Migraines: Trigger Foods and Their Effects

Migraines: Trigger Foods and Their Effects

July 28, 2016

Migraines are a debilitating type of headache that can produce throbbing, nausea, vomiting, and disturbances in vision and neurological function. The prevalence of migraines seems to be about 3 times higher in women than in men. The actual cause of migraines is not well understood; however, it is thought to be due in part, to vasoconstriction followed by rapid vasodilatation. There are several factors that can stimulate a migraine and as well as exacerbate the symptoms. Treatment options do include certain medications but they only reduce migraine frequency about 50%. Also, these medications come with many side effects. Therefore, research on safer and more effective treatments is needed. For example, dietary changes and supplements have been shown to provide favorable results with very few side effects. 

Dietary factors and triggering foods may play a role in stimulating migraine headache. Caffeine can be one such trigger. Studies have shown avoiding caffeine can improve ones response to treatment and sometimes even eliminate the need for medications. Snacking on salty foods can also be a trigger particularly loading up on an empty stomach. Aspartame, a non-nutritive sweetener, has been shown to trigger headaches but seems to be more prevalent when ingested regularly or at cumulative levels. 

Food allergies and sensitivities appear to be one of the most common triggers of migraines. Food chemicals are particularly common migraine triggers, however foods can be triggers as well. This is not well known since many allergies can be masked. Interestingly speaking, food allergies can be unmasked with an elimination diet. Many people are aware that eating chocolate, cheese, citrus fruits and drinking alcohol can trigger a migraine but there are other “individual specific” foods as well. Food allergy and sensitivity testing are methods that can assist in determining what these foods might be. 

Some nutritional supplements have been shown to prevent the incidence of migraines. For example, several studies suggest that magnesium deficiency may play a roll and when supplementing with this mineral migraine frequency decreases significantly. Certain B vitamins may influence migraines as well. These include Riboflavin, Niacin, Folic Acid, B-12, and B-6. Other nutrients that may be involved in the prevention of migraines include Alpha Lipoic Acid, Vitamin C, and Omega 3s.  

In conclusion, when it comes to diet and triggers for migraines, dietary modifications should be individualized. Working with a registered dietitian that specializes in food sensitivity testing and migraines would be one of the best ways to detect migraine triggers. Avoiding the common foods and chemicals along with individual assessments may be the key to complete resolution of migraine headaches and improved health and wellbeing.


Learn more about food sensitivity testing by visiting FitLifeofColorado.com.

Reference: Nutritional Medicine by Alan Gaby, MD; WebMD, Mayo Clinic.

Posted In:

Diet and Nutrients , Food Allergies Intolerances/Sensitivities , Diet and Disease, Blog