Migraines are severe headaches which are chronic in nature and which can last for prolonged periods of time. Individuals suffering from migraine feel completely drained out and exhausted. Some of the common symptoms of migraine include pain on one or both sides of the head with a pulsating or throbbing headache. Patient may also experience nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to sound and light. Severe migraine can hamper a person's day to day normal functioning. Women are more affected by migraine than men. Causes or risk factors for migraine include genetic factors, age, and hormonal imbalances. No single cause can be determined for migraines. Serotonin level imbalances also play a major role. There is no definitive cure for migraines; however, there are different medications available to relieve the pain. The important thing is making lifestyle and dietary modifications, as they help a lot in relieving and preventing migraine pain and symptoms.
Foods Recommended in Migraine
Patients suffering from migraine should consume foods which are rich in complex carbohydrates, omega-3 fatty acids and magnesium. Low fat foods should be eaten. Vegetables like dark green leafy vegetables, fresh fruits, whole grains and cereals, lean chicken and fish meats, beans, sea food, sardines, trout, turkey and duck meat, fish oil and olive oil are recommended as they help with migraine. Other food supplements such as Vitamin C and Vitamin B complex, calcium, fish oil supplements, and coenzyme Q10 can be prescribed by the doctor. Allergies to certain foods such as eggs, milk, shell fish, peanuts and gluten are common in migraine and should be avoided. Tests for allergy can be done to find out the exact allergens which are causing migraine.
Foods to Avoid in Migraine
Foods which trigger migraines are known as migraine food triggers and these include foods containing monosodium glutamate and other food items such as tea, coffee, red wine, chocolate, cheese, peanuts, processed meats etc. all are migraine food triggers. Some individuals may develop craving for a particular food, such as high carb foods, before the onset of migraine. This is known as migraine food craving and should not be confused with a trigger. Given below are some of the food items which are considered to trigger or aggravate migraine episodes:
- Cheese (especially Aged or blue cheese)
- Citrus fruits
- Hot dogs
- Fatty foods
- Ice cream
- Caffeine withdrawal
- Alcohol (especially red wine and beer)
- Foods containing monosodium glutamate (MSG)
- Yogurt and other mild products.
- Meat or fish which is smoked, cured or pickled.
- Chicken liver.
- Egg Plant.
- Soy sauce, tempeh, tofu, miso, tamari.
- Yeast and products containing yeast.
Diet Plan for Migraine
A migraine diet plan can be prescribed by the doctor or a dietitian. This diet plan comprises of eliminating those foods which seem to be triggering migraines such as alcohol, chocolate, cheese, and peanuts. The migraine diet list will include foods which can be taken and foods which need to be avoided. Patients may find it difficult to give up the various migraine-causing foods all at once; however, patients can eliminate these foods one by one. Sometimes, eliminating only one food item can resolve migraine and sometimes the main ingredient in a specific food item may trigger migraine. So, it is important to identify the exact migraine dietary triggers and avoid them completely. These triggers include foods which contain tyramine foods such as bananas, peanut butter, avocados, some types of cheese and yeast. Other substances such as salt, soya sauce, nitrates, aspartame and other food additives may also cause migraines as they act as blood vessel dilators. Milk protein present in milk and milk products may also cause migraines.
A migraine elimination diet comprises of eliminating the potential migraine-causing foods. This diet may differ from patient to patient, as a certain food item may trigger migraine in one patient, but may not in others. So, what one patient needs to eliminate from his diet may differ from other patients. For this reason, it is important to try various food combinations and eliminate foods one by one to identify the exact triggers. Patients can do this by keeping a migraine diet chart. These diet charts are useful in making food journals where the patient keeps a note on all the foods which he has eaten and this helps the patient and the doctor to identify the reactions caused by different foods and hence indentify the triggers of migraine. A suitable diet for migraine will be tailored to each and every patient's needs accordingly. Generally, foods which are rich in calcium, magnesium, Omega 3 fatty acids and Tryptophan are added to the diet. Other than this, there are many cookbooks available which are especially dedicated to migraine diet recipes, so the patients can easily follow a well-balanced diet and avoid migraine-causing foods.
There are juices for migraine which are beneficial in migraine such as a juice made from apples and celery is thought to be helpful in treating migraine. Juice made from the combination of carrot, spinach and cucumber also helps in reducing migraine pain. Many people swear by grape juice for migraine. For some people tomato juice is very helpful as it contains Vitamin C which helps in migraine. Orange juice helps some individuals while it may aggravate migraine in others.
Lifestyle Modifications for Migraine
- Individuals suffering or who are prone to migraine should consume frequent, but small meals.
- Meals should be taken on time and should contain "migraine-friendly" foods, i.e. foods which are rich in tryptophan as it stimulates serotonin levels which in turn alleviate the headaches.
- Try to keep a food diary so as to keep track of the foods consumed before the migraine occurred.
- Try consuming whole grains rather than processed grains such as whole wheat bread instead of white bread.
- Try eating lean protein with each meal.
- Never skip meals.
- Keep yourself well hydrated by drinking lot of water and other fluids.
- Avoid consuming foods heavy in sugar and carbs.
- Get adequate sleep, as insufficient sleep may also trigger migraine.
- Exercise regularly.
Simple Home Remedies for Migraine
- Take 3 tablespoons of mustard oil and heat it. Whenever you feel the migraine coming or if you are suffering from migraine, apply handkerchief or a soft cotton face towel which is soaked in this oil to your forehead.
- Put a handful of coriander seeds in boiling water and infuse them for some minutes. Inhaling steam of this infusion helps in relieving sinus-related headaches.
- A mustard or ginger footbath helps in relieving the pain. You can prepare the footbath by tying a handful of mustard seeds or a ginger piece in a muslin cloth and soaking this in a bucket of boiling water. After the water has cooled a bit, soak your feet in this water for relieving pain.
Treating and preventing migraine is important, as it may be an indication of other serious underlying health conditions and to also prevent other complications like rebound headaches and serotonin syndrome. Lifestyle and dietary modification, especially following the right diet, helps a lot in preventing migraine episodes and reducing the severity of the pain. Other than following the right diet, patients also must make sure that they are getting adequate rest and sleep. They must also do regular physical exercise. All these steps go a long way in preventing and treating migraines. Other alternative forms of therapy such as acupressure and acupuncture, massages and yoga may also be done, as some individuals have benefited from them.