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Migraine Relief Cookbooks Use "Foods to Avoid"

My doctor has recommended that I go on a migraine diet. As a vegetarian for 45 years, most of my staples are now on the avoid list. I ordered two migraine relief cookbooks and am very confused. They both use some, and one uses many, items on the foods to avoid list, i.e. tomatoes, curry powder, paprika, mushrooms, spinach. I'd like to go all-in on using diet to control the vestibular migraines. What to do?

  1. Hello zydecobev, thank you for reaching out! I hear how overwhelming and confusing the "foods to avoid" list feels set alongside cookbooks geared toward eating for migraine management. Did your doctor recommend just beginning to eat differently and seeing what happens or doing an elimination diet to determine what foods may actually be triggering for you? All bodies are unique and what effects one person negatively may not have the same effect on another. I thought this article series on food triggers and diet might be of interest to you: https://migraine.com/blog/migraine-food-triggers-introduction/ It might give you some ideas on what approach feels best for you. I would encourage you to follow up with your doctor to gain better clarity on how this process should look for you! Please keep us posted on how you proceed and how you are feeling. Wishing you a gentle day. ~Allyson (Migraine.com team)

    1. Hi zydecobev,

      Thank you for reaching out to us with the question - it's a good one!!

      Let's talk about triggers! Not everyone with migraine disease has food triggers. I know many who don't! And there is new thinking that food triggers may not be triggers at all, rather cravings before a migraine attack. For example, we may crave chocolate before a migraine attack and eat it and then get hit with the headache phase. It may not be the chocolate that is triggering the attack, rather craving it is the trigger so to speak. Does that make sense? the process already began with the craving.

      The other issue with food triggers/cravings is we all aren't triggered by the same foods. I have limited food triggers - raw onion and MSG - may trigger a migraine attack, but not always. What is more problematic for me is a combination of triggers. By this I mean if I get dehydrated, or have an irregular sleep schedule, then eat raw onion, I may get an attack. However, if I just eat a tiny bit of raw onion, and there are no other triggers involved (odors, lighting, skipping meals, changes in barometric pressure, etc.) I may not get a migraine attack. It's a bit confusing to tell you the truth! This is a great introduction article on food triggers you may want to take a look at; https://migraine.com/blog/migraine-food-triggers-introduction/.

      Have you had an opportunity to keep a detailed migraine diary for a few months? If not I would encourage you to do so and here's why. When we keep a detailed diary, we may be able to identify any patterns and/or triggers our attacks have. I kept one for my son when he was about nine years old and having more and more migraine attacks. We were able to determine his migraine attack triggers included interrupted sleeping patterns, dehydration, becoming over heated and too many nitrates. This still holds true for him today, he is 25 years old. This article has more information on how to keep one; https://migraine.com/blog/keeping-migraine-diary-basics/.

      Vestibular migraine attacks can be tough. Peggy, one of our moderators deals with this. I'm going to ask her to follow up with you as well.

      Wishing you a low pain day and if you have questions, please reach out!!
      Nancy

      1. ,
        This is a great question, thanks for joining us. The things I mention below are based on my opinion only. None of us give medical advice here.

        You are correct in concluding that books can contradict each other. Some books recommend a gluten free plan, some recommend a ketogenic diet, some just tell you to avoid different kinds of foods that may be migraine triggers.

        My dizziness specialist recommended the book "Heal your Headache: The 1-2-3 Program for Taking Charge of Your Pain" by David Buchholtz. I looked at the book on Amazon to see if it was worth buying, but I found some information in the book to be contradictory to what I have learned from medical professionals I hear from in migraine communities. For example the Buchholtz book states that all headaches are migraine attacks. Watch for any book about diets that claim their program is a "cure" for migraine or if they mention things about migraine you know is false.

        There are lots of other cookbooks with their own solution to vestibular and other types of headache. I tried going gluten free as adult for about 2 1/2 years and nothing changed for me. As a child with undiagnosed migraine, I was put on an extremely limited diet to help my symptoms and I continued to have problems. This was extremely bad because I felt malnourished at a young age.

        As you can see, I'm rather biased about "migraine diets", but there are people that do find certain diets helpful to them.
        Some diets recommend avoiding certain foods and others recommend a ketogenic diet, to avoid gluten, sodium, caffeine, sugar and more.

        The main thing that has helped me is to eat protein and carbohydrates together as meals and snacks. My blood sugar levels get too low and this can trigger an attack for me.

        I think Nancy gave you some sound information on triggers to start with. Not everyone has food triggers, and I don't know why Vestibular experts automatically want people to follow certain diets. My doctor emphasized low sodium and no caffiene. I tried that and it made no difference. Personally, I just try to eat as healthy as possible.

        Please keep coming back if you have more questions. I don't know if you are aware of this, but there is quite a bit of inormation on Vestibular migraine on the Vestibular Disorders Association's website: https://vestibular.org
        ~ Peggy (Migraine.com team)

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