Migraines and Food
First it is important to see a Dietitian and have a detailed dietary and lifestyle history taken, looking at frequency, time of attacks and what appear to be any contributing factors. A food dietary can be kept of foods consumed in 24-hour periods before migraines occur.
Associations with the Menstrual Cycle
If migraines occur at the time of ovulation or just before a period, keeping up fluid, fibre, exercise and B vitamins while restricting salt may help.
It is important to be well hydrated. On a hot day, keep up fluid and limit alcohol and salt. Dehydration can trigger a headache that can lead to a migraine.
Take-away food should be limited as it is high in fat, salt and preservative. If you do consume it, drink plenty of water to flush out the salt, preservatives and prevent dehydration. If you are known to be sensitive to a specific preservative, then all take-away food may need to be eliminated.
Alcohol can contribute to headaches and for some individuals red or white wine will trigger an attack. Omit or severely control amounts and note if it is red or white wine, or other drinks. Alcohol can also dehydrate leading to a headache and triggering a migraine.
Irregular Eating and Low Blood Sugars
Missing meals or irregular meals can lead to low blood sugars or hypoglycaemia. Have regular meals, eating at least every 2 ½ to 3 hours or more if very active or tired.
Blood sugars will drop faster when tired or stressed. Avoid these conditions as much as possible and ensure that more frequent low GI snacks are consumed at these times.
Go to bed early so you are well rested and practise meditation and relaxation to control stress.
High sugar foods may cause reactive hypoglycaemia where extra insulin is produced; blood sugars drop, triggering headaches and migraines. Chocolate is an amine and lollies are usually coloured and flavoured.
High Salt Foods
High salt foods may lead to fluid retention and trigger headaches. Limit salt and salty foods particularly if fluid retention is a problem, eg; don't add salt in cooking or at the table and avoid processed and take-away food. Keep sodium levels to less than 120 mg per 100 grams.
Constipation can trigger headaches that lead to migraines. Drink 6 to 8 glasses of water a day or more depending on the temperature of the day. Eat a high fibre diet including more whole grain breads and cereals, fruit and vegetables. Exercise regularly.
People have different tolerances to natural and artificial chemicals in the food we eat. Individual tolerance may change with time and stress levels. The immune system can drop and reactions may occur more frequently or at lower level under certain situations. It is the total level of an offending chemical or combination of them from all foods at one time that will trigger a migraine, headache or other symptoms.
Generally the stronger the smell and taste of the food the greater the natural chemical level. The main groups of natural chemicals that can cause food intolerance are salicylates, amines, glutamates and benzoates.
Amines contain most of the trigger foods associated with migraines. They result from protein breakdown and fermentation. They are present in high quantities in cheese, chocolate, wines, beer, yeast-extracts and fish products. They are found in smaller quantities in some fruits and vegetables such as bananas, avocados, tomatoes and broad beans.
Salicylates occur naturally in many fruits and some vegetables, herbs and spices, oil of wintergreen and peppermint. They may also be present in artificial flavourings and are frequently used in medications, toothpaste etc.
Benzoates may also occur naturally in some fruit, vegetables and spices. They are also added to foods such as fruit juices, cordials and soft drinks, as preservatives and used in artificial flavourings.
Glutamates are found naturally in most foods. In its free form it is used as a flavour enhancer (M.S.G.). It is often added to soups, sauces, meats, snack and Asian foods.
Food additives are labelled, as numbers and only a very small percentage of these numbers are the cause of food intolerance. Preservatives such as sulphites, benzoates and nitrates and artificial colours such as yellow, orange, red, green and black are often a problem.
Life Style Changes
Drink plenty of water, limiting alcohol, salt and take-away food. Eat balanced frequent meals. Distribute food intake evenly across the day (small frequent meals) so that energy levels are steady. Have 2 fruit and 5 serves of vegetables a day to increase antioxidants and support the immune system. Include low GI foods such as pasta, whole grains, legumes, yoghurt and milk on a regular basis. Eat a diet high in fibre and fluid and walk for at least 20 minutes a day. This may not cure migraines but can help with triggers and hopefully reduced the number or severity. Remember a Dietitian to assist with taking a dietary history and interrupting results is very valuable.
Added to site on : Thursday, 8 January 2004