Migraine Diet

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  • #40386

    Editorial Team
    Participant

    Welcome to the Migraine Diet Forum

  • #41946
    Profile photo of Annie
    puppet
    Participant

    Have you tried an elimination diet?

  • #41948
    Profile photo of Amrita Bhowmick, MPH
    amrita
    Keymaster

    What is an elimination diet?

  • #41949
    Profile photo of Annie
    puppet
    Participant

    First of all, I am a firm believer in the elimination diet. I am currently in the process of going through my second elimination diet to try to identify foods that trigger my Migraines.

    My first elimination diet was very successful and although it is still relatively early during my second elimination diet, I believe it is already paying off. I have developed additional food triggers that passed my first elimination diet, but will trigger me now.

    One thing to keep in mind is that not everyone will have food triggers, but what better way to determine if you have them than to go through an elimination diet? The other thing to note which is important is that it can take up to forty-eight hours after being exposed to a food trigger that you get the Migraine.

    There are a few ways to identify food triggers. One is basically by discovery. Every time you eat a particular food, you notice you get a Migraine. Some people will notice a food trigger when they review their Migraine diary and will see that every time they have a specific food, they will get a Migraine. You can eliminate that food and then introduce it back to see what your reaction is after.

    Another way to do an elimination diet is to basically eliminate a whole class of food at a time. You would not eat anything in that class for a certain amount of time and then introduce one item from that class once every week.

    The way I did my elimination diets was to cut out all foods except to keep a basic diet for a certain amount of time and then start introducing one new food once per week. When eliminating foods, this also includes anything you drink or consume.

    No matter which way you approach the elimination diet, you should keep a migraine diary and/or journal. This may also help you identify other triggers or patterns.

  • #41950
    Profile photo of WildZan
    WildZan
    Participant

    aspartame is the only food trigger I have identified. Most of my triggers are more environmental.

  • #41951
    Profile photo of lwats80
    lwats80
    Participant

    I am only about a week into my elimination diet but have already noticed an improvement. Wednesdays are normally a migraine day but luckily so far today I am migraine free and don’t feel one coming on (touch wood). Unfortunately I suspect chocolate is a trigger :(

  • #41952
    Profile photo of lwats80
    lwats80
    Participant

    Further to my earlier post, I would also like to add that I’ve been keeping a diary of everything I eat and drink. This has inadvertently had a dramatic effort on my eating habits. Since starting the diary I have become so much more aware of what I eat and when I eat. I was actually shocked at how little I was eating and how often I tended to skip breakfast and even lunch. It’s amazing how just skipping one meal or eating lunch late can trigger off a migraine. Now I am very strict with myself and make sure I get 3 square meals a day no matter how busy I am!

  • #41953
    Profile photo of Annie
    puppet
    Participant

    It’s great when we can identify what our food triggers are! This way when we avoid those triggers, we can avoid some unneeded Migraines.

    It’s so nice after going on the elimination diet when you start feeling better. Sometimes you may not get a reduction in the number of Migraines right away, but just feeling better is a motivation to keep doing what you’re doing and eating three square meals a day is very important too.

    Good luck with your diet!

  • #41954
    Profile photo of Farmer
    Farmer
    Participant

    After reading this, I may just have to try an elimination diet. I have an idea what some triggers are (alcohol, nitrates found in lunch meat, MSG) but I’m sure there are more culprits, some of which I don’t want to admit to. Please, oh please let it not be chocolate! Diet Coke would break my heart too. A girl has gotta have some fun after all =) What have been some surprises for you all?

  • #41955
    Profile photo of Teri Robert
    Teri-Robert
    Participant

    If anyone needs information and tools for an elimination diet, you can find information and a free downloadable workbook at http://www.helpforheadaches.com/articles/migraine_food_triggers.htm.

    Trigger identification and management is so important that I think everyone should try the elimination diet to see if they have food triggers. After all, if we find we have triggers we can avoid, that can mean fewer Migraines.

  • #41956
    Profile photo of BinxsMum
    BinxsMum
    Participant

    For anyone who’s triggered by aspartamine, don’t take the medicine Cambia. It’s got 25mg of it in it. It’s an NSAID designed specifically for migraines, so WHY they put that in there, I have no idea since so many with migraines can’t have it.

