Studies confirm that foods are linked to migraine attacks. (1,2,3) You’ve probably heard about the usual suspects like chocolate, red wine, aged cheese. You can find a more complete list of food triggers here. But can avoiding or eliminating trigger foods reduce migraine attacks? Is there such a thing as the best migraine diet?
Is there one migraine diet to cure all?
There are many diets that people claim to have used to improve or cure their migraine condition. How credible are these claims? Surely if there was one diet that was delivering results for everyone who tried it we would have heard about it by now?
So how do we explain the people who dramatically reduced or eliminated their migraines from a diet change?
In some cases there may be an undisclosed commercial interest for an individual to promote diet, supplement or the latest detox recipe. For example, if someone sells a detox recipe and is trying to sell more copies then clearly they have a hidden agenda.
Many cases we see on social media from individuals sharing their success stories. How do we explain their success? Perhaps more importantly, why doesn’t their diet work for me?
Several studies have demonstrated that there is a relationship between migraine and food. (1,2,3) Some common diets that a migraine patient may try include:
- 5:2 Diet or Fast Diet
- Atkins Diet
- Detox or Cleanse Diet
- Elimination Diet
- Gluten-Free Diet
- Ketogenic Diet
- Mediterranean Diet
- Migraine Elimination Diet (Trigger Avoidance Diet)
- Low-FODMAP Diet
- Paleo Diet
- Plant-Based Diet
- Vegetarian Diet
- Vegan Diet
Let’s take a closer look at each of these and whether they might help.
- 1 5:2 Diet or the Fast Diet
- 2 Atkins Diet
- 3 Detox (Detoxification) or Cleanse Diet
- 4 Elimination Diet
- 5 Gluten-Free Diet
- 6 Ketogenic Diet
- 7 Low-FODMAP Diet
- 8 Mediterranean Diet
- 9 Migraine Elimination Diet (Trigger Avoidance Diet)
- 10 Paleo Diet
- 11 Plant-based Diet
- 12 Vegetarian Diet
- 13 Vegan Diet
- 14 Which diet should you try?
- 15 5 steps to determine your best diet for migraine
5:2 Diet or the Fast Diet
What is it? This is perhaps one of the most famous types of intermittent fasting diets made famous by British medical journalist Dr. Michael Mosley’s documentary on the benefits of intermittent fasting.
It’s referred to the 5:2 diet because 5 days of the week are normal eating days whilst the other 2 restrict calories to 500 a day for women and 600 per day for men.
- There are no requirements to which foods to eat. Only when you should eat.
- Some people find this type of diet easier compared to others which restrict what you eat.
- Fasting can cause fluctuating blood sugar levels particularly during the initial trial of the diet. This may be a migraine trigger for some people.
- This diet is not advised for those who experience a drop in blood sugar levels, nursing mothers, teenagers or children of those with type 1 diabetes.
- Preliminary studies have shown that intermittent fasting can potentially help fend off illnesses including cancer, diabetes, heart disease and neurodegenerative disorders according to Dr. Mosley. (18)
- Separate studies demonstrated weight loss (19), reduced insulin resistance (20) and decreased inflammation (21).
This diet shows significant benefits in weight and overall health. It is also easier to follow than other strict diets but it may also trigger attacks in those vulnerable. If hunger is not a trigger, this diet is worth considering.
What is it? The Atkins diet is a low-carbohydrate diet where you can eat as much protein or fat as you want. This diet requires a strict limit on the consumption of carbs. The diet is named after Dr. Robert C. Atkins who wrote a best-selling book in the 1970s about his diet. The diet was heavily criticized originally as it contained saturated fat. Since then several well-designed studies have demonstrated the saturated fat itself is not a problem. (22)
- You can eat high levels of protein and/or fat.
- Helps you lose weight.
- You will need to significantly reduce the amount of carbohydrate-based foods you eat.
- This includes grains, high carb vegetables like carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and high carb fruits like bananas, apples, oranges, pears, and grapes.
- The Atkins Diet has been shown to lead to greater weight-loss versus low-fat diets as well as improvements in blood sugar, HDL (the ‘good’ cholesterol) and other health indicators. (23)
- There has not been any research for migraine patients on the Atkins Diet. A modified version of the Atkins Diet (MAD) is also referred to as the Ketogenic Diet which is reviewed below.
