Food for migraine is one of the major problems that affects many people all over the world. The pain, throbbing and nausea associated with migraine attacks are just some of the reasons people suffer from this condition. This article will review the causes, symptoms and remedies for migraines.
Food For Migraines Help
If you’re living with migraine, you probably know that certain foods and drinks can trigger an attack. But even though it’s important to know what to avoid, focusing on the foods to add to your diet matters, too: It may help reduce the number or severity of migraine attacks or other types of headaches.
“Food really is the first medicine,” says Wynne Brown, MD, the medical director of integrative medicine at Wake Forest Baptist Health in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. “When you’re trying to manage migraine, what you eat — and when you eat — can make all the difference,” she says.
Being open to change in your diet is a good start, says Dr. Brown. “Often, we can get in a rut and eat the same things over and over. By adding different fresh fruits and vegetables to our diet, we can reap benefits in terms of water content as well as vitamins and minerals,” she says.
A diet with a variety of good foods will make a big difference both in migraine management and overall health and may improve imbalances that contribute to headaches, says Brown.
If you’re looking for ways to change your diet to better manage your migraine, here are some expert tips on the foods and drinks to help you on your journey.
1 Bananas Give You Energy When You Need It
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Looking for something quick and easy that could help stave off a migraine attack or an episode of hypoglycemia, which could lead to a headache? Reach for a banana rather than highly processed foods like granola bars or candy, suggests Brown.
“Bananas are a great food for quick energy recovery, and they’re high in magnesium, which can be helpful when people have headaches,” she says.
Bananas are about 74 percent water, so there are hydration benefits as well, Brown says.
2 Watermelon Provides Fluids to Keep You Hydrated
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Interesting fact: Watermelon is actually considered a vegetable because of the way it’s grown, although some people would argue it belongs firmly in the fruit category because of its sweet flavor and higher sugar content.
Watermelon also has (surprise!) a lot of water in it. It’s actually 92 percent water, according to the National Watermelon Promotion Board. Getting plenty of water — both by drinking it and by consuming foods that contain lots of water — will help you stay hydrated.
Getting enough fluids is important for all aspects of health, including migraine, says Brown. About one in three people with migraine say dehydration is a trigger, according to the American Migraine Foundation.
“Many fruits and vegetables can have a hydrating effect, and the fresher it is, the higher the water content,” says Brown.
3 Seeds and Nuts Provide Magnesium and Fiber
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Magnesium deficiency is one of the most common nutritional causes of persistent or cluster headaches, says Sarah Thomsen Ferreira, RD, MPH, a registered dietitian with Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine in Ohio.
“Prioritizing ample amounts of magnesium-rich foods daily is one of the best ways to keep these headaches at bay,” Ferreira says.
Flaxseeds, sprouted pumpkin seeds, and chia seeds are all good sources of magnesium, says Ferreira. Pumpkin seeds are also high in fiber, preventing the constipation that sometimes comes with migraine. Cashews are high in magnesium, too, she says.
4 Herbal Teas Have Multiple Headache Benefits
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Tea can help with overall hydration, which in itself can prevent or relieve a headache, and depending on the type of tea, there are other benefits as well, according to Brown.
“Peppermint can be effective in relieving sinus pressure,” says Brown. Sinus congestion and pressure are common symptoms of a sinus headache, brought on by inflammation and swelling of the sinuses, according to the American Migraine Foundation.
“Peppermint oil is used as an essential oil for headache or migraine. You could put peppermint oil or fresh peppermint in a cup of hot water and inhale the steam and also drink the liquid,” says Brown.
A study published in 2019 in the International Journal of Preventive Medicine found that a drop of diluted peppermint oil dripped into the nose was effective in decreasing the intensity of headaches caused by migraine in about 42 percent of participants who tried it.
There is some evidence that ginger tea can help with a tension headache, according to Brown.
Also, a study published in Phytotherapy Research found that drinking a half teaspoon of powdered ginger in warm water helped reduce migraine severity.
5 Coffee Can Stop a Headache — or Cause One
Coffee contains caffeine, which is added to some types of headache medications. But you can get too much of a good thing; coffee may lead to “caffeine rebound” or a caffeine withdrawal headache, according to the National Headache Foundation.
A cup of coffee is a quick fix for this type of headache, says Brown. “It’s important to remember that caffeine can stay in your system for up to five hours,” she says. For some people, this may lead to an afternoon headache once their morning cup of coffee wears off, she adds.
If your caffeine consumption is causing withdrawal headaches, you might try cutting down by drinking “half caff” or decaffeinated coffee, suggests Brown. “Even decaf coffee has some caffeine in it,” she adds.
6 Chocolate Can Ease a Caffeine Withdrawal Headache
Everyone wants to hear that chocolate can help a caffeine withdrawal headache, says Brown with a laugh. “Some people believe chocolate is a food group all its own,” she says.
According to ConsumerLab.com, an independent company that tests health and nutrition products, most dark chocolates have about 40 to 50 milligrams of caffeine per 1½ ounce serving, which is about the same amount you would get in a cup of green tea and about half the amount in a cup of regular brewed coffee. So depending on the person, a serving of dark chocolate might be enough to ease a caffeine withdrawal headache.
