Migraine Nutrition: Connecting the dots between chronic headaches and food

SupermarketLingering for days at a time, my headaches once forced me to retreat to a dark room to hibernate in the quiet until they passed, but this was before I realized there was such a thing as migraine nutrition. I had spent far too many days feeling miserable and unproductive, and spent time and money going to doctors, trying to medicate myself. I even had a brain scan, fearing the worst.

I honestly thought I was dying.

I remember praying that if they found a tumor that it could the kind that was at least operable. Thankfully, it didn’t get that far.

Migraine Nutrition: My Journey to Finding the Trigger

migraine nutrition finding triggersNOT finding a tumor was a relief, but it still didn’t solve my chronic migraine problem.

I researched, I experimented with cutting out caffeine, I tried reducing my stress, but I could never pinpoint any specific trigger. It was not until I began to change my nutrition that I felt I was finally on to something.

Experimentation

Changing up your nutrition can be such a blessing in your life. It isn’t easy at first, but the effects can be huge. One way to get started with identifying specific trigger foods is to eliminate one suspected trigger-food out of your diet at a time, and see if you notice any effect on your headaches. Then add one food back at a time, again noting its effects.

Once you get this down, you can develop a migraine nutrition plan to get you on a healthy path to fewer symptoms, or possibly elimination of them once and for all.

This could work for other things besides migraines, too. My daughter suffers from fibromyalgia symptoms, and found (after months of trial and error) which foods are possible triggers for her. She learned to write down her foods and her symptoms, and look for correlations of anything that would help connect the two together. It wasn’t an easy process, but now that her nutrition is under control, she definitely sees her pain-free days occurring much more often than not.

Please know that I am not a nutritionist, and if you have severe or chronic pain you should seek professional medical advice. That said, I am sharing this article because the whole experience has taught us so much about the profound effect that food has on our health and well-being, that I hope it can help you, too!

Avoiding Common Migraine Culprits

Research tells us some common migraine trigger foods that we can avoid.

The first are foods that contain nitrites. Used mostly as a preservative and for added flavor, nitrites are found in sausages, hot dogs (even turkey dogs!), pepperoni, jerky, corned beef, or other foods that have been cured, smoked, pickled, or canned.

Another infamous culprit is monosodium glutamate, or MSG, found in canned soup, frozen foods, processed foods, seasonings, canned vegetables, and many Asian sauces and soups.

A third, lesser known trigger is tyramine. Foods with tyramine include dried or pickled meats and fish, aged cheese, and overripe bananas, avocados, pickles, and even beer on tap.

If you’re not sure what to begin cutting out first, do your best research on yourself – keep a food journal to try and narrow down your triggers. Take note of when a migraine begins, and ask yourself these questions:

What have I eaten in the past 24 hours?

What is my stress level?

Do I have any other symptoms?

Do I notice a pattern over several weeks or months?

If you have health issues that you just can’t seem to shake – headaches, achy joints, or even just a feeling that something is “off” with your health or your mood (of course, hormones may play a part in that, too – ugh), have you tried tinkering around a bit with what you eat and drink? If you are struggling to figure out what is causing your symptoms, I encourage you to try changes to your nutrition, even developing a migraine nutrition plan of sorts, and see if you notice a difference. These three bad boys – nitrites, MSG, and tyramine – are a good place to start.

Related: Reading Food Labels

Shakeology

Shakeology migraine nutritionOne food that I added to my daily nutrition plan seven years ago was an all-natural, non-GMO superfood shake called Shakeology.

I started drinking it because I knew that at least once per day I would be getting what I needed in terms of the right nutrients (did I mention I used to eat nothing but processed food?).

I found right away that my daily Shakeology was helping me with my symptoms, and in addition to trying to eat better at all my other meals, I’ve been on it ever since. I highly recommend it, especially for busy people who don’t otherwise eat the best they know they should. You can read more about Shakeology here.

Foods with Benefits

berries for migraine nutritionStay Fresh
So what should we eat then? My first piece of advice is to get to know your produce aisle – nature’s medicine! Avoid the “fake food” (usually found in the center aisles) and read food labels carefully when shopping to avoid other chemicals commonly found in processed foods.

Water
Water is actually a nutrient, too! It’s essential for your body’s proper functioning, and dehydration is a common migraine trigger. Migraines or not, we should stay vigilant about our water, and should aim to prevent thirst BEFORE it happens.

Related: Carbs are Not the Enemy

Magnesium
A diet high in magnesium has also been shown to help prevent all kinds of migraines, but the mineral seems to be particularly valuable for women who get menstrual migraines. Some really good foods for magnesium include spinach, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, quinoa, almonds, bananas, brown rice, and whole grains.

Sleep!
Ok, this is not a food, but it’s so important I could not leave it out. I find that when I cut corners on the hours of sleep I get at night, it’s a LOT more likely that my migraines come back again. Getting enough zzz’s is just good practice. It can greatly improve the health of our heart, mind, and spirit.

Adequate sleep helps our brain process the learning from the day, helps control our metabolism, and can even spur creativity. Don’t discount the benefits that sleep can have on your overall health. Make time for sleep!

It took me years to connect the dots between my food and my headaches, but I know now for me, figuring out migraine nutrition was the key to finally feeling better and living life again. Personal experience has shown me that food, sleep, and hydration are the three most important factors to not only preventing my headaches, but just making me feel healthy and well overall.

Headaches and chronic pain shouldn’t interfere with your daily life, and you should consult a doctor if you feel things are getting out of control, but it can never hurt to start to take a good look at how you are fueling your body, and the way it affects how you feel. If you are still searching for your “cure”, I encourage you to try some of these migraine nutrition tips.

Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul. ~ 3 John 1:2

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” ~ Hippocrates

Do you suffer from migraines?
What have you found that helps?

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