MIGRAINES – FOODS TO AVOID
A migraine headache is characterized as an intense throbbing or pulsing headache, typically in one area or side of your head, and is commonly accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound.
Elimination Diets Shown Helpful in Reducing or Eliminating Migraines
In a 1979 study published in the Lancet,4 60 migraineurs with food antigen immunoreactivity who were put on an elimination diet experienced profound relief. According to the author:
“The commonest foods causing reactions were wheat (78 percent), orange (65 percent), eggs (45 percent), tea and coffee (40 percent each), chocolate and milk (37 percent) each), beef (35 percent), and corn, cane sugar, and yeast (33 percent each).
When an average of 10 common foods were avoided there was a dramatic fall in the number of headaches per month, 85 percent of patients becoming headache-free. The 25 percent of patients with hypertension became normotensive. Chemicals in the home environment can make this testing difficult for outpatients. Both immunological and non-immunological mechanisms may play a part in the pathogenesis of migraine caused by food intolerance.”
A randomized, double blind, cross-over study published in 2010 also found that a six-week long diet restriction produced a statistically significant reduction in migraines in those diagnosed with migraine without aura. If you notice your migraines start up shortly after eating a specific food, then that’s a good place to start. Keep in mind that you can also be sensitive to food additives like artificial colors, preservatives, flavor enhancers (MSG), and aspartame so read the food labels, and note the ingredients in your food journal.
One of the best things you can do if you believe you are suffering from a food allergy is to do a diet elimination challenge. Simply remove all foods that contain what you believe you are allergic to and see if your symptoms improve over the next several days. Keep in mind that depending on your typical migraine frequency, you may need to avoid the suspected food for a few weeks in order to evaluate whether it had an effect or not.
To confirm the results, you’ll want to reintroduce the food or drink (on an empty stomach). If the suspected food is the culprit you will generally be able to feel the allergy symptoms return within an hour, although migraines can sometimes have a longer lag time than, say, bloating or drowsiness.
Diet for Migraine Relief
Quite a few people report ridding themselves of migraines on the Paleo diet, which can be summarized as “any food that can be eaten without being processed.” That means no grains, bread or pasta, and no pasteurized dairy, but does include lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, some nuts and oils along with wild caught fish, organic poultry and grass-fed lean meats. You can easily mold your diet around the principles of Paleo eating by following my nutrition plan. The full details are described in the plan, but generally speaking, the following key factors apply to any “healthy diet”:
- Eliminate all gluten products
- Eliminate the other 10 common foods that the Lancet study found helpful in making 85 percent of participants headache free
- Eliminate all artificial sweeteners, especially aspartame. My sister is one of many who will get a guaranteed migraine if she consumes any aspartame. Obviously, even if you don’t have migraines, there simply is no reason to ever consume aspartame
- Unprocessed whole foods
- Often raw or only lightly cooked (ideally, try to eat at least one-third of your food raw, or as much as you can manage)
- Organic or grass-fed, and free from additives and genetically modified (gmo) ingredients
- Come from high-quality, local sources
- Carbohydrates primarily come from vegetables (except corn and potatoes, which should typically be avoided). Dramatically lowering your intake of non-vegetable carbs could improve leptin and insulin signaling which could also improve migraines
I believe a return to “real food” is one of the most profound interventions for the 21st century. We’ve strayed so far from the foods we are designed to eat, going back to basics and refocusing your diet on fresh, whole, unprocessed, “real” food can improve just about anyone’s health, regardless of what health issues you need to address.
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