    For me, I’m atypical in all ways with my migraines – meds, triggers, foods, etc. Chocolate, caffeine and alcohol all help my migraines or at least help my meds work better on the pain.

  • #41957
    Profile photo of Ellen Schnakenberg
    Ellen Schnakenberg
    Participant

    The food trigger that gives me the most grief is MSG. This is really difficult to eliminate because it is very sneaky and hides. Labeling will not necessarily read as MSG, but may read Autolyzed Yeast Extract, spices, flavoring, or even natural flavor among other potential listings. Because it is such trouble for me I try now to eat very “clean”. This means if great grandma wouldn’t know what to do with it, I try not to eat it. That said, I sometimes try to go eat out – did it just last night – and often suffer terribly as a result. Note to self: Mongolian stir fry is a b-a-a-a-a-d trigger :( *sniffs* That’s what I get for trying to treat myself…

  • #41958
    Profile photo of Kym
    Kym
    Participant

    Teri, this link is no longer valid: http://www.helpforheadaches.com/articles/migraine_food_triggers.htm.

    Any idea where I can find something similar? I have chronic migraines and I’m not sure if I have food triggers or not (I dont have any that I know about — as you know, with chronic migraine, it can be really tough to determine the trigger).

    Thanks in advance

  • #41959
    Profile photo of Teri Robert
    Teri-Robert
    Participant
  • #41960
    Profile photo of alig0118
    alig0118
    Participant

    Has anyone tried the Feingold Diet? My phenol levels are very high and can contribute to migraines.

  • #41961
    Profile photo of Ellen Schnakenberg
    Ellen Schnakenberg
    Participant

    alig0118 – This is one I haven’t tried myself yet, however I have heard of some limited success with some patients. Since optimizing our health overall is so important, it would make sense that this might be really helpful to you.

    I hope you keep in touch and let us know how it goes so others can learn from your experience. Thank you so much for sharing about it!

  • #41962
    Profile photo of Jeannine
    jeannie
    Participant

    I saw a reduction in mine after I stopped drinking my beloved iced tea due to gastritis. Doc said no citrus and less caffeine. Boo hoo.

    Then I noticed less migraines. I used sweet and low in my tea 2-3 a day. What a lovely side effect! My gastritis got better and migraines reduced.

  • #41963
    Profile photo of Ellen Schnakenberg
    Ellen Schnakenberg
    Participant

    Jeannine – Woohoo! I’m so glad you had some success! (I love a good success story)

    Tea also has tannins that can be a potent Migraine trigger, so it might actually be a combination of things that triggered your attacks.

    I always encourage readers to really get super good at reading and understanding labels. Nearly everything in our diet today is full of triggers. Did you know that even flour isn’t just wheat? Powdered sugar has corn in it?

  • #41964
    Profile photo of Sharon M
    sharolinarose
    Participant

    Ellen, what else is in flour besides wheat? Is this in all brands? I use King Arthur flour, and would like to think that it is unadulterated.

  • #41965
    Profile photo of Ellen Schnakenberg
    Ellen Schnakenberg
    Participant

    Barley flour is often added to make wheat flour lighter and airier, making a crisper crust. Dough conditioners can be a real Migraine trigger, and they’re in many flour types and brands.

    It looks like there is probably a bunch of ingredients in the flour you are using, however I have no real way of knowing for sure. Here is a link to their ingredient page: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/shop/ingredients It lists many possible ingredients. Always best to check labels. All labels, all the time ;)

  • #43099
    Profile photo of Tim Banish
    timbanish
    Participant

    I did the elimination diet years ago and it does help. My doctor gave me a list of foods to avoid, as in “don’t eat this or that anymore” The first few weeks were tough because of missing many of my fav foods. After the third week you begin adding one or two of the foods back. If you have a migraine -don’t eat that again. It does take dedication and good list keeping but again it does help. I do sneak some of my “no-no” foods occasionally, and pay for it.
    Food triggers for me are: pork, almonds, anything with MSG added, chocolate (bummer, my biggest weakness behind brownies), aged and smoked cheese, and most flavored chips/snack mixes. Anything seasoned or spiced from fast food places will trigger a migraine too, so if I eat there I tend to order the same items I know are fine.

