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Foods That Can Help Prevent Migraines

Foods That Can Help Prevent Migraines

If you know, you know: migraines can be debilitating and for some can have a significant impact on daily life. They affect 18% of all women and 6% of all men. Researchers believe that migraines result from a combination of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. And the onset of a migraine is often due to multiple factors. Stress, illness, hormones, a break in sleep patterns, lack of exercise, and consuming certain foods can trigger a migraine and affect migraine frequency and recurrence.

For food-triggered migraines, try to narrow down the culprit. Some the most common food triggers include alcohol (specifically red wine and beer), cured meats, chocolate, aged cheese, smoked fish, food preservatives that contain nitrates, and nitrites, artificial sweeteners, and monosodium glutamate (MSG).

Everyone reacts to food triggers differently and your personal food triggers can be difficult to figure out. Keep a food diary along with a migraine diary, to help identify what you ate before the migraine began. Some foods trigger a migraine response immediately, while with other foods the headache can be delayed 12 to 24 hours. There are several free migraine apps that can help you keep track of and manage migraine episode and triggers. Migraine Buddy, Migraine Monitor and Migraine Insight are considered three of the top migraine management apps.

To help reduce the risk of a migraine – and to help you live an overall healthier life- add these foods to your diet:

  • Whole grains have fiber and vitamins that should be included in your daily dietary intake. Aim for half of your grains to be whole grains. White bread, white rice, and pasta should be switched to whole grains like brown rice and whole wheat pasta.
  • Increase your fruit and vegetable intake. Half of your plate should be fruits and vegetables, at every meal.
  • Aim for healthy fat, not low fat. Limit “saturated” and “trans fats” like red meat, whole milk and butter when possible. Try to increase your fish consumptions to two or three times per week to get those omega-3 fats.
  • Limit sodium to less than 2300mg/day. While a small amount of salt is healthy, most salt comes from the processed foods in our diet including frozen meals, canned soups, chips, and crackers. It is always best to cook “from scratch” and choose foods that are labeled as “low sodium” whenever possible.

In addition to avoiding common foods, there are a few things to consider if you have migraines:

  • Drink water through the day instead of sugary drinks like juice or soda.
  • Don’t skip meals. Especially if you have identified this to be a trigger.
  • Consider eating 5 small meals a day. Combine a carbohydrate with a protein or a good fat to stay full longer.

Making changes to your diet is not the only option for treating a migraine. There are migraine- specific over the counter medications that can treat migraines by combining acetaminophen, aspirin, and caffeine. Many find some relief by adding a dietary supplement for migraine prevention.

Those who suffer from occasional or chronic migraines often use magnesium, vitamin B-12 and vitamin D supplements to help treat their headaches. Supplements are natural and don’t require a prescription but can have potential side effects. Always check with your doctor before starting any supplement. Some vitamins, minerals, and other supplements can interact with medications you may be taking or could aggravate an existing health condition.