By eating fewer carbohydrates, followers of the Atkins Diet consume more filling foods high in protein and healthy fats and typically consume fewer calories overall. For migraine, many processed foods are carbohydrate-based so reducing our intake of this foods may be beneficial but there is no evidence to support this diet for migraine.
Detox (Detoxification) or Cleanse Diet
What is it? A detox is a diet plan that requires you to follow a particular diet over a certain period of time in order to cleanse and detoxify the body. It may also include herbal supplements or other methods such as colonic irrigation, all of which aim to remove environmental and dietary toxins from the body. The effectiveness of heavily promoted short-term detox diets remains controversial as they vary widely and there is a lack of high-quality evidence behind many of them.
Detoxes may include fasting, eating certain foods, taking supplements, and avoiding harmful ingredients. Common claims from detox brands include resting the organs, stimulating the liver to remove toxins, improving circulation and providing nutrients.
- If you need to remove environmental or dietary toxins such as pollutants, synthetic chemicals, and heavy metals this might be helpful.
- Detox diets rarely identify specific toxins they are intended to remove.
- There is little quality evidence to support detox diets.
- These diets severely limit energy and nutrients.
- They can actually be harmful to certain groups of people such as the elderly, malnourished, pregnant or lactating women.
- Scientific evidence to support these diets is lacking with published trials suffering from poor design or a lack of robust, reliable evidence.
- Generally a healthy body is very capable of removing many toxic substances from itself. The liver can make toxic substances harmless and ensure it’s released via sweat, feces, and urine.
Detox diets are often extreme crash diets where significant reductions and changes are made. They are temporary and not intended for constant use. Some people have reported positive benefits and others have experienced the opposite. Radical and sudden changes to the diet can affect our wellbeing.
At the same time, removing processed foods, alcohol and coffee which many detox diets require may also deliver some positive outcomes. Many of these benefits are temporary as weight loss is quickly regained unless lifestyle changes are embedded at the same time. Other diet plans have better evidence and are more sustainable.
Between 2-20% of the population have a food intolerance. (24) An elimination diet is often conducted under the guidance of a doctor, dietician or nutritionist to safely identify which foods are triggering symptoms or migraine attacks. An elimination diet requires an individual to strip back to a few safe foods for several weeks to establish a baseline before gradually re-introducing foods one at a time.
If a migraine attack occurs whilst a new food is being introduced and it can be attributed to that food then that food is removed from the diet.
- The elimination diet is the gold standard to identify food intolerances.
- It can alleviate bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, and nausea.
- The diet takes between 4 to 8 weeks to complete including the elimination and reintroduction phases.
- This diet is not specifically designed for migraine. In migraine, attacks are often a combination of triggers of which food is only one component. A comprehensive food and lifestyle diary may therefore be required.
- Eliminating too many food groups may cause a nutritional deficiency so professional supervision is advised.
- The best elimination diets are the strictest. A good elimination restricts as many food groups as possible to uncover triggers.
- There is evidence to support the use of an elimination diet with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). One study showed a 26% improvement in symptoms like bloating, gas and stomach cramps for those who stuck to their diet. (25)
- Dietary inflammation is thought to play a role in chronic migraine. (26) An elimination diet has shown to help remove inflammatory foods and reduce the frequency of attacks. (27)
Research has demonstrated that identifying inflammatory foods for those with chronic migraine using an elimination diet is an effective and worthwhile activity to help reduce the frequency of attacks. This approach is highly recommended for those with frequent migraine.
What is it? Gluten is a group of proteins that provides a sticky consistency when mixed with water making it helpful for cooking. It is an incredibly common ingredient found in breads, cereals, baked goods, snack foods, pastas, chips, sauces, and other processed foods.
Some people have severe reactions to gluten. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder triggered by gluten consumption which can lead to potential damage of the small the intense, gut lining and surrounding areas. Up 1% of the population have celiac disease. (38) A blood test or small intestine biopsy can determine whether an individual has celiac disease.
More common is a gluten intolerance or gluten sensitivity. Gluten sensitivity can range from mild to severe and may affect as many as 13% of the population. (39) Symptoms may include bloating, gas, stomach pain, tiredness, eczema, or change in bowel movements.
Gluten has been linked to migraine and going gluten-free has been reported to help some patients.
- The easiest way to avoid gluten is to eat natural single-ingredient foods.
- Constipation is a common symptom of a gluten-free diet.
- Going gluten-free can cause nutritional deficiencies in a range of important nutrients including fiber, iron, calcium, vitamin B12, folate, and zinc. (43)
- Gluten sensitivity is a controversial topic but there is some evidence to support its existence. (40) Some experts argue that many of the so-called symptoms could be easily caused by other food ingredients such as FODMAPs (see low-FODMAP diet below).(41)
- Dr Mauskop, director of the New York Headache Center and professor of Clinical Neurology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, has seen many patients whose headache condition improved on a gluten-free diet even if testing negative to celiac disease. He has seen signs of a different type of immune reaction and suggests that a gluten-free diet is worth trying if you experience gastrointestinal symptoms such as bloating, diarrhea, constipation as well as fatigue and mental fog. (42)
- Research has shown that celiac disease may be more common in those who experience migraine. One study found 4.4% of migraine patients had celiac disease compared to less than 1% in the sample population. (43) For patients with celiac disease and migraine, gluten-free resulted in a full remission from migraine attacks. (44)
Most people can consume gluten without any issues. Gluten-free is associated with a risk of nutritional deficiencies but can deliver a significant reduction in migraine attacks for those with celiac disease. There is not sufficient evidence to support gluten-free diets for all migraine patients. If you are experiencing symptoms associated with the consumption of gluten then trialing a gluten-free diet under medical supervision may be worthwhile.
What is it? A ketogenic diet is a modified version of the Atkins diet (see above). It consists of a high-fat, adequate-protein, low-carbohydrate diet. The primary macronutrient consumed in this diet is fat. Carbohydrates are dramatically reduced and replaced with fats. When this happens, the body’s metabolic state shifts to ketosis. This is where the body burns fat instead of carbs for energy.
The state of ketosis makes the body far more efficient at fat burning for energy rather than carbs. It does this through the liver which turns fat into ketones which supply energy to the brain.
The Ketogenic diet has been shown to have a range of health benefits including the treatment of refractory epilepsy in children.
- Epilepsy is a neurological disorder closely related to migraine. The ketogenic diet originated as a method to treat neurological disease such as epilepsy.
- There is a wide range of other conditions that have some research supporting the use of this diet. This includes benefits in heart disease, slowing tumor growth in cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), brain injuries and acne.
- Exploratory research has supported the use of a Ketogenic diet to assist with migraine. There is a lack of high-quality studies which warrants further research in this area. (34)
- Interestingly, there are dozens of studies demonstrating how this diet can assist with weight loss and improve overall health. This goes against conventional dietary advice from health organizations who recommend a low-fat diet. (33)
- Several studies have demonstrated that a Ketogenic diet is superior to a low-fat diet.(29-32)
- You should try this diet under medical supervision. If you are not in optimal health this diet may strain the liver.
- Some people experience what is referred to as the “keto flu”. As the body shifts energy sources from carbs to fat, side effects may include headache, weakness, dehydration, constipation, nausea, and vomiting. For most people, the keto flu resolves by the first week.
- You may experience withdrawal symptoms as your body craves it’s missing carbs. You may have increased sugar cravings, carb-cravings, brain fog, or difficulty concentrating.
- Ketogenic diets have been shown to cause dramatic reductions in blood sugar and insulin levels. (28)
- Studies have shown that the ketogenic diet can improve insulin sensitivity and facilitate weight loss to provide dramatic benefits for type 2 diabetes. (29)
- The ketogenic diet may be helpful in a range of different neurological disorders such as migraine (34), Alzheimer’s disease (35), and Parkinson’s disease(36).
- The diet has been established in epilepsy treatment. (37)
The profound benefits of the ketogenic diet are still be being explored by researchers who have much still to do. The science behind how this diet impacts a range of health conditions and neurological disorders is still in its infancy. The benefits and potential are clear. The diet is not without potential side effects and should be trialed under medical supervision but there is great potential benefit for those with a neurological disorder like migraine.
What is it? FODMAPs stands for Fermentable Oligo-Di-Mono-saccharides and Polyols. These are short-chain carbohydrates which can cause symptoms such as gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation and stomach pain. These short chain carbohydrates can be difficult for some people to digest. Instead of being digested, they can linger in the gut and feed a certain type of gut bacteria which can cause digestive issues.
Not everyone is sensitive to FODMAPs. Sensitivity is very common in those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). (46) Common FODMAPS include fruits like apples, dates, pears, watermelon. Sweeteners which use fructose, honey or sugar alcohols. Dairy products such as milk, ice cream, most yogurts, cheeses. Vegetables including asparagus, broccoli, beetroot, cauliflower, garlic, mushrooms, onions, peas, and shallots.Legumes including beans, chickpeas, lentils, baked beans, soybeans. Wheat including bread, pasta, cereals, pancakes, biscuits. Note: there are many other foods that are high in FODMAPs, this list is not comprehensive.
- A low-FODMAP has been proven to help with common digestive symptoms.
- There are no studies available that directly evaluate the benefits of a low-FODMAP diet with migraine.
- Some research indicates that up to 75% of IBS patients benefit from a low-FODMAP diet. (47)
- Research has also found a low-FODMAP diet helpful for a wide range of digestive complaints. (48)
- The diet may have mental health benefits for those with digestive issues. Digestive issues contribute to stress and have strong links with anxiety and depression. (49)
If you have digestive complaints a low-FODMAP diet is a more comprehensive approach than just gluten-free diet to get to the bottom of your sensitivity.
Start by completely removing all high-FODMAP foods from your diet for several weeks. If FODMAPs are causing your digestive issues then you may experience improvement within a few days. After several weeks of the strict removal of high-FODMAP foods, you can begin reintroducing foods one at a time to determine which cause symptoms. Seek professional health to ensure you perform this diet correctly and do not risk nutritional deficiency.
What is it? Mediterranean diets are based on the traditional food eaten by the nations around the Mediterranean. The Mediterranean diet is based on foods traditionally eaten by the Greek and Italians from the 1960s. It consists of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, potatoes, whole grains, breads, herbs, spices, fish, seafood and extra virgin olive oil. Poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt are eaten in moderation. Red meat is eaten rarely. Processed foods, soft drinks, added sugar, processed meat, refined grains and refined oils are not part of the diet.
- The Mediterranean diet focuses on natural, single-ingredient foods which is a much healthier alternative to the modern American diet.
- There are no studies linking the Mediterranean diet with migraine prevention.
- Several studies have supported the Mediterranean diet for weight loss(52), reduced risk of heart attack(50), stroke reduction, type 2 diabetes(53) and early death(51).
The Mediterranean diet is a great diet to follow for a healthy lifestyle. It helps minimize the risk of a heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and death. However there is no research to suggest this diet will help someone improve their migraine condition.
Migraine Elimination Diet (Trigger Avoidance Diet)
What is it? Many migraine patients are aware of the ‘usual suspects’ that come up time and again as foods to avoid such as cheese, chocolate, and wine. Over time more food triggers may be added to the list as migraine attacks occur after certain foods or ingredients. This diet avoids all potential trigger foods in order to minimize migraine attacks, then gradually reintroducing foods to uncover your dietary migraine triggers.
- In theory, minimizing trigger foods should reduce migraine attacks.
- Food triggers are often managed informally, ad-hoc and inconsistently between those with migraine.
- New research has demonstrated that without professional help migraine patients are poor at predicting their own triggers. (59)
- Research has also found that triggers for each individual are unique and can vary greatly amongst those with migraine. (59)
- There is also complexity in determining trigger factors without the use of a professional tool or diary. There can be many confounding factors that trigger an attack after a meal or food ingredient such as sleep changes, stress, hormones, medications, blood sugar levels, dehydration and much more. These additional factors make true attribution more difficult than anticipated and can cause misattributions to food triggers.
- Using an allergy test (based on IgG antibodies) migraine patients experienced a modest decline in migraine burden but the gain it was not strong enough to claim as a significant improvement. (60)
- A seperate small and older study used an elimination diet based on food reactions. They underwent a withdrawal from their regular diet and found that when 10 reaction-provoking trigger foods were removed from the diet 85% of patients become headache-free. These results show promise but larger, controlled studies are required to replicate these results. (61)
There are certainly some encouraging studies (although small) to suggest that a migraine elimination diet may be beneficial. Most of the approaches reviewed use allergy tests to evaluate which foods were to be eliminated. This is a more scientific approach than a patient’s personal list of food triggers but it’s important to remember not all food allergies or intolerances are migraine triggers.
Likewise, not all migraine triggers are necessarily food intolerances that will show up in a test. Therefore a broader elimination diet is likely to be more beneficial as removes all potentially problematic foods from the diet for gradual reintroduction and evaluation.
What is it? The Paleo diet, also known as the Caveman or Stone Age diet, mimics the hunter-gather diet of our Palaeolithic ancestors and promotes a regime which minimizes grains, legumes, and some dairy products in favor of the foods available to our ancestors during the Palaeolithic period.
Paleo advocates point out that our ancestors were free of modern diseases such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease whilst being genetically the same as we are today. A paleo diet includes plenty of meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, healthy fats, and oils. A paleo diet does not contain processed foods, sugar, soft drinks, grains, most dairy products, and legumes.
Caution should be taken with any diet that excludes entire food groups. Its nutritional sustainability for each individual should be carefully evaluated by a professional. Published studies for the diet are small with few participants to constitute reliable scientific evidence to support claims by paleo advocates.
- Paleo diet can help with weight loss.
- It promotes a diet free of processed foods and added sugar.
- There are relatively fewer studied benefits of the paleo diet compared to other diets examined.
- No evidence could be found to support the paleo diet in migraine reduction.
- There is evidence to support the Paleo diet for weight loss. (54)
There are relatively fewer demonstrated health benefits compared to other diets and no studied links to migraine reduction. This may change as more research is published, but until then, there are better options available for migraine patients.
What is it? This diet emphasizes plant-based foods as the primary source of energy whilst minimizing or eliminating processed foods.
It limits or avoids animal products and focuses instead on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, seeds, and nuts. A plant-based diet also commonly emphasizes using locally sourced, organic and high-quality foods. It is similar to vegan and vegetarian diets but with differences in the consumption of animal products.
- It has a wide range of health benefits include chronic disease prevention, elevated mood(62), reduction in heart disease risk(56), longevity and energy(64).
- It can assist in weight loss and help keep it off over the long term. (63)
- This diet is high in fiber and minimizes processed foods.
- Some people may find it difficult to switch to a plant-based diet.
- There is evidence that supports a plant-based diet to reduce the risk of heart disease (56), diabetes (57), dementia and cognitive decline (58).
- There have been no significant studies evaluating this diet for migraine.
Like other diets reviewed, the whole foods plant-based diet is a far superior alternative to the modern Western diet. There is a need to study this diet for its potential benefits in migraine. With the removal of processed foods and its well-rounded health profile this is a great choice for overall health and wellbeing.
What is it? A vegetarian diet excludes meat, fish, poultry, game or by-products from animal slaughter. This diet has existed since 700 B.C. and is followed for a variety of reasons including health, ethics, sustainability or religious beliefs. It is a diet made up vegetables, fruits, grains, pulses, nuts, and seeds. Depending on the variation of vegetarian diet you follow diary and eggs may be included.
- According to Dr. Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard Medical School, one-third of early deaths could be prevented by eating plant-based foods.
- Most of the benefits from a plant-based diet (see above) apply to a vegetarian diet.
- A poorly planned diet can lead to nutritional deficiencies.
- A vegetarian diet can be difficult to adopt. Heavily restricted diets can lead to disordered eating which could decline into eating disorders.
- No studies linking a vegetarian diet with migraine were found.
A vegetarian diet is another superior diet to modern Western diets. There is no evidence evaluating its benefit for migraine. Vegetarian diets can provide sufficient a range of nutrients when applied correctly but requires a departure from the average Western diet today.
What is it? In addition to being vegetarian, vegans do not consume other animal products and by-products such as eggs, honey, dairy or dairy derivatives such as cheese or milk. A vegan diet is the strictest type of vegetarian diet that can be followed. This diet is about more than what is eaten, it is a firm commitment to animal rights.
- See Vegetarian diet.
- This is one of the most restrictive diets and may be difficult to adhere to.
- A poorly planned diet can lead to nutritional deficiencies.
- There is one study that showed merit for the vegan diet use in migraine but the study was small. Patients did experience some improvement in their attack severity and frequency but larger trials are required to establish clinical significance.(62)
The vegan diet is perhaps one of the most restrictive and challenging diets on this list. It is often followed not only for health benefits but also for personal beliefs about the use of animals in food production. Vegan is a plant-based diet which has many health benefits associated with it and could be a fit for the individual with the same philosophy about animal rights.
