Question

Migraine Headache Prevention

What are the dietary recommendations for people with migraines?

A Answers (4)

  • AKathleen Mullin, MD, Neurology, answered on behalf of The Mount Sinai Health System

    The most important thing I tell my patients is that everyone is different- meaning, each of our bodies react to foods and other triggers differently. Don't assume because you have a friend that can't eat lactose, wheat, or peanut butter because of their headaches- that you can't either. It's all about trial and error and finding triggers specific to you. Having said that, there are a few items that are commonly not well tolerated by migraine patients including anything containing MSG, processed meats with nitrites, red wine, and artificial sweeteners. If you are having a difficult time controlling your headaches a good first step would be limiting your intake of the above substances.

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  • AMichael T. Murray, Naturopathic Medicine, answered

    Food allergy or sensitivity plays a primary role in many cases of tension and migraine headaches. Many double-blind, placebo-controlled studies have demonstrated that the detection and removal of allergenic foods will eliminate or greatly reduce headache symptoms in the majority of patients. Food allergy/intolerance induces a migraine attack largely as a result of platelets releasing serotonin and histamine. In addition, foods such as aged cheeses, beer, canned figs, chicken liver, chocolate, food additives, pickled fish, the pods of broad beans, wine, and brewer&aposs yeast contain histamine, tyramine, and/or other compounds that can trigger migraines in sensitive individuals by causing blood vessels to expand. Red wine is much more likely than white wine to cause a headache because it contains higher levels of phenols and 20 to 200 times as much histamine.

    Hypoglycemia can also trigger a migraine. Eating to prevent hypoglycemia also stabilizes blood vessels, preventing migraine attacks. Be sure to eat regularly, with small snacks between meals. Avoid sugar and refined carbohydrates, instead focusing on whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables.

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  • AMark Green, MD, Neurology, answered on behalf of The Mount Sinai Health System
    Most important dietary recommendations for migraine is to eat evenly; multiple small meals best.  Fasting can trigger an attack. Also to hydrate well; drinks lots of water. Caffeine use should be limited to 200 mg daily (that’s 4 cups of coffee daily assuming no other uses of caffeine in pills, tea, soft drinks). Remember that a cup of coffee is 6 ounces, and no one even owns a 6 oz cup.
    Alcohol is a common trigger, even in low doses. 
    There are countless foods in a migraine diet. Avoiding them all does not usually impact migraine as much as you think. Look at the diets (can see them posted in the National Headache Foundation webpage) and look at it critically, but probably should start by avoiding them all.
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  • AIrene Semenov, Neurology, answered on behalf of NorthShore University HealthSystem
    For migraines it is best to avoid certain food triggers which can be associated with migraines. Some of these include artificial flavoring, MSG, chocolate, sugar, certain types of cheese, cured meats, onions and bananas. It is important also to keep a food diary and to keep track of which specific foods can trigger migraine attacks individually.
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