Dark chocolate is also a good source of magnesium, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
7 Berries May Relieve Sinus Pressure
Smaller fruits tend to have more exposure to pesticides, and so Brown recommends getting organic berries whenever possible.
“Eating things that are high in antioxidants can help to relieve sinus pressure over time,” says Brown. Blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries are all good choices.
Foods to eat during a migraine attack
Eating a healthful diet can help prevent migraines. A healthful diet should consist of fresh foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.
Fresh foods are less likely to have added food preservatives, such as monosodium glutamate (MSG). Preservatives can trigger migraines in some people, so avoiding foods that contain them can help.
The Association of Migraine Disorders have created a list of “migraine safe foods” to guide a person’s food choices. These foods generally do not contain preservatives, yeasts, flavorings, and other substances that are potential migraine triggers, such as nitrites and phenylalanine.
Below, we look at which foods to eat and avoid within a range of food groups:
Bread, grains, and cereals
Foods to eat:
- most cereals, except for those containing nuts, dried fruits, or aspartame
- plain or sesame seed bagels
- quick bread, such as pumpernickel or zucchini bread
- most plain pretzels and potato chips
- unflavored crackers, such as saltines or Club crackers
- white, wheat, rye, or pumpernickel bread from a store
Foods to avoid:
- flavored crackers, such as cheddar cheese crackers
- fresh bread that is homemade or from a grocer’s bakery
- pizza, as it is also a fresh bread
- highly flavored or seasoned chips
- soft pretzels
Meats, nuts, and seeds
Foods to eat:
- fresh beef, chicken, fish, lamb, pork, turkey, or veal
- poppy seeds
- pumpkin seeds
- sesame seeds
- sunflower seeds without natural flavors
Foods to avoid:
- beef and chicken livers
- breaded meats
- marinated meats
- flavored popcorn
- nut butters
Salad dressings and sauces
Foods to eat:
- homemade dips that use fresh ingredients without artificial flavorings
- homemade ranch dressings
- oil and distilled white vinegar salad dressings
Foods to avoid:
- bottled salad dressings
- pre-packaged dips, such as salsa, alfredo sauce, or mustard dips
Many bottled salad dressings and pre-packaged dips contain additives and preservatives that can trigger migraines. Additives to avoid include MSG, nitrites, and aspartame.
Aged cheese and red wine vinegar may also contribute to migraines, so it is best to limit their consumption.
Vegetables and fruits
Foods to eat:
- fresh fruits
- fresh vegetables
- preservative-free bagged lettuce
Examples of vegetables to eat include peppers, zucchini, fresh potatoes, carrots, and cauliflower.
Foods to avoid:
- boxed instant mashed potatoes
- dried fruits containing sulfite preservatives
- citrus fruits
- lima beans
- navy beans
Some fruits may also contain pollens or other compounds, and these can cause a histamine release that could trigger a migraine. Examples include bananas, oranges, grapefruits, raspberries, and plums.
Other prevention tips
Eating several small meals throughout the day can also help maintain steady blood sugar levels and prevent hunger, which can trigger migraines in some people.
A nutritious approach to the diet can help a person maintain a healthy weight too. According to the American Migraine Foundation, being overweight can make migraines more likely or worsen their symptoms.
9 Foods That Can Help Soothe a Headache
When a headache strikes, you may run through your usual routine: Turn out the lights, lie down and pop a pain pill. But did you know that certain foods may ease, and even prevent, headaches? Add these soothing foods to your shopping list and find out for yourself.
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The side you love with dinner could help soothe your aching head, especially if your headache is alcohol-related, says Erin Palinski, RD, a registered dietician in private practice in New Jersey. “Since alcohol is a diuretic, it can not only cause dehydration, but also cause you to lose electrolytes such as potassium,” she says. “Eating potassium-rich foods can help to alleviate hangover-related headaches.” Surprisingly, a baked potato (with the skin) is one of the most impressive sources of potassium, containing a whopping 721 mg. By comparison, a banana serves up 467 mg.
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Dehydration is a major cause of headaches, explains Stella Metsovas, BS, CN, a nutritionist in private practice in Laguna Beach, California. So instead of popping a pain pill next time your head throbs, consider reaching for water-rich foods, like watermelon. “The natural water contained in both fruits and vegetables contains essential minerals, like magnesium, that are key in headache prevention,” she says. Try this tasty, hydrating watermelon smoothie: In a blender, combine 2 cups seeded watermelon chunks, 1 cup cracked ice, ½ cup plain yogurt, a drizzle of honey and ½ tsp grated ginger. Blend and enjoy. (Bonus: The ginger can help ease headache-induced nausea symptoms!) Other foods with high water content include berries, cucumber, melon, soups, oatmeal, tomatoes and lettuce.
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Java has been a folk remedy for headaches for centuries, but does it really work? Yes, but in moderation, says Palinski. “Alcohol can cause blood vessels to expand, