It can often be really tricky to figure out how to properly nourish one’s body in the midst of a migraine attack. This is certainly often true for me. For one, my migraines are usually accompanied by egregious nausea that makes my appetite go poof. The last thing I want to do when fighting migraine symptoms is to eat..well…anything really. Then there is the fatigue I feel before, during, and after an attack. I just can’t muster up the energy to think about getting or preparing food when all I want to do is lay in a cold, dark, and silent room to recover. But, migraine or not… ya gotta eat.
In this article I discuss some of the barriers to eating well while suffering from migraine attacks, some food prep I try to always have on hand in the event of a migraine attack, as well as easy and quick ways I make sure I stay nourished when I don’t have the ability to go out and buy food or cook my own meals.
Barriers to good eats
Many who suffer from migraine know all too well how difficult it can be to complete even our most practiced tasks when dealing with migraine symptoms. Eating is no exception…but skipping meals is certainly not the most helpful thing when suffering from a migraine, and can make it worse. For me, add to that a long list of allergies and a vegetarian lifestyle, and something as simple as eating can quickly become a hefty challenge. I often get a hold of my partner and caretaker during particularly straining attacks and ask for help in making food, and that is always a huge relief! However, quite often that is not an option. There are plenty of times when I am alone with a migraine, unable to really get myself up, knowing I am long overdue to eat something, without an inkling of energy or desire to do so.
Nausea and vomiting are commonly associated with migraine, and many sufferers note that they feel uneasy abdominal pain during an attack. For me, when I get very nauseous the last thing I can think about is eating food, but this tends to just make my other symptoms: pulsating in my head, dizziness, inability to think and communicate clearly, even more pronounced. Fighting nausea and needing to eat can seem like a confusing, contradictory duo and it takes a fine balance for me to be attentive to both.
Things I avoid
Frier oil and the smell of it burning is a huge migraine trigger for me. It also isn’t too pleasing on a nauseous stomach, so fried foods are usually way out of the question. I also am rarely able to keep down a heavy or large food item during an attack, so I opt for light fare and food items that are easy on my own digestion. I also avoid super sweet and sugary foods when I have a migraine and feel nauseous, as well as heavily salted foods. Having both migraine that is sometimes triggered by sharp sensory experiences as well as high blood pressure further confirm my aversion to very salty foods.
Things I keep on hand:
Instead of heavy, sugary, salty or fried snacks, I like to keep fresh, light foods in my fridge for the times when I just have to eat something but I don’t want to think too much about it and I don’t want my nausea and vomiting to get any worse. Foods that are staples for me that fit into my chronic migraine life are:
Baby Carrots, Celery Sticks, Dry Roasted Almonds (or other unsalted nuts), less sweet fruits like Green Apples, and Plums, as well as easy to go down foods like plain yogurt (which often feels soothing on my throat.) I also love to have low sugar protein bars on hand because they are a filling, unwrap-and-go food that can easily be bought in bulk. These foods are low maintenance and can be kept nearby with relative ease. Some can even be kept bedside so that I can just reach over and grab them when I finally get enough energy to try to eat.
For my larger, more filling meals, I opt for things like store-bought microwavable steamed lentils and steamable frozen vegetables, premade microwavable whole potatoes, or premade, microwavable Kasha. These foods are filling and hot but relatively unobtrusive to my digestive tract and can be ready in minutes with little effort. While it is important to remember that different individuals can tolerate different foods (and we all have differing tastes), these are just a few food items I have found that allow me to still make sure I get some food in, while experiencing migraine attacks that would otherwise make it difficult to eat at all.
One other mega important thing I try to make sure I am doing always, but especially during a migraine attack, is drinking LOTS of water. Not only does this help me stay hydrated, but it usually helps with my nausea and keeps me from feeling too hungry when the nausea passes, which helps when I can’t make or buy food right away.
I would love to hear what your migraine food Go’s and No’s are! What foods do you gravitate towards when you have a migraine attack? Which foods are off limits? How do you cope with nausea? Let’s discuss in the comments.