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Can changing my diet and other habits help prevent migraines?

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.

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.

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.

Migraines can be treated in a few ways. In some cases, a change in diet or sleeping patterns may result in a decreased frequency of migraines. However, if there is a family history, then diet and sleeping patterns may not be as effective.

(This answer provided for NATA by the Georgia College & State University Athletic Training Education Program.)

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.