  • #45008
    Profile photo of Becky
    Rebeccapa
    Participant

    I have a migraine diet a neurologist gave me years ago but don’t know how to post it. I scanned it and saved it to my computer. Tim, you may think it is pork but if you are going by hot dogs it is the mixed dogs, they have more preservatives. All beef hotdogs and all beef bologna are great. Mixed ones give me a headache right away. As for tea, we drink decaffeinated. My doc told me last year that doesn’t mean no caffeine but way less. She to be no caffeine it has to say Caffeine Free. That is how I drink my Mt. Dew, I love the taste and they don’t sell Caffeine Free in Virginia so I have to get it from North Carolina. Pepperoni is anothe trigger but I have found out that Pizza Hut uses all natural pepperoni and it doesn’t bother me. One of my worst headaches that I can remember years ago was I got a sausage biscuit from Hardees. Within 30 minutes they were calling my parents to come get me. I can eat fresh sausage but not that stuff that comes frozen and made into patties. I know I have gone on and on but just wanted to share. If anyone has an idea how I can post the diet let me know.

    Becky

  • #46234

    annequin-harkin
    Participant

    I cut out dairy, gluten, soy, corn, peanuts, eggs, sugar and artificial sweeteners and noticed a lessening in severity. I knew that dairy was a trigger, so hadn’t had it for years, but didn’t realize that other inflammatory foods could make the migraine feel worse. It hasn’t stopped my migraines, but has helped the pain…and, I lost 10 pounds :)

  • #46496
    Profile photo of Nancy Harris Bonk
    Nancy Bonk
    Moderator

    Hi annequinharkin,

    Thanks so much for sharing with us – I am so happy to hear you have seen a reduction in your migraine severity and weight loss!!

    I’ve been gluten free for a while and have lost a bit of weight and it does seem to help with migraine all over head pain…..

    Keep us posted on your progress,

    Nancy

  • #48859
    Profile photo of Luna
    Jean
    Participant

    Tried the elimination diet a couple of different ways. Didn’t see any results but since my premier trigger is odors food would be a difficult thing to find. Especially since it can be a combination not just one item. Did change my diet to nothing processed, no animal products and no sugar. Just good whole foods with no additives that I didn’t put in. Months later I noticed that my daily “annoyances” were still there but had not had an acute attack that lasted several days with more days to recover. Do still have every day problems that range from just can’t think, to fatigue, mild nausea, stiff neck muscles, light sensitivity, headache, etc., etc. And one day moderate migraines but nothing acute since last October. Don’t know how long this will last, just another phase or what but I’m healthier and I make sure to exercise. Mostly walk since some (old injuries) lower back nerve damage has stopped some of my more strenuous exercises. It is very important to keep to a schedule and take good care of your body/mind. The healthier you are the more able you are to cope with this disease. And don’t forget to drink water.

    • #53315

      Jean,

      I’m so pleased you are finding some relief. How are things now that summer is in full swing? Thank you, too, for reminding us all that regular, gentle exercise and frequent hydration are two simple things we can do to help prevent migraine.

      Take care,
      Janet G.
      “The Migraine Girl”

  • #48974
    Profile photo of mheadacherelief
    mheadacherelief
    Participant

    I would like to say avoid going without food for long periods of time and never neglect your breakfast.Some foods you should avoid like cheese,vinegar,nuts,Citrus fruits and juices,Beans
    Bananas.Also avoid that types of food that contains chemical.You should take magnesium and riboflavin vitamin supplements regularly.Add fresh root ginger to your food.

  • #50839
    Profile photo of Chere
    ChereF
    Participant

    I’ve had migraines 10-15x per month for about a year now after having migraines for 30+ years but only about 6/mo previously.

    My neuro wasn’t suggesting anything different except more meds, botox, etc. I wanted to try something that wasn’t going to continue poisoning my body and killing my liver.

    I have many non-food triggers that I try to mitigate:
    Strong weather changes
    Strong odors (cigarettes, perfume, really any strong odor)
    Too much heat (I live in FL)
    Too much glare/light
    Over exertion
    Not enough sleep

    I’d already recognized many food triggers and were avoiding them:
    msg
    alcohol
    chocolate
    aged cheese
    soy (it is in everything!)
    balsamic vinegar
    processed meats (nitrates/nitrites)

    But I was getting more and more headaches – not less.

