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Migraine headaches can be very debilitating for those who suffer from them. Although the causes of migraine headaches can vary from person to person, there are certain circumstances that can trigger a migraine - including your diet.
A migraine is an intense throbbing headache, usually on one side of the head, that is made worse by light and noise and is often followed by nausea and vomiting.
If you suffer from regular migraines, there could be a link between what you eat and their occurrence. Here are some suggestions:
Not drinking enough water – we all need plenty of pure, filtered water every day.
- Aged or extra mature cheeses - blue cheeses, brie, cheddar, stilton, feta, gorgonzola, mozzarella, muenster, parmesan, swiss and processed cheese. These cheeses are high in tyramine.
- Tyramine is a natural substance formed from the breakdown of protein in food when this food begins the ageing process or if food is fermented, salted or pickled. If tyramine is a trigger problem for you then all proteins should be eaten when they are young and fresh. Other foods that are high in tyramine are fava, garbanzo and lima beans, peanut butter, pepperoni, pinto beans, salami, sauerkraut, soy sauce, summer sausage, teriyaki and tofu.
- Food additives such as nitrites and artificial food colorings increase blood flow to the brain – another migraine trigger. Harmful artificial sweeteners such as aspartame (brand names – NutraSweet, Equal) can also be triggers.
- MSG can trigger migraine headaches as quickly as an hour after ingestion of MSG. Many people suffer from other side effects of this food additive. An example are canned soups or soups made from bouillon or based with MSG.
- Dairy products can trigger migraines in some as the protein (known as casein) found in milk is a known allergenic. Casein creates histamines, which in turn are responsible for the production of mucus. Too much mucus puts pressure on brain membranes, triggering migraines.
- Some migraine sufferers find that they have to careful when they eat or drink cold foods and drinks.
- Common triggers include: chocolate, cocoa and foods with nuts; alcoholic beverages such as wine, beer and sherry; aged, canned, cured or processed meats as well as chicken livers and other organ meats, and sardines; cultured dairy products such as sour cream or buttermilk; dried fruits including figs, raisins and dates; some fresh fruits and vegetables such as avocados, bananas, kiwi fruits, onions, raspberries, red plum, spinach, papaya, pineapple, red plum and tomatoes.- foods with meat tenderizers or yeast or yeast extracts.
Just the failure to eat can be a further trigger as anything that disrupts your body’s normal stability can cause a headache – even sleeping too long or skipping meals. Regular meals and healthy snacks help to avoid migraine occurrence.
Ironically, some over-the-counter pain relievers can actually cause migraines (if they contain caffeine) as caffeine is powerful trigger. Pharmaceutical headache drugs can also cause “medication overuse headaches”.
While it can seem daunting with so many different triggers, causes vary from person to person so it is important to keep track of all that happens before a migraine attack to see if there is a trend. Keeping a record of what you eat and whether a particular food has an adverse reaction leading to a migraine will help you to such foods in your diet and lessen the likelihood of a migraine.
Just as there some foods that trigger the onset of migraines, so there are others that are actually beneficial, reducing the effects of migraines. They include:
- Fruits such as apples, apricots, berries, cherries, currants, grapes and mangoes.
- Vegetables such as beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, celery, cucumber, mushrooms, peppers, potatoes, spinach and turnips.
- Herbs and spices including garlic, ginger and parsley.
- Those foods with negligible amounts of tyramine include beverages, breads, fats, meat, poultry, fish, shellfish and eggs.
Getting your diet on the right track can often lead to less frequent migraine attacks but do not forget that environmental factors can also be a source of triggers including extremes of temperature; bright or blinking lights, computer screens, fluorescent tubes and especially glare from the sun; flashing lights or eye strain; odors good or bad; second hand cigarette smoke; fog; over-exertion during exercise; insomnia and changing hormone levels.