Which diet should you try?
Diet plays an extremely important role in overall health and wellbeing. What we eat can even influence the likelihood of chronic diseases(23), brain health(36), and longevity (64) in life.
All of these diets have pros and cons.
Just as there is not one set of migraine triggers for all migraine patients (59) there is not one best diet.
Different people will respond best to different dietary habits. Your gut profile, health history, intolerances and eating habits are as unique as your fingerprint.
The challenge is to find the best diet for you.
Across almost all the diets share certain fundamentals and there are clear steps you can take to find your best diet.
5 steps to determine your best diet for migraine
- Step 1) Minimize processed foods
- Step 2) Get a blood allergy test
- Step 3) Ideally work with a professional
- Step 4) Begin an elimination diet
- Step 5) Consider supplementation
Step 1) Minimize processed foods
69% of US adults are obese or overweight. (55) Excess weight has been linked to inflammation and is a risk factor for chronic migraine.
Many processed foods contain hidden chemicals, excitotoxins, and ingredients that can trigger migraine attacks.
Health experts agree that any diet promoting fresh, whole ingredients and minimizing processed food is far superior to overall health and wellbeing.
Step 2) Get a blood allergy test
A blood allergy test is where a small sample of blood is taken which is then sent to a pathology lab to understand which foods your body reacts to. Most people will find foods you enjoy that come up as something you may need to eliminate.
For those with migraine it’s worth understanding what foods you’re consuming regularly that your body is actively reacting to or fighting.
Expect this test to cost anywhere from $100-$250 depending on where you live and how many foods you test against.
Note: there is a cheaper skin prick test available but this is significantly less comprehensive than the blood allergy test. A blood allergy test will typically provide information for over 100 food groups.
Step 3) Work with a professional
When it comes to the interpretation of your test in step 2 you will need someone to advise you. Particularly when it comes to putting these new results into action.
Almost everyone will have foods which come up with some level of intolerance or a more serious allergy. If you have lots or entire food groups you need to make sure that you will still need to safeguard against a diet that results in nutritional deficiencies. People who can help are certified and experienced dietitians, nutritionists or a functional medicine practitioner.
Step 4) Begin an elimination diet
Whilst an allergy test is a nice scientific approach to identify problem foods, there may additional foods to have identified as migraine triggers yourself which are not on that list.
It’s important to understand that the foods that show up in your food allergy test are not necessarily direct migraine trigger foods. The food blood allergy test simply shows you what your body is reacting to. Unfortunately, there is no simple blood test that allows you to discover all your migraine trigger foods. However, if you remove all the suspected foods you should begin to notice a difference within a few days.
Work with a dietician to identify your full list of potentially problematic foods. Once you have your full list. Begin an elimination diet.
An elimination diet is still the gold standard for uncovering true dietary causes of health issues. It may seem like a manual process but can be extremely effective.
An elimination diet will strip your diet down to only a very small number of safe foods for a temporary period of time. At this stage, you simply want to clear your body of anything that could be causing problems. Later during the elimination diet, you will reintroduce some of these foods one at a time.
This is where you need some kind of professional supervision because eliminating a large number of foods from your diet can lead to malnutrition and other issues if you are continually not getting enough nutrients from your diet.
You will need to keep a food and migraine diary so that you can uncover exactly what foods are problematic as they are gradually reintroduced one at a time.
The importance of a food and migraine diary at this step cannot be understated.
Elimination diets are not a sure thing with migraine. For example, if you one day you introduce apples and you also happen to stay up late that night to finish an important work project, then you have to get up early the next day to deliver the presentation and you have a migraine that day what could you conclude?
Was the migraine due to the apples? Was it a lack of sleep? Stress from the presentation? Having a diary that tracks your sleep and stress levels would be necessary to understand whether different levels of sleep deprivation and stress affect your migraine condition. Then interpreting all the information you can make a more informed decision about whether apples are a factor or not.
Performing this evaluation with reasonable accuracy is impossible without the use of a food and migraine diary.
Evidence also supports an elimination diet. In a trial where 38 migraine patients were treated with an elimination diet, 65% saw a significant improvement in their migraine condition. (4)
Once you have completed your elimination diet and have a comprehensive record of your experience you should find yourself in a much better position. You may be feeling noticeably better. Amongst other benefits, you might be sleeping better, have more energy, improved concentration and fewer stomach complaints like bloating or gas. Most importantly you should be experiencing fewer migraine attacks once you are eating according to your own personalized diet.
Step 5) Consider supplementation
Removing the offending foods is a key step towards migraine control and prevention.
But it’s not the final step.
Making sure you’re getting enough vitamins and minerals from the foods you consume is difficult even if you’re not following your own migraine friendly diet.
To help address any nutritional deficiencies or biological dysfunction that you may experience, supplementation is often recommended by migraine experts.
And with good reason. Compared to medicinal options, supplements are often cheaper, have fewer side effects and deliver improvements that are often comparable to high strength medicinal alternatives.
Scientific research studies for migraine and diet are rare because they are expensive, difficult to conduct and receive funding for. Due to a lack of big, well-designed studies doctors will rarely go beyond mentioning common trigger foods.
For those with chronic migraine, dietary interventions are warranted and have been shown to deliver significant results. (27)
Eating healthy is not just a matter of migraine. It’s one of the most important factors in our overall health and wellbeing.
Let me know in the comments below, do you follow a diet for your migraine condition?
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This blog makes interesting reading for sure. However, I find it odd that you issue a warning with the Paleo diet – which is actually closest to our natural way of eating – and choose not to do so with the vegetarian or vegan diets, which do not come naturally to humans.
Caution should be taken with any diet that excludes entire food groups. It’s nutritional sustainability for you should be carefully investigated by a professional. Published studies for the diet are small with too few participants to claim reliable scientific evidence to support claims by supporters.
Strange that no warning is given for excluding food groups on a vegan/vegetarian diet, since we actually need meat to obtain all the necessary vitamins (among others).
I agree that the idea of Paleo is not the "modern" way of looking at food, but nowhere it is forced upon people to eat a whole turkey three wrapped in bacon times a day.
The new Paleo "masters" if you will, are actually all for 2/3 of the meal to consist of veg/fruit and 1/3 meat/fish/poultry. And all organic please.
The "whole food groups" that are excluded are actually food groups that we don’t need to obtain all necessary nutrients from.
Helpful to get reminder to focus on migraine ttriggers again. Have been focused on IBS and low- FODMAP at expense of migraines which have come back with avengence. Thank you.
I’m glad this helped Roberta. Good luck.
As someone with migraine who has tried most of the above diets, please start with the “How To Heal Your Headache” first. I have done paleo, I have done Atkins, I have done keto, I have done plant based and I have had blood allergy tests. Hands down ”Heal Your Headache” identifies your triggers so you can avoid them on the other diets if you choose to go that route. You might want to plug your ears for what I am going to say next…coffee was my number one trigger! I love coffee. I could easily give up anything but don’t take away my coffee!!! However, I was sick of being in pain and coffee was the culprit so it had to go. “Heal Your Headache” talks about the making of a migraine and it makes sense. I am working on keeping my threshold low with diet and prophylactic meds because my other triggers are barometric pressure and my menstrual cycle which I cannot control. Anyways, save your money on doing a blood allergy test they are proven to be not accurate. Just google it.
You’re right the gold standard is an elimination diet rather than a blood test.
try a series of water-only fasts… it just might detoxify you enough that you can get back to coffee 🙂
“The vegan diet is perhaps one of the most restrictive and challenging diets on this list. It is often followed not only for health benefits but also for personal beliefs about the use of animals in food production.”
Well, killing animals harms them. Would you want to die to satisfy another being’s desire to eat your flesh? It’s not really a belief. If you live with a dog or cat you know animals have emotions. Cows, pigs, and chickens have emotions too. Just like your pet doesn’t want to suffer and be eaten by you or anyone else, so do other animals not want to suffer and be eaten. There’s no belief involved… it is simple, logical reasoning. At least if you are going to consume meat be clear that you are harming another being.
Carl, this is all so interesting. I went to my doc 10 days ago with serious IBS symptoms. She suggested low fodmap diet, which I’m trying to follow. I have now gone 5 days headache free besides improving IBS. I’ve had migraines for 30 years! I’ve done it all to improve them and I’m scared to suggest this may be the answer? It’s early so time will tell but what an incentive to keep working on my diet. Thanks for all the good info.