    So here I am week5 of the diet suggested in “Heal Your Headache” Buchholz.
    He’s put together a list of triggers from his 20years of helping migraine patients. It is a long list. But he recommends you stay on the diet for 4mos and then start testing each food (1/wk) to see if it is a trigger for you. And he recommends pretty much no meds to make sure you are not MOH.

    The first 2weeks were rough. Caffeine withdrawl. Days lost to pain.

    Just trying to figure out foods/recipes was time consuming and exhausting. I also needed to factor in low carbs.

    I started a blog just to keep track of the recipes and such. (http://nomoreheadpainplz.blogspot.com/) If I knew someone was going to do the Buchholz diet, I’d recommend having a couple weeks of food planning set up ahead. You have enough to do just watching your diet and dealing with the initial migraines.

    I missed eating yogurt but yogurt is not part of the diet so I started making my own cottage cheese (I could not find any that didn’t have gum xanthan which contains MSG)
    I missed eating peanut butter (not on diet) but found I could get the craving down by roasting sunflower seeds (preroasted ones had msg in their “natural flavors”)
    I missed eating bananas (not on diet) but found cutting up apples for ready eating was my cleanest carry-along fruit to solve my hunger.
    I still miss my morning coffee but am drinking hot water or Redbush/South African no caffeine tea. Lots of water is always good for migraines.

    I’ve only had 2 headaches since week2 ended.
    One was from eating commercial ricotta (which is on the diet) but it had gum xanthan in it (which is how I realized gum xanthan had msg in it.)
    And the 2nd migraine from glare during a 5hr daytime airplane flight; I got the migraine and then realized (too late) I’d been getting glare from the wing the entire trip.

    I am thrilled to be migraine free for so many days. Absolutely thrilled.

    If I continue to be migraine-free next week, then I will have 4weeks of migraine free from food triggers.

    Then I’m going to go ahead and begin the one-food-per-week testing of triggers. (Buchholz recommends 4mos of the diet but I cannot see the value in waiting 2 more months to begin testing…)
    Cross your fingers for me!
    /dancing the dance of pain-free happiness!

    • #53319

      ChereF,

      I’m so pleased that you are doing so much better! I’ve talked with many readers and friends who have had a lot of success after reading and following the advice in the book _Heal Your Headache_.

      We definitely want to remind everyone that it’s best practice to let your migraine specialist and/or physician know any time you are going to begin new treatment, and it’s also helpful to let them know when you plan on beginning a major change to your diet or lifestyle.

      Hope you’re continuing to feel great!

      Take care,
      Janet G.
      “The Migraine Girl”

  • #50851
    Profile photo of Tim Banish
    timbanish
    Participant

    I did this years ago. It does work, however as time passes it seems like my body has found new triggers in food that I could eat before. My food triggers are similar to yours, MSG being one of the biggest. And perfumes, seems like I can’t go into public without running into at least one person wearing half a bottle. Some of the stronger ones can set me off instantly, but even a whiff will cause a migraine later that night.
    Thanks for the great info, I never knew there was MSG in so many things. My doc just started me on magnesium pills, one a day. They are inexpensive, and seem to be helping reduce the migraines.
    Good Luck with continuing the diet.

  • #51997
    Profile photo of Sharlene Guiheen
    sharlene92
    Participant

    As I try to watch what I eat lately it seems like foods that never used to bother me are bothering me now. I always knew MSG was a culprit. I don’t want to believe chocolate is one because there’s been weeks when I eat chocolate candy every day with no migraines. The last two times I’ve eaten grilled cheese with tomato soup I’ve woken up with a bad migraine the next morning.
    The most recent time I had a glass of alcohol with one grilled cheese instead of my normal two but I’m more inclined to think it’s the cheese. Seasoning packets my mom sometimes will sneak into dinner without warning me causes very bad migraines. Pepperonis and bacon and cured meat alike. I was so disappointed last night I thought I ate good. I had gluten free pasta with ragu sauce and put honey and parsley in the sauce to try and dilute the salt. I just read on here that xantham gum has MSG in it? That stuff is literally in everything. Why is the FDA ok with putting all these awful ingredients into our food?

