Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: April 2023 | Last updated: September 2023
Diet plays a large role in overall health. Proper eating habits help in the management of many disorders and diseases, including migraine. Research has found that being overweight or obese can worsen migraine or make migraine attacks more likely. Maintaining a healthy weight and getting plenty of water in your diet is an important part of using diet to manage migraine.1
While certain foods or ingredients may act as triggers for people with migraine, others do not find foods to be a trigger. Regardless, everyone can benefit from a healthy diet, which provides the nutrients the body needs to function at its best.
Common migraine food triggers
Some people with migraine are sensitive to particular ingredients in the food. Common triggers include:1-3
- Aged cheeses
- Artificial sweeteners
- Food additives or preservatives, such as nitrites (found in processed foods) or monosodium glutamate (MSG) (found in fast food and processed foods)
- Tyramine, an amino acid that occurs naturally in the body and is found in certain foods like aged cheeses, cured meats, and citrus fruits
Because certain foods impact some people with migraine but don’t lead to attacks in others, some researchers believe that people with migraine triggered by foods might actually have a hidden food sensitivity.4
Determining food triggers
To determine which foods, if any, may contribute to your migraines, it can be helpful to keep track of your diet in your migraine journal. By writing down when migraines occurred, what you recently ate, and details of each migraine symptom, you can help determine if your migraine triggers include food and drink.
Possible food triggers can also be identified using an elimination diet. During an elimination diet, all possible triggers are avoided for several weeks. Individual foods on the potential trigger list are then re-introduced one by one every few days to determine if you have a negative reaction. If the foods do not trigger migraine symptoms, they can be added back into your diet. Foods that are identified as triggers should be avoided.1
For some people, food and drink are migraine triggers. For others, missing meals or overindulging in a specific type of food can lead to an attack. Eating meals at regularly scheduled times or having healthy snacks between meals can help those who find this to be a trigger.5
Do changes in diet impact your migraines?
Nutrition and supplements for migraine prevention
There are a number of dietary supplements that have shown promise in clinical trials for their ability to reduce or prevent migraine attacks. While the recommended dose of most vitamins and minerals can be achieved through a healthy, balanced diet that contains a variety of fruits and vegetables, some people can benefit from adding dietary supplements.
Some dietary supplements and herbs that may help:1,6
Talk to your doctor about what to expect with treatment with elimination or diet adjustments for migraine. You should also talk to your doctor before taking any supplements or herbs.
Before beginning treatment for migraine, tell your doctor about all your health conditions and any other drugs, vitamins, or supplements you are taking. This includes over-the-counter drugs.