Migraine & Headache

Migraines: Easy-to-follow 8-step Treatment Plan Can End The Misery Of Migraine Attacks

Date: 1 November, 2001

It is estimated that one person in four in the UK suffers from migraine headaches, which affect women more than men. Migraine attacks are extremely debilitating and can put you out of action for days at a time, causing excruciating pain, nausea and extreme sensitivity to light and sound.

Migraines are not like ordinary headaches, which are caused by tension in the muscles at the back of your head. Instead, they involve changes to the blood vessels in your brain and typically affect one side of your head only. Most researchers believe that narrowing of the arteries in your brain, followed by their over-dilation, is responsible for migraine pain, by stretching the tiny nerves that encircle your blood vessels.

Conventional medicine treats migraines with drugs that alter brain chemistry, relax blood vessels and block pain signals. But these can cause unpleasant side-effects, such as drowsiness, weight gain, chest tightness and sleep disturbance. And yet, this distressing condition can often be completely controlled simply by paying careful attention to your diet, and taking certain nutritional and herbal supplements.

What causes the excruciating pain of migraine symptoms?

Studies indicate that food sensitivity may be linked to as many as 90 per cent of migraines (Lancet ii: 865-9, 1993). The major culprit is cow’s milk, followed closely by wheat, eggs, oranges and tomatoes.

Chemicals called amines, which are present in certain foods as well as being produced in your body, are thought to play a large part in triggering attacks (Rev. Neurol. 129: 534-8, 1996). Foods which contain amines, include figs, dates, raisins, pineapples, beans, potatoes, pork and turkey.

Tyramine is the most notorious dietary amine and high concentrations are found in hard cheeses (especially blue cheese), yoghurt, yeast extract, pickled herrings and canned fish. Chocolate is a common migraine trigger too, the guilty amines here being mainly phenylethylamine and phenylalanine. Some amines which are produced in your body are also present in certain foods – for instance serotonin in bananas, and dopamine and histamine in cheese, sauerkraut and cured meats.

For most people, dietary amines pose no threat, as they are quickly broken down by monoamine oxidase enzymes in your gut and blood platelets. In migraine-sensitive people, however, these enzymes may be deficient. It is thought that naturally occurring chemicals, such as flavonoids in citrus fruits and red wine, may be responsible for preventing these monoamine oxidase enzymes from working properly.

Why the weather could be causing your migraine pain!

Stress, weather changes, smoking and too much or too little sleep can all cause migraine headaches – by triggering hormonal or nervous system changes that affect the production of amines in your body.

Low blood sugar and excess blood insulin levels, as a result of missed meals or sweet snacks, also promote amine production. High oestrogen levels can in turn raise insulin output, leading to migraines linked to the menstrual cycle, the contraceptive pill and HRT.

Bacterial toxins in foods also cause migraines. This may explain the difficulty some sufferers have in identifying specific foods as migraine triggers, since the same food may be well tolerated when fresh, but migraine-producing a few days later when bacteria have multiplied. Artificial additives, such as monosodium glutamate (MSG), sweeteners (particularly aspartame), nitrites and nitrates in cured meats, flavourings and colourings can all cause migraines, too.

Eight ways to help banish migraines for good

Following this nutritional treatment approach can help break the chain of events that leads to painful migraine attacks:

** Identify food sensitivities. An exclusion diet that initially eliminates dairy products, wheat and other gluten grains (rye, barley and oats), eggs, oranges and tomatoes will cover about 90 per cent of food sensitivity cases. Keep to this for a month and then, if you haven’t suffered from a migraine in this time, reintroduce one food at a time, allowing four days for a reaction to occur. Meat and animal fats should also be avoided during the elimination diet, since these tend to promote the production of arachidonic acid, which causes pain and inflammation.

** Eliminate harmful amine chemicals from your diet. Cut out any amine-containing foods – chocolate, aged cheese, tinned and pickled fish, sauerkraut, dates, figs, raisins, pineapple, bananas and yeast extract.

