Some people wonder if there is a migraine diet or a list of foods that cause migraines. Some are sure their migraines are caused by chocolate, red wine, matured cheese or aged rump. But even they are not sure as they may find that these foods are migraine food triggers on one occasion but not on another. They are often not believed as some people still think that if diet has a role it should have the same role in everyone. In fact research has shown that diet does have a role in some people with migraine but not others. What is even more complicated is that the diet needed is not the same in all those migraine sufferers who do react to foods. Clinical research has progressed to the point that now that different researchers predict a good diet outcome where migraine, IBS or eczema, especially if two or three of them, and some other food sensitivity symptoms are present. People are often surprised at how many symptoms are present in the three generations when they fill out the useful Family Sensitivity History. Read all the detail in Chapter 4 of Are You Food Sensitive? And they can see how diet can interact with other factors such as stress or hormone changes when learning about the Total Body Load in Chapter 2 – Understanding food sensitivity.
Diet can be part of migraine treatments
The best migraine diet is the one you design for yourself using the diet detective process. This also works for chronic daily headaches. Where diet is investigated migraine headache treatments follow the same process. Diet therapy begins with the exclusion of all the foods that you already suspect. In addition there is a need to consider what I call “the layer underneath”. These are foods known to cause migraines from clinical research but are much less likely to be a problem on their own. Small amounts of these foods add up so the likelihood of a reaction when the usual suspect foods are eaten is much greater. Chocolate, red wine, matured cheeses and aged rump contain natural amines. Now we know that many other foods also contain amines, and we know that other natural chemicals such as salicylates and monosodium glutamate, as well as some additives, and even some whole foods, also contribute to the likelihood of a migraine if the person is food sensitive.
The Family Elimination Diet can be one of the new migraine treatments
The best diet therapy considers all of the foods mentioned above added to foods that are suspect for one reason or another in the family. Suppose one member gets gut pain after spicy foods, or another sneezes near perfumes then these suspect foods and environmental factors can be added to the usual suspects to provide “The Family Elimination Diet”. In fact smells of all sorts can contribute to migraines.
The migraine diet is different for everyone
Diet therapy needs to be managed with care as most food sensitive people with migraine go through withdrawal. They need to go on to the diet gradually so that the migraines that often happen in the first two weeks are manageable. After four weeks they can do challenges, also carefully, to determine just which excluded foods cause migraines for them. All the diet effort is reported as worthwhile when migraine food triggers are known. I remember the first time I heard a patient say “I can cope with an occasional migraine with a diet break, now that I am no longer worried that I have a brain tumour,” even though all patients need to have medical investigations done before trialling diet.
All smells, especially the smell of stale food matters
As well as reacting to food migraine sufferers need to attend to all smells when doing diet detective work. Many know particular smells and perfumes affect them. Food sensitive migraine suffers are often particularly sensitive to the smell of food that smells stale or “off” to them. These smells are caused by amines that develop as the food becomes stale and are often not noticed by other people. Those investigating diet should avoid foods that smell stale, or strong, to them but these foods will not be a problem to other people. For more detail see the article on amines.
Diet can be part of migraine treatments
Where food is suspected diet can be a useful treatment. Foods that cause migraine can be found for you. Each food sensitive person can learn what foods they need to minimise and other foods they tolerate with care. Because it is a natural cure, diet does not have any side effects and does not interfere or interact adversely with any other medication you need to have.The Family Sensitivity History and the straight forward Diet Detective Process outlining how to investigate diet are provided in my book “Are You Food Sensitive?”
Joan Breakey Specialist Food Sensitivity Dietitian This page may be copied with acknowledgement