Diet Tips for Migraine Headaches
Anuja Dani

Anuja Dani

Jun 01Nutrition

Diet Tips for Migraine Headaches

What is a migraine?

A migraine is a common illness characterized by recurrent headaches and throbbing that can last up to three days. Its symptoms usually involve excruciating pain in one side of the head, accompanied by other symptoms like nausea and hypersensitivity to light, sounds, and smells. Some people also experience abnormal smells and sounds, disturbances in vision, , known as aura, before getting a migraine. The underlying cause of migraines is not known, but changes in our sleep, changes in the levels of hormones in the menstrual cycle, diet and stress can affect their frequency and intensity.

Common Causes of Migraines

Several doctors say that imbalances in certain brain chemicals may play a role in developing migraines. The trigeminal nerve in your head is responsible for running your eyes and mouth and helps you feel sensations in your face. It is a major pathway for pain. When a migraine starts, the serotonin levels may fall in your body and this nerve can release chemicals called neurotransmitters that travel to your brain and cause pain.

Risk Factors of Migraines

You might be more likely to have migraines because of:

  1. Genetics: If someone in your family gets migraine headaches, you may also have them.
  2. Age: Migraine headaches can hit at any point in your life cycle, but many people experience their first migraine during their teenage years. The headaches tend to peak in your 30s and become less severe later in life.
  3. Gender: Women may have migraine problems three times more than men.


Migraine Triggers

Migraine headaches may be triggered by:

  1. Hormonal changes: Changes in estrogen levels can encourage migraines in women. Besides, medications like birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy can trigger headaches.
  2. Emotional stress: When you’re stressed or scared or worried or anxious, your brain releases chemicals that set off your “fight or flight” response, which can give way to migraines.
  3. Selective foods: Salty, processed foods, etc. are known triggers of migraine.
  4. Skipping meals: Skipping meals may lead to a drop in blood sugar levels, triggering a headache.
  5. Alcohol and caffeine: Alcoholic drinks and drinks high in caffeine can be migraine triggers.
  6. Irregular sleeping pattern: If you get too much or too little sleep, you may get a migraine. People who travel between time zones can experience Jet lag which can also be the cause of headaches, sometimes.
  7. Physical strain: An intense workout, like functional training, etc. can cause a migraine.
  8. Sensory overload: Bright lights, loud sounds, and strong smells can encourage headaches in some people.
  9. Weather Changes: When weather conditions change, the overall air pressure also changes, triggering a migraine.
  10. Medications: Taking medicines for migraines for more than 10 days a month, may cause a rebound headache.

Although you might not be able to prevent migraine triggers altogether, ways like regular exercise, uniform sleep pattern, a healthy diet, and stress management -- may help you stop them before they start.

List of Food To Eat in Migraine

Diet may play a major role in affecting migraine headaches. The following foods may improve your migraine problems.

  1. Fruits: Migraines can be caused by dehydration. So, eating fruits like melons, oranges, etc. that contain high water content can decrease the intensity of a migraine attack.
  2. Brown Rice, Nuts and Whole Grains: A low level of magnesium in the brain is known to trigger a migraine. Therefore, brown rice, pumpkin seeds, nuts, whole grains, soybean, dark chocolate, etc. contain huge amounts of magnesium which can help improve migraine headaches.
  3. Bell Peppers: Consumption of bell peppers can greatly lower the risk of migraine attacks as they contain the much-needed antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins.
  4. Ginger: Ginger is effective in preventing migraines as it contains compounds that can block inflammatory- substances.
  5. Potato: One of the common triggers for migraines is dehydration. Potatoes constitute 75% water as well as potassium, vitamin C and B1. Potassium can give relief from the throbbing head pain and be beneficial when you have migraine attacks.
  6. B12 (Riboflavin): The American Migraine Foundation claims that vitamin B-2 (riboflavin) may help decrease the frequency of migraines. Sources of Vitamin B-2 are salmon, red meat, mushrooms, and grains.

List of Foods to Avoid in Migraine

These foods can trigger migraines and must be avoided:

  1. Chocolate: Chocolate contains a substance called phenylethylamine and caffeine that can adversely affect the blood flow in the brain. This can lead to migraines.
  2. Caffeine: Caffeine is a stimulant that can affect the blood vessels of the brain and central nervous system by increasing energy and alertness.
  3. MSG: Monosodium glutamate, found majorly in Chinese foods like sauces, salad dressings, and dried soups can stimulate the receptors in the nervous system that can lead to migraines.
  4. Alcohol: Some of the liquors like beer and red wine contain migraine-causing substances like sulfites, histamine, and tyramine which can trigger a migraine.
  5. Ice Cream and drinks: Ice cream, slush, and iced drinks can lead to brain freeze. They can constrict your blood vessels and encourage migraine headaches.
  6. Aged Cheese: The tyramine found in cheese, especially the aged cheese can trigger symptoms of migraine since it can interfere with neurotransmitter secretion .
  7. Processed meats: Processed meats contain sodium nitrate which is a preservative added for a flavor that can result in changes in your brain chemistry and contribute to migraine attacks.
  8. Aspartame: Aspartame is an artificial sweetener found in beverages like diet sodas and packaged foods like breakfast cereals, gelatin, low-calorie yogurts, and desserts that can trigger a migraine.
  9. Gluten: Wheat, barley, rye, and the products made with them contain gluten which may trigger migraines in gluten-intolerant people.

Final Words

Although scientists are not entirely sure of the causes of migraines, several studies show that certain foods and beverages may trigger them. If you get migraines, a health professional may recommend treatment, diet, and exercises for migraines. Additionally, a food diary might help you keep a track of your daily intake of food items and figure out which of them can trigger migraine headaches. After identifying potential triggers, you may avoid them.

Disclaimer: This information is educational and should not be construed as medical advice. Please consult your doctor before making any dietary changes or adding supplements.

Proactive For Her is a digital clinic for women, offering accessible, personalised, and confidential healthcare solutions. We offer out-patient care, diagnostic services and programs for various health concerns of Indian women, across their lifetime - from puberty to pregnancy to menopause.