5 Ways to Prevent Migraines
Anyone that has ever suffered from a migraine can definitely agree that it is not a very pleasant feeling. Migraines can cause extreme throbbing pain, usually on one side of the head, and can last from four to 72 hours. If that’s not bad enough, they are usually accompanied by symptoms of nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and noise.
Migraines can be caused by environmental, hormonal, or genetic factors, and are most commonly brought on by stress.
I’ve tried many prescription and over-the-counter medications and don’t always get results. If you want to get rid of a migraine, or prevent a migraine from developing, proper rest and the right diet can make a big difference. Here are five food tips that can help you get rid of a migraine.
1. Fasting or skipping meals
Skipping meals is a common trigger for a migraine attack. It is important to eat at regular intervals throughout the day—consistency is crucial. This prevents a drop in blood sugar that may lead to a throbbing headache.
If you feel a migraine coming on, don’t reach for a high-sugar treat, as this will cause your blood sugar to quickly spike and drop. Choose a carbohydrate that is rich in fiber and pair it with a protein. Try fruits, vegetables, or high-fiber crackers with some cheese or peanut butter; this will help stabilize your blood sugar.
Caffeine can be a tricky substance. It can trigger the onset of a migraine; however, regular coffee drinkers can experience withdrawal symptoms if they quit coffee, and thus trigger a migraine attack. Moderation is important: limit your intake to no more than 200 milligrams (mg) of caffeine per day, or up to 12 ounces (oz) of coffee per day.
If caffeine is affecting you negatively, don’t quit cold turkey, but rather slowly cut back. To prevent withdrawal effects, gradually decrease your consumption by five ounces every three to five days.
3. Food additives and preservatives
Many food additives, like aspartame or sucralose, can trigger migraines. They are found in many diet and sugar-free foods. Monosodium glutamate (MSG), another food additive used for flavoring, can also trigger a migraine.
Preservatives such as nitrates or nitrites, which are commonly found in cured meats, cold cuts and processed meats, can also lead to the onset of migraines.
Many people find that avoiding MSG or other food additives help get rid of migraines, and prevent them from occurring.
4. Aged and fermented cheeses and other tyramine-containing foods
Many aged and fermented products contain significant levels of a substance called tyramine; although the mechanism is not fully understood, it has been linked to triggering migraines. It is found naturally in many common foods. As high protein foods age and break down, tyramine content increases. Be aware of your intake of foods containing this substance, such as smoked or cured meats and fish, red wine, beer, yogurt, sour cream, miso, tempeh, and teriyaki sauces. Tyramine can also be found in Brazil nuts, peanuts, avocados, bananas, raspberries, and raisins.
5. Red wine and other alcoholic beverages
Red wines contain substances such as sulphites and tannins, which have been linked to triggering migraines. Any alcoholic beverage increases blood flow to the brain, which leads to the onset of migraines. Alcohol can also cause dehydration, which also affects blood flow to the brain.
While research has yet to discover the exact triggers that may bring on a migraine attack, there are several dietary factors that have been shown to play a role. Pinpointing the triggering factor is the best way to manage or prevent future migraines. By keeping a migraine journal, you can discover what triggers your migraines in order to eliminate or decrease the frequency of future attacks. If you want to get rid of a migraine, diet and nutrition plays a big role, so these food tips can definitely help.
Beck, L.,“I get severe headaches. What foods ease and trigger the pain?” The Globe and Mail web site, May 13, 2013; http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/ask-a-health-expert/i-get-severe-headaches-what-foods-ease-and-trigger-the-pain/article11862697/, last accessed June 7, 2013.
Bigal, M.E., et al., “Modifiable risk factors for migraine progression,” The Journal of Head and Face Pain 2006; 46(9): 1334-1343.
Dietitians of Canada, “Nervous System- Migraine: Background,” Practice-based Evidence in Nutrition [PEN] June 6, 2008; http://www.pennutrition.com, last accessed June 7, 2013.
Rockett, F.C., et al., “Dietary aspects of migraine trigger factors,” Nutrition reviews 2012; 70: 337-356.