Your diet can affect many aspects of your life, including how often you may suffer from migraines. Anywhere from 7% to 44% of migraine sufferers believe that certain foods trigger migraines and try to avoid these foods.
While studies have found that certain foods indeed seemed to be linked to migraine attacks, sometimes it’s not the food itself that is causing the episode but rather the food additives in the product.
What Are Migraines?
Migraines are typically severe headaches with a pulsating or throbbing pain, usually on just one side of the head. They can be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, and/or flashes of light known as an aura.
Migraines can last anywhere from four to 72 hours and can be a chronic condition. Some migraine sufferers experience these headaches several times a month, often debilitating them and negatively affecting their everyday life.
Foods That Trigger Migraines
While certain foods can trigger migraines for some individuals and not for others, there tend to be some common foods that are typically bothersome among sufferers. These foods include:
- Aged cheese
- Alcohol (especially red wine and beer)
- Citrus fruits
- Cured meats (ham, hot dogs, etc.)
- MSG (typically found in Chinese foods and packaged foods)
- Artificial sweeteners
- Asian foods
- Snack foods
- Fatty foods
- Frozen foods
- Food dyes
- Caffeinated beverages
- Dairy products
The most commonly reported food triggers tend to be chocolate (75%), cheese (48%), alcohol (25%), and citrus fruits (30%). Many of these foods typically alter blood flow in the brain or signal chemicals in the brain that cause migraines.
That said, it’s still possible for one migraine sufferer to experience migraines after eating chocolate, for instance, and for another sufferer to experience no migraine whatsoever after consuming chocolate.
Migraine Triggers List
The best way to figure out whether certain foods trigger migraines for you is to keep a journal or list documenting your migraines and what you ate before them. Describe your symptoms, the severity of your symptoms, and what you ate or did before you experienced the migraine.
This will allow you to recognize if there are any specific foods you’re eating that could be causing the migraines or specific types of foods and patterns that bring upon the onset of migraines.
Foods That Help Migraines
Just like certain foods can trigger migraines, certain foods can help prevent migraines or lower the frequency/intensity of migraines. Many of these foods are vitamin and mineral-packed foods that are recommended for any individual following a clean diet.
- Dark leafy greens (rich in vitamin B2)
- Nuts and seeds (rich in magnesium)
- All natural, grass-fed red meat (rich in vitamin B2 and CoQ10)
- Eggs (rich in vitamin B2)
- Whole grains (stabilize blood sugar)
- Cold-water fish (rich in omega-3 fatty acids)
These foods either contain vitamin B2, which is a studied vitamin shown to prevent migraines, or they contain omega-3 fatty acids, which can reduce the frequency of migraines. Some foods, like whole grain bread and quinoa, can help stabilize blood sugar levels and prevent the hypoglycemia that often triggers migraines.
What causes migraines?
Migraines can be caused by any number of things, such as lights, sounds, sleep (lack of or too much), hormonal changes, or consuming certain foods and beverages. Sometimes migraines cannot be linked to any particular cause.
What triggers migraines?
When migraines are linked to a particular dietary or behavioral pattern, they’re typically triggered by foods (i.e. chocolate, alcohol, artificial sweeteners), or inconsistent sleeping patterns, bright lights, loud noises, or any number of triggers.
What causes migraines in females?
The same instances that can cause migraines for males can cause migraines for females. Women typically have an added risk for migraines because of hormonal changes that often occur in the female body.