Dietary Restrictions For Migraine Sufferers

Let us declare first that we do not like to harp on about dietary restrictions too much. In theory, all foods can be incorporated into a healthy diet. However, this is mainly for people who wish to be healthy in general. For sufferers of migraine such as myself, the story is quite different. Let’s begin with a bit of background.

Migraine is a chronic illness where sufferers come from all ages and walks of life, although interetestingly, it is more common in women than in men. The term migraine comes from the Greek word “hemikrania”, which literally translates to “half of the head”. If you are a sufferer, you’ll know exactly what they mean.

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The persistent and distracting pain that sufferers experience has been described as an intense throbbing or pounding on or around the temple  and is frequently felt only on one side of the head. Most episodes last anywhere between four to seventy-two hours. Not only that, it is often so excruciating that sufferers are unable to go through their daily routine. Yes, it is that bad! One of the key reason is because even the simplest of movements can aggravate the pain. Other symptoms of migraine include nausea, sensitivity to light and noise, facial pallor, cold hands and diarrhoea, but these vary between individuals.

There are many triggers for migraines, which, pardon the pun, is why it’s such a big headache. Some of these include lack of sleep, smoking, fasting, bright lights, noise, odours, and even medication such as birth control pills. Food is also known to be a major trigger, which is why we’re addressing this aspect of it in this article.

One of the ways that doctors use to eliminate possible migraine triggers in a patient is to put them on an “exclusion” or “elimination” diet. This, as its name suggests, refers to systematically removing specific food items or ingredients from a person’s diet. Obviously these would be items that are suspected triggers of migraines.

In normal cases, this is done under the watchful eye of both a doctor and a nutritionist – the latter being there to ensure that the sufferer’s diet is still balanced. Of course, they can’t be there all the time. As such, the patient keeps a diary which includes information on all the food they consume, including the date and time of consumption.

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Of course, education is part of the process. The team teaches the sufferer to read nutritional labels in order to avoid certain foods. This is, as one would expect, a much simpler version of the education we provide on food label reading in the Strategic Nutrition Guide. Once again, the nutritionist ensures that the patient’s health does not suffer from the lack of vitamins and minerals.

So what foods are the culprit of migraines? We can’t tell for sure, but here is a non-exhaustive list of them: cheese; cheesecake; chocolate; citrus fruits; hot dogs; monosodium glutamate (MSG); aspartame; fatty foods; ice cream; caffeine; yogurt; chocolate; cocoa; citrus fruit; berry pie filling or canned berries; banana; beef; pork; chicken liver; processed meat, such as salami; sauerkraut; smoked, cured or pickled meat or fish; egg plant; fish; shellfish; soy products; spinach; strawberry; tomato, and tomato-based products; yeast and foods containing yeast; pineapple; and alcoholic drinks, especially red wine and beer.

Yes, that pretty much rules out everything, doesn’t it? But how can we explain it at a minute molecular level? Scientists have suggested that these food items can contain certain chemicals called amines, which are known to trigger migraines. Specific amine compounds might include tyramine, phenylethylamine, and histamine. Their modus operandi is to influence and regulate the release of serotonin, causing constriction and dilation of blood vessels, or by directly stimulating areas of the brain.

Seems like a logical step isn’t it? That being said, it can be quite time consuming if your trigger is highly specific. I know that in my case, red wines are the biggest trigger, but nitrate-containing cheeses may also give me the ouchies. Anyways, best of luck controlling your migraine. While we have no specific links for migraines, here are some other links for you:

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