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Could Dairy Withdrawal be my recent trigger?

I am on day 19 of my current migraine. It varies in pain from a 4-10 in intensity at any given time. I've been to see my doctor and also had one trip to the emergency room. I am at my wit's end and trying anything and everything to ease my pain.

Approximately three weeks ago I decided to try and eat healthier and gave up dairy and Diet Coke. Cold turkey, both of them. It occurred to me that I was having DC withdrawals last week so I reintroduced it in small doses. Yet, my head is still killing me.

After another agonizing day, I asked my husband if he thought I was having withdrawal from the dairy. So we started researching. I've found some compelling information supporting that I could be going through dairy withdrawal. I am posting this here to see if anyone else has experienced this or heard of it? I actually feel like I may have found the answer.

I'm sending my husband out to buy me some milk and I will report back. I pray that this is my answer because I'm almost out of the hydrocodone the hospital gave me and two more weeks before I can get in to see a neurologist.

  1. KBAZ,

    There are several things here to talk about, so let's start slowly so you're not overwhelmed...

    The first thing that's important to understand is that the Migraine brain doesn't like change or inconsistency of any kind. Our triggers almost always have to do with creating a change or inconsistency within the homeostasis of our body that is incompatible with what our brain can withstand, and so a Migraine is triggered. So, what we need to do is to try to minimize the inconsistencies and changes whenever and wherever possible.

    The other important thing to understand is a condition called Medication Overuse Headache (MOH), which used to be called rebound. Here is a link that describes some of it, and I'll try to help a little more as well:

    There are many things that can cause MOH, and this includes caffeine and opioid medicines like hydrocodone. MOH can result in daily MOH pain and can contribute to the progression of episodic Migraine to chronic Migraine. A Migraine and headache specialist can help you sort through your history etc and help diagnose whether MOH is a problem for you to overcome in addition to the Migraines or not. Here is a link to help you find a specialist nearest you:

    The Coke problem may be caffeine withdrawal, and a doctor can help you with that situation as it can be pretty difficult to overcome. Cold turkey is often very difficult for a Migraine patient as it can trigger really awful headache pain and require more patience to overcome than most people have without help. Understand that the longer you have been taking caffeine, the more difficult it will be to eliminate it. It can also result in increased sensitivity after withdrawal. Sometimes this can be a good thing, as caffeine can also act as a Migraine abortive, but it can also cause MOH to hit again, quite hard and quickly.

    Another prominent trigger is artificial sweetener. Since you were drinking diet soda, it's possible that removing the sweeteners may have caused an imbalance that could also be contributing to headache symptoms.

    Eliminating milk is more often relief for a Migraineur, than a trigger. However, again, eliminating something that is regularly used or eaten such as milk, could potentially create an imbalance or change that could result in triggering attacks.

    Depending upon your reaction to cleaning up your diet, it may make more sense to talk to your doctor about eliminating potential triggers one at a time. When multiple items are changed, we can't know which one was the culprit, or if the culprit really was the sheer number of changes that triggered the attacks. We are also very careful about adding things such as new medicines, one at a time for the same reason.

    Are you on a preventive medicine yet? This might be something to talk to your doctor about too. Preventives can't necessarily prevent all your attacks, but they can help you get through withdrawal related to MOH and they can be helpful re: the number and severity of your Migraines. Baby steps and combining multiple techniques and treatments are often the best way to get better Migraine management.

    Hang in there. This is going to take some patience. Good luck. If it really is the milk, then that would be something pretty easy to manipulate. Will keep fingers and toes crossed for you!


    1. Thank you so much Ellen!

      1. Hi Kirsten,

        I found your post by chance whilst searching for answers. I know your post is old, but curious to know what your outcome was. Was it really the dairy? I’m asking as your story is identical to mine and I’m at my wits end. I hope everything worked out for you.

    2. Good luck KBAZ. All my best wishes are that you will find your answer soon!


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