Eliminating foods, or adopting a headache preventing diet can help prevent migraines
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Migraines probably don’t get the attention they deserve.
Estimates suggest 6% of men and 18% of women experience migraines.
Some put the healthcare and lost productivity costs associated with migraine are as high as $36 billion annually (and that’s just the U.S alone).
So what can you do to prevent migraines?
Can changing your diet help prevent migraines?
An exhaustive literature review finds that dietary changes can be effective in preventing migraine headaches.
The review, by the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine, covered more than 180 research studies on the subject of migraine and diet.
Basically the researchers found there are two ways to prevent migraines with diet:
- An elimination diet that avoids foods and beverages known to trigger headaches; or
- Follow a comprehensive diet designed to prevent headaches.
When it comes to eliminating triggers, it seems that the key culprits are:
- Monosodium glutamate (MSG);
- Processed foods high in nitrites, and
- Too much alcohol.
Lead researcher, Vincent Martin, MD, professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine said:
One of the most important triggers for headache is the withdrawal of caffeine,
Let’s say you regularly pound down three or four cups of coffee every morning and you decide to skip your morning routine one day, you will likely have full-fledged caffeine withdrawal headache that day.
That said, too much coffee may also present a risk, no more than 400 milligrams daily — one cup is 125 milligrams — is probably the maximum for migraine patients.
What about MSG?
MSG is a flavor enhancer used in a variety of processed foods, and heavily used in Chinese cooking.
How do you get rid of MSG?
You eliminate it by eating fewer processed foods.
You eat more natural things such as fresh vegetables, fresh fruits and fresh meats. MSG is most provocative when consumed in liquids such as soups.
Nitrites are preservatives found in processed meats such as bacon, sausage, ham and lunch meat.
5% of people with migraine were statistically more likely to have an attack on days when they eat nitrites.
Nitrite use is declining, but checking labels remains a good idea.
Alcohol is also one of the most commonly reported dietary trigger factors for migraine.
Studies suggest vodka and red wines, especially those with highest histamine content cause the most migraines.
So what helps prevent migraines when it comes to the comprehensive diet approach?
There is a lot of interest in gluten-free diets, but they are only helpful in lessening headaches if the individuals suffer from celiac disease
But there are diets that seem to help prevent migraines in typical sufferers.
There have been three comprehensive diets whose very composition may prevent headaches such as low fat and low carbohydrate diets as well as those that increase the amount of omega-3 fatty acids and decrease the amount of omega-6 fatty acids
Study co-author, Brinder Vij, MD, associate professor in the UC Department of Neurology and Rehabilitation Medicine said:
Low fat diets restrict the amount of fat in the diet to less than 20 percent of your daily energy requirements.
The beauty of these diets is that they not only reduce headaches, but may produce weight loss and prevent heart disease.
Low carbohydrate diets such as ketogenic diets can reduce headache frequency, but it’s not something to consider without strict physician supervision.
The diet limits carbohydrates more than the well-known Atkins diet.
One of the most promising diets for those with more frequent attacks of migraine is one that boosts omega-3 fats while reducing omega-6 levels.
Basically, use flaxseed oil. Get rid of polyunsaturated vegetable oils (corn, sunflower, safflower, canola and soy)
Foods to consume would include flaxseed, salmon, halibut, cod and scallops.
Foods to avoid would be peanuts and cashews.
Persons with headache and migraine have more dietary options than ever.
Ultimately a healthy headache diet excludes processed foods, minimizes caffeine and includes a lot of fruits, vegetables, fish and lean meats.
The study was published in the journal Headache (Martin et al., 2016)
Image credit: organicfacts.net