  • #52000
    Profile photo of Tim Banish
    timbanish
    Participant

    sharlene92 I have found that as you change your diet you will find other foods that now affect you. MSG is a big culprit, and yes found in many foods. Some have larger amounts, some just trace amounts. MSG is a preservative that is added to keep food from spoiling while sitting on the shelf.
    Cheese is a processed food and may contain additives to trigger a migraine. Smoked cheese is the worst. The same for smoked or cured meats, lots of additives.
    From your dinner, check the Ragu sauce. It has lots of additives, but for some tomato sauce in general triggers a migraine.
    I guess the FDA allows these additives because they don’t bother everyone, just us few who have to watch everything we put in our mouth.

  • #52129
    Profile photo of Chere
    ChereF
    Participant

    MSG is many things but not a preservative.
    …”MSG tricks your tongue into making you think a certain food is high in protein and thus nutritious.
    It is not a “meat tenderizer”.
    It is not a “preservative”.
    The food industry is trying to confuse the issue by focusing on the “fifth” taste sense they call umami. Free glutamic acid is detected by the taste buds as a simple way to signal the presence of protein in a food, just as there are fat receptors to detect fats and receptors that sense carbohydrate or sweet flavors.
    The purpose is to help us discern real food from inedible matter.
    It changes your perception of not simply taste but the nutritious qualities of what you put into your mouth.
    However, and here is the main problem with free glutamic acid – It is the very same neurotransmitter that your brain and many organs including your ears, eyes, nervous system and pancreas in your body use to initiate certain processes in your body…”

    MSG is the devil for those of us that get migraines from these “tricks”

    http://www.msgtruth.org/whatisit.htm

  • #52839
    Profile photo of wrensegg
    wrensegg
    Participant

    wow, thats really interesting about the msg.
    I have been experimenting with the elimination diet, I have given up gluten and caffine and am working on the chocolate! I hope to go on to give up dairy too. I have also started taking migrelief. So far my migraines have decreased from 2-3 a week (with feeling not quite right most days) to 1-2 every two weeks and i’m very happy! The biggest thing for me (apart from the decreased migraines) was that it has given me back a sense of hope which I thought I had totally lost. I had no power over my migraines they were what dominated me most days. The elimination diet can be empowering because you don’t have to go see any one or buy anything you can just do it! And it doesn’t involve submitting your body to harsh drugs either. healthy body and happy mind!
    I wish everybody good luck on what ever path they choose with their migraines :)

  • #53223
    Profile photo of rotemmay
    rotemmay
    Participant

    Hi All,
    I read Buchholz’s book a while back and cut out most of the foods that he puts on the don’t list and found it really helped with my migraines. Part of the list I had cut out anyway (I’m a vegan), which was lucky. I’ll admit that I do lapse into foods I shouldn’t have sometimes and pay the price. But when I’m following a diet that is vegan and mostly whole foods and avoiding most of the foods on the list (although I can tolerate small amounts of some foods, like citrus), my migraines are significantly reduced in frequency (to something like one every few months), duration (usually half a day rather than 3 days) and intensity (I don’t have to spend all day in bed).

    Unfortunately, stress is a major migraine trigger for me and I’ve had a lot of it in the last month. So I’m on the third day of a migraine this week (hopefully, this will be the last day). I’m returning next week to eating healthy and avoiding migraine triggers so I’m hoping this will end as long as I stick with it.

    One thing I discovered for sure – caffeine is a huge trigger for me. I stopped drinking coffee and moved to herbal tea (the ones that have no caffeine in them) a few months ago. It was tough, as I love the smell and taste of coffee, but I made a ceremony of it by buying a nice little individual tea pot and loose leaf tea. My sister sent me a very cute tea strainer. So it helps to make a ceremony of it.

    On the plus side, my sister also suffers from migraines and I introduced her to Buchholz’s book. She’s also been following his list and it’s helped her a lot too.

    Tam

    • #53329

      Tam,

      I love your tips about making a ceremony out of drinking tea! I have given up caffeine a few different times. Most recently, going off of it wasn’t too difficult, physically speaking, since I weaned myself over a few weeks. What was sad/hard was how much I enjoyed the routine of making coffee: waking up, sleepily grinding the beans, setting up the coffee maker, etc. Once I could create a new routine with my morning tea, I was a lot less sad about saying goodbye to coffee (though I still loved it dearly).

      -Janet G.
      “The Migraine Girl”

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