alcohol
Consuming alcohol can trigger different types of headaches, including migraines, tension-type headaches and cluster headaches. If you suffer from chronic migraine headaches, determining whether alcohol is one of your triggers can help you reduce your risk of provoking migraine attacks. Scientists have not yet identified the exact mechanism by which drinking alcohol can cause headaches. However, since alcohol causes blood vessels to dilate when it reaches the bloodstream, it is thought that this effect on the brain’s blood vessels can trigger headaches. Specifically, red wine is the type of alcohol most often reported as a migraine trigger. It is thought that the molecules tannins, sulfites, histamine and tyramine found in alcohol can cause headaches. Moreover, other alcoholic beverages, such as white wine, beer, and liqueurs are also often reported as headache triggers.
If you are experiencing recurrent migraine symptoms, you should consider keeping a food diary to help to identify your potential dietary triggers. Although the role of diet in migraine management is still being studied, there is evidence to suggest that certain foods have a high likelihood of triggering migraines. Avoiding foods high in potential migraine “trigger” substances such as sulfites, tyramine and histamine, and eating a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals are important steps in migraine prevention.