migraine headache

Eating is one of life’s greatest pleasures. I think many of you will agree that preparing a delicious meal for a loved one, friend, family member, or yourself(!) is incredibly satisfying and therapeutic.

Unfortunately though, sometimes our favorite foods can be the most provoking for our migraines.

How Common is Food the Culprit of our Migraines?

The percentage of people who report food as a trigger or aggravating factor in their migraines varies based on a number of studies. One article in the Journal of the Neurological Sciences reports that this percentage ranges from 12 to 60%. The most common food triggers reported were:

  • No food (fasting)
  • Chocolate
  • Alcohol
  • Cheese

How Does Food Trigger Migraines?

The precise mechanism behind how food (or lack thereof) precipitates migraines and/or contributes to their severity is still a puzzle and largely unknown.

More on Food Triggers and ELIMINATION to Prevent Migraines

In his book, “Heal your Headache: The 1-2-3 Program for Taking Charge of Your Pain,” Johns Hopkins neurologist Dr. David Buchholz recommends eliminating ALL of the following migraine food triggers. He also offers tidbits on what is considered “migraine-safe.”

  • Caffeine (even decaf and tea): Instead, try caffeine-free herbal tea. Make sure the herbal tea has no citrus or other potential migraine-triggering flavors, like almond or raisin.
  • Chocolate: White chocolate without cocoa is okay; carob is “questionable.”
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG):  Be wary as some foods may contain “hidden MSG,” as in salty snacks, “seasoned” croutons, prepackaged meals, and veggie burgers.
  • Processed meats and processed fish: Avoid altogether.
  • Cheese and some other dairy sources: The more aged the cheese, the worse (due to high tyramine), according to Dr. Buchholz. “OK” cheeses include: cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, cream cheese, and “good quality” American cheeses. Stay away from yogurt (including frozen yogurt), sour cream, and buttermilk, as these are potential migraine triggers.
  • Certain fruits: Citrus fruits and their juices, as well as bananas and raisins should be avoided. Dr. Buchholz also recommends avoiding dried fruit that is preserved with sulfites
  • Aspartame (NutraSweet): Avoid altogether. Regular sugar and other artificial sweeteners are usually okay for migraineurs, but you would know best.
  • Fresh yeast-risen baked goods: “Less then one-day old” breads, especially sourdough is a no-no. This sadly includes fresh bagels and donuts from your favorite Saturday morning bakery.
  • Alcohol: You can read more about the role of alcohol in headache precipitation in Cocktail Headache and Hangover Headache
  • Other “Migraine Avoids”: sauerkraut, pea pods, certain beans (broad Italian, lima, fava, navy), lentils, onions, garlic, maybe soy products
  • “Maybe Migraine Avoids:” These are questionable migraine triggers: soy, milk, pork, mushrooms, and tomatoes.

What Does This All Mean?

So, let’s be honest here. Eliminating all these food sources is extraordinarily difficult. That being said, I think the point here is that you have to be “all in” to minimize the potential of food as a trigger for your vicious migraine attacks. You cannot take a loose or here-and-there approach, which will likely create frustration in the end.

Take Home Message

All in all, do what is best for you. You have to be passionate about making a change. Remember, it’s okay if it takes you some time to make these dietary changes. This is not going to happen overnight. And, of course, you can still be a “foodie” and have migraines. If anything, (and I’m always trying to look on the bright side of things), this is a challenge to be more creative in the kitchen!

About the author: Diane H. Wong is a search engine optimization specialist and business coach. Besides, she is a research paper writer at the service where everyone can ask to “write an essay for me” so she prefers to spend her spare time working out marketing strategies. In this case, she has an opportunity to share her experience with others and keep up with advancing technologies.