Coffee cups, beans, slices and loaf of white bread fly into garbage chute.

Elimination Diet: Go ALL In

We know that there are countless foods that may trigger a migraine. But understanding which ones are your specific migraine triggers may feel like a bit of a treasure hunt.

I get it.

Using an elimination diet to identify migraine food triggers

I sat in my neurologist's office years ago when he handed me a list of foods and said, “Oh, by the way, these are some foods that may trigger migraines.” The act of finding out which ones directly affected me… well, that was on me. That’s why I decided to start with an elimination diet. This is the process in which you eliminate all potential triggers for a period of time. Then you re-introduce the foods one at a time in a methodical way to see if you have a reaction. The result – clarity on your specific triggers.

Migraine food triggers aren't always food allergies

As a nutrition coach that takes many clients through the elimination diet, I’ve spoken with many physicians about the diet and they’ve said that the elimination diet is often more effective at identifying food intolerances than some lab tests. The main reason is that you may not have a medical allergy to a specific food, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t trigger a migraine for you. I am a perfect example of this. I don’t test positive for a nut allergy. I don’t need to carry around an epi-pen because I won’t have an anaphylactic reaction if I have nuts. However, I will get a migraine if I eat them.

The elimination diet was probably the most helpful step I took in gaining control of my migraines.

How do you do an elimination diet?

First, you need to identify the suspected foods of your particular symptoms. In the case of migraine, you may choose to eliminate:

Then determine the duration for which you’ll be eliminating them. Plan for a minimum of 30 days, but three months is ideal.

Do you need support?

Next, determine if this is something you feel you need support with or want to venture on your own. A support system can look different for each person. Some people work with nutrition coaches to guide them through the process. Others just need accountability partners and you can achieve this through a family member or friend or even in the countless communities on social media now.

Develop a plan

Now it’s time to develop your plan. What foods will you be eating in place of those you eliminated? Do you know simple recipes to prepare those meals? What’s your plan for social gatherings? Scouting out some restaurants in advance that are allergy-friendly is key for success.

Commit to the elimination diet

It’s important once you commit to and start the elimination, that you go ALL in. This is a defined period of time, it’s not forever. So, give yourself the very best chance of gaining clear information on your specific migraine triggers. Every cheat that you have during this time clouds that information.

Re-introduce one food at a time

Once you’ve gone through the identified time frame introduce one food at a time. In other words, don’t have pizza and wine your first meal off the diet because then you don’t know if it’s gluten, dairy, or alcohol that triggered the migraine.

You have a clean slate at the end of the elimination diet, maximize it! The information you gain is golden for migraine management.

Have you ever done an elimination diet? What was your experience? Was it helpful? Please share any tips below.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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