** Cut out caffeine. Caffeine is a bit of a paradox, since it can both cause and relieve migraines. It stimulates adrenaline production, which causes vasoconstriction (narrowing of your arteries), so it can either contribute to the initial phase of a migraine or relieve symptoms temporarily during the second phase, when most of the pain is due to over-dilation of your arteries. It is best, however, to exclude coffee from your diet entirely, in addition to other drinks which contain caffeine, such as tea and fizzy drinks. A gradual reduction is advisable to avoid a withdrawal headache. Drink plenty of water instead, since dehydration leads to histamine release and vasoconstriction, which can trigger migraines. Stay clear of alcohol and tobacco, too.

** Eat plenty of fresh foods to avoid the build up of bacteria. Base your diet on the freshest, most natural foods you can obtain. Plan meals and shop frequently, so food doesn’t stay in your fridge for days. Avoid food additives as far as possible, especially nitrites in cured meats, MSG, tartrazine and aspartame.

** Balance your blood sugar levels. Follow a low-carbohydrate diet and include plenty of fibre from fresh vegetables and salads. Avoid sweet foods, refined flour products (even if you do not suffer from a wheat sensitivity) and potatoes, as they can cause blood sugar levels to rise fast. A supplement of 200-600mcg of chromium picolinate taken daily can help keep your blood sugar stable.

** Correct hormonal imbalances. A natural diet and supplementation with essential fatty acids, B group vitamins (especially B6) and magnesium will help to avoid female sex hormone fluctuations, which can result in migraines. Herbs such as dong quai and agnus castus have also been shown to help (Am. J. Chin. Med 15 (3-4):117-125, 1987). Natural progesterone cream (currently only available on prescription in the UK) has also been shown to prevent menstrual cycle migraines.

** Benefit from the healing power of herbs. Feverfew can reduce migraine frequency in about two thirds of cases (Brit. Med. J. 291:569-73, 1985). Cayenne pepper, valerian, goldenseal and ginger have also been used successfully to prevent or treat migraine (Pharm. Rev. 38: 179-226, 1986; J. Ethnopharmacol 29(3), 1990). But be careful to avoid St John’s Wort if you are a migraine sufferer, since it blocks the action of monoamine oxidase enzymes that break down amines.

** Natural relief for migraines. Magnesium and calcium can reduce the severity of blood vessel spasms and prevent the onset of a migraine. Vitamins B2, B3, B6, C and E can also help and appear to work by preventing vasoconstriction or inhibiting blood platelet clumping, which occur during attacks. Essential fatty acids in fish oils reduce the production of inflammatory prostaglandins, which contribute to migraine pain.

Simply altering your diet and taking the natural remedies outlined above, can help prevent migraines – meaning that you don’t have to live under the constant fear of the next attack.

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  1. wright Posted June 5, 2012

    was using feverfew and it helped but it has been takern off shelves, coming off feverfew was hard caused me anxeity and tearfulness. need a alternative.

  2. fritz Posted April 28, 2012

    ive been experiencing migraine just this year, 2012 it was started on the 2nd week of march which was the start of the summer here in our country. When we say summer the temperature is that it ca reach as 34-36 degree centigrade quiet hot right? well i experienced migraine since that and the worst is it occur everyday the same time and it feels like my head has its own heartbeat which will make my head explode. Until the last week of April migraine is still there I just take pain reliever everyday every 4-6 hours to avoid feeling the pain.According to my doctor the cause of my migraine is dehydration so I constantly drink water, and gatorade as well but still no relief. Thank you for this information, I will definitely try this I hope this will be the answer of my prayer.

  3. Jackie Posted March 26, 2012

    I started getting optical migraines years ago. I, also, found over that time that peanut butter, bananas, aspartame, msg and caffeine are my triggers. I am going to try vitamin b’s

  4. Angie 10/13/11 Posted October 13, 2011

    My triggers are Aspartame, MSG, cured meats, and generally a few days before and during my period I can have a severe migraines. For those of you who have migraine triggers to aspartame and are taking prescription medicine beware, all precription medicine has aspartame as a filler in it. I didn’t know that until I started reading the labels. If I can’t find the filler ingrediant on the label I go online and find the manufacture and ask for the filler ingrediant explaining my allergies. I’ve had no problems getting the ingrediants from them. Every time the filler ingrediant has has had aspartame. I don’t get if migraines are triggered by aspartame why they would use that as a filler ingrediant. BEWARE!!!

  5. Denise Posted October 5, 2011

    WOW! Great article with very useful information and advice! I have suffered for years and have seen many doctors – none of them have offered much of this information – aside from the elimination diet. I am excited to try some of the other suggestions here. THANK YOU!!

  6. Jackie Posted June 30, 2011

    Thank you I suffer from ocular migraines. When I first had one about 10 years ago I thought I was having a stroke. I have since been diagnosed with optical migraines. They are very disabling. I am going to try the vitamin b’s. I know bananas, msg and peanut butter are my triggers. Thank you for this article

  7. Steve Posted April 30, 2011

    Thank you, I would never have believed it but bananas it would seem are my trigger. Until I read it here I would never have believed it

  8. prim Posted April 29, 2011

    Would like to get update on migraine

  9. kelly puup Posted June 29, 2010

    I have had migraine headaches for over 30 years although the frequncy used to be once in 3months but i started getting them more often. Then I observed that oily food triggers it while eating a banana helps. I exercise a lot and drink a lot of herbal tea and water. So I am being consciuos of the diatery triggers.

  10. Bobby Blue Posted April 19, 2010

    I suffered from migraines for almost three years… had them at least three times a week and sometimes could not get out of bed for a few days in a row. Eventually I overhauled my life – really from top to bottom. Chnaged my eating habits, exercised much more, stopped drinking regularly and nurtured a much more positive outlook on life… Now I only get one once in a blue moon – like maybe every 6 months and they are much milder and last only a couple of hours… I don’t know, perhaps this is where the answer lies. It certainly worked for me.

  11. Lorraine Posted November 18, 2009

    I currently have a migraine which has lasted 3 days so far making me sick,weak and constantly dizzy. I found that eating a banana actually helps maybe as it raises my blood sugar levels, I’m not diabetic but do have slightly raised blood pressure I wonder if its connected?

  12. Linda Posted October 14, 2009

    Very useful information, questioned if my daughter got migraine from eating banananas and this article has confirmed it for me, very useful.

  13. malc Posted September 9, 2009

    Mandy, my experience is that some of the foods mentioned here are triggers for me and some not – depends on your body. I can eat chocolate and cheese but can’t eat bananas. Red wine usually just fine. Aspartame, nope, so xylitol chewing gum for me.

  14. Alison Posted May 11, 2009

    I have suffered from migraines(with severe vomiting) for over 24 years. They would generally be hormonal, more often than not occurring in the week leading up to my period. After years of taking various Triptans on prescription I recently decided to try magnesium and Agnus Castus supplements…that was 3 months ago and I have been migraine free for 3 months. Coincidence?..Maybe, but certainly worth continuing with to have 2 days a month of my life back.

  15. Mandy Posted April 15, 2009

    So what am I supposed to eat? Just salad or what? Help?

  16. Melanie Posted January 10, 2009

    Yes, this info is so helpful! Last year my life was torture. I was consistently having attacks once-twice a week, sometimes vomitting. Being at work was hardest as I tried to pretend I felt fine. I have been migraine free ever since started taking a balanced multivitamin.

  17. Jessica Posted August 27, 2008

    Thank you. This is the most useful information on preventing migraines I’ve come across. Most of the other information out there seems to be either about pumping yourself full of drugs or how to relieve the headache which is really a side-effect of the migraine.

  18. Csmilie123 Posted June 19, 2008

    Apart from salad what else can I eat?

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