Although there’s no specific diet to follow if you’re aching (literally) to get rid of your migraines, some foods might be better for you than others.
For me, bananas are a magic wand of sorts. They help lessen the severity and frequency of my migraines. I often have two a day. I believe it’s the combo of potassium, magnesium, and vitamin B6 that packs a triple threat against my migraine pain.
The trick is to boost your diet with foods that contain the vitamins and minerals shown to help tame the beast that is migraine. And of course, to avoid the foods that trigger migraines for you.
You can’t eat your way to being migraine free, but making these foods a regular part of your dining repertoire could help.
Fish has tons of protein to help boost energy. It’s also filled with magnesium, which shows potential to stave off migraines, according to one study. Fish provides a nice potassium punch too. Potassium is a mineral that, like magnesium, researchers say us migraine sufferers just might need more of to keep our neurons happy. Vitamins B6 and B12, both abundant in fish, may also go to battle against temple busters by potentially preventing certain migraine mechanisms at the cellular level. Salmon, halibut, tuna, mackerel, cod, and walleye are all tasty options.
Load up on legumes
Legumes are another way to get protein, and nutrients like magnesium, potassium, and B6. Legumes also have B2, another B powerhouse that researchers suspect helps halt migraines before they begin. Chickpeas, peas, lentils, peanuts, and any type of bean will do the trick. You can make a veggie chili with your legumes, toss them onto a salad, or mash them into a spread.
Get your whole grain on
Compared to their refined counterparts, whole grains will give you a higher dose of B2, B6, magnesium, and potassium too. Buckwheat, oats, and quinoa are wheat-free options.
Load up on leafy greens
I’ve never met a leafy green I didn’t like. Whether you fancy spinach, swiss chard, arugula, bok choy, collards, or something else, you’ll get a nice kick of magnesium and potassium with your leafy green of choice.
I admit, it’s more fun to add foods to my diet than to take them away, but research shows some items can be migraine triggers. You don’t have to avoid them if they don’t cause you flares. But here are some common culprits.
Orange you glad you put down that orange? In one study, more than 40 percent of research participants labeled oranges one of their migraine food triggers.
Other members of the citrus family have been implicated, too. So, maybe skip the grapefruit wedges and the lemon water.
Although more research is needed, one study found that migraine is more common in people with celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
You may want to hold the Parm on your pasta. Aged cheeses (Parmesan, cheddar, and others) contain tyramine—a known migraine trigger.
FYI, banana peels release tyramine into the fruit when they become overripe.
Pickles might put you in a pickle. Like aged cheese, fermented foods release tyramine. Pay attention to whether kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, and other fermented favorites cause any painful symptoms.
Back away from the bologna—nitrates are a known headache trigger. Hot dogs, lunch meat, and bacon are all problematic.
You know that candy stash you kept from Halloween? It could cause migraine mayhem. Sadly, chocolate is one of the most common triggers of migraine.
Not all common migraine trigger foods will set off the beast in all people with migraines. I’m pretty passionate about pickles, for example, and they’re OK for my head. I mostly skip the wheat and the meat.
You can learn your triggers by keeping a migraine diary. The American Migraine Foundation recommends this solution rather than undergoing an elimination diet, which phases several foods out your diet.
When you get a migraine, mark down what you ate in the past 24 hours. If you see a common food show up on your list, stop eating it for 30 days and see if the change lessens your pounding headaches.
If you haven’t seen your doctor for your migraine pain yet, make an appointment ASAP. Your doctor can help rule out other conditions that require a different or even urgent treatment.
Your doc will also develop a treatment plan for your migraines. There are treatments to help:
- prevent future migraines
- manage migraine pain during an episode
- manage other migraine symptoms like nausea
Call your doctor if the meds they prescribe don’t offer you any relief, or if they make your symptoms worse.
Migraines are the worst. They might cause you so much pain that you’re unable to function. Managing migraine headaches can seem like a full-time job.
Changing your diet might be an easy way to help manage your pain, in addition to staying on the treatment your doctor prescribes. Add (or remove) some of these foods and see what helps your (or hurts) your migraines.
For me, discovering that bananas are my bestie was worth it. May you have more migraine-free days ahead!
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Gonzalez A. (2016). Migraines Are Correlated with Higher Levels of Nitrate-, Nitrite-, and Nitric Oxide-Reducing Oral Microbes in the American Gut Project Cohort. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1128/MSYSTEMS.00105-16
Mei-Ling ST, et al. (2018). Dietary trigger factors of migraine and tension-type headache in a South East Asian country. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2147/JPR.S158151
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Legume of the month: Peanuts. (2019). https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/legume-of-the-month-peanuts
Headaches and food. (2019). https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/9648-headaches-and-food
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