Is Your Food Giving You Migraines?

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Migraines can be very challenging. With as many as one billion worldwide suffering from migraine headaches, it's neither uncommon nor simple to deal with.  More women than men are affected and as many as 5% of all children struggle with migraine headaches.  For some children it's not a regular headache-based migraine, they can actually suffer from abdominal migraines.  Although they have the fatigue, weakness, and sometimes aura, associated with a migraine, the pain may be centered in their abdomen rather than their head.

Some people are sensitive enough that they can feel a migraine ‘coming on.'  Sometimes as much as 24 hours in advance.  And migraines lasting more than 24 hours, or if they occur for a significant number of days each month (it ranges anywhere from 12-15+), are considered chronic and often a reason to put someone on beta blockers or other medication.

But medication is not the only answer.  Food can actually have a significant impact on migraines and changing your diet may be the answer that you need.  There are a number of foods that appear to impact migraines; when people remove them from their nutritional plan they often find they do better.  Some of the primary triggers for migraines include: alcohol, cheeses, chocolate, citrus, shellfish, and caffeine.

Another potential trigger for migraines can be tyramine, a trace element from the amino acid tyrosine. It functions as a catecholemine releasing agent (the catecholemines are neurotransmitters in the brain, norepinephrine, epinephrine, and dopamine). Foods that are high in tyramines include: bananas, avocados, beer, cabbage, sour cream, yogurt, most cheeses, soy sauce, soy bean paste, tofu, sauerkraut, pineapples, eggplants, figs, red plums, raspberries, peanuts, brazil nuts, coconuts, yeast, cacti, and processed meats (lunchmeat, sausages, canned fish, etc).

Certain food additives can also trigger migraines. The most likely culprits are Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) in all of it's various forms, sulfites, nitrates, nitrites, and aspartame (brand names NutraSweet or Equal).

In addition to avoiding these substances there are things that you can do to support yourself when it comes to migraines:

    • Are you hydrated?  Many of those who struggle with migraines are more prone to getting them when they are dehydrated
    • Are you well nourished?  You may be depleted in certain vitamins and minerals which are very supportive in warding off migraines.  Adding foods rich in B vitamins, vitamin C, and magnesium is a good idea.  If necessary you may want to consider supplementation for these as well as CoQ10 and Butterbur.
    • Acupressure has been shown to be highly effective for migraines.  There are three acupressure points that are most supportive.  GB 20 is the pressure point at the base of the skull, LI 4 is the web in between the thumb and forefinger, and there are four points on the feet
    • Essential oils can be very supportive.  Those which are most often used for migraines are:  peppermint or lavender.  These can be applied to the temples.  PastTense can be applied to the base of the neck and the shoulders.
    • Rest is also important, if possible consider taking a nap.  Often this is a supportive strategy for migraines.  Many people find it's also helpful while resting to have a weighted pillow on their eyes/sinus area and/or a cool wash cloth on their forehead.
    • Chiropractic can be helpful if there are issues with spinal alignment.

In addition to implementing one or more of the strategies listed above it would be helpful to figure out why you are getting the migraines.  For some it's a genetic mutation to their MTHFR, a genetic mutation in the vascular structure at the base of the skull, nutrient deficiency, a mechanical issue with spinal alignment, or possibly something else.

If migraines are interfering with your life be proactive.  You don't need to struggle.


photo: Stockarch

About Mira

Mira Dessy is The Ingredient Guru. A holistic nutrition professional, author, and a popular public speaker, she knows that it's not just what you eat, but what's in what you eat. She is the author of The Pantry Principle: how to read the label and understand what’s really in their food. Dessy is a Board Certified Holistic Health Practitioner whose mission is to educate and empower consumers. She curates the Lean Clean Green Subscription box, the premier, organic, earth-friendly, healthy, sustainable subscription box which can be found online at