Foods that can soothe your migraine

October 9, 2015

Migraine is a throbbing, acutely painful headache, beginning usually near one eye or temple. Pain can extend throughout one or both sides of the head and, if the migraine is untreated, it can sometimes last for up to three days. Sometimes the cause is food related. Here are some foods to eat and to avoid when it comes to migraines.

Foods that can soothe your migraine

What causes it

During a migraine attack, blood vessels in the brain undergo spasms, which cause constriction and then rapid dilation. This triggers the release of brain chemicals that cause inflammation and throbbing pain. A strong hereditary factor is also a component of this affliction, which occurs more often in women than in men.Caffeine withdrawal, exposure to bright or flashing lights, oral contraceptives, vasodilating medication, dehydration, changes in sleep patterns, stress, hormonal changes and consumption of foods that contain certain chemicals can trigger migraines. An imbalance of the brain neurotransmitter serotonin may also play a role in the onset of this debilitating type of headache.

How food may help

  • Low blood sugar can contribute to the onset of migraines. Eating regularly, without skipping meals, is important to prevent low blood sugar.
  • Foods rich in magnesium may help diminish the severity of migraine pain.
  • Some migraine sufferers are thought to have low energy, and ribo­flavin helps to increase energy reserves by releasing energy from carbohydrates and producing red blood cells.
  • Foods rich in tryptophan, an amino acid that boosts serotonin levels in the brain, may offer some relief of migraine symptoms.Eat foods rich in complex carbohydrates to increase absorption of tryptophan.
  •  A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids may aid in migraine management by reducing inflammation.
  • If you are experiencing nausea, consume foods seasoned with ginger, a spice thought to help alleviate stomach distress.

Keep a food journal

Some people find it helpful to maintain a daily record of food and beverage intake, as well as a specific record of any migraine attacks, to help identify and avoid suspected migraine triggers. Maintaining a daily food record helps isolate and identify specific foods that might play a role in provoking a migraine. It may be useful to eliminate the suspected food from your diet for a few weeks, then reintroduce it, to determine if a migraine attack correlates with intake of the targeted food. Although most of the information on dietary migraine triggers is based on anecdotal reports rather than hard science, it is noteworthy to mention that if you feel that a certain food or foods are migraine triggers, it is advisable to eliminate that food from your diet.

Foods to add to your diet

Here are some foods to eat:

  • Amaranth
  • Grain
  • Avocados
  • Rice
  • Winter squash
  • Mushrooms
  • Poultry
  • Quinoa.

Foods to avoid

There are several compounds implicated in the onset of migraines.

  • Nitrites (found in bacon, hot dogs and cured meats)
  • Tyramine (found in pepperoni, red wine, chicken livers, active yeast preparations and aged cheeses)
  • Tannins (found in nuts, apple juice, grapes, berries, coffee, red wine and tea)
  • Sulfites (used as preservatives in wine and dried fruits)
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG) — a common ingredient in food served in Chinese restaurants and also contained in many commercial products including seasonings (read labels carefully)
  • The artificial sweetener aspartame is also a likely suspect in triggering migraines

Knowing what foods to avoid and what foods can help is a step in the right direction in controlling your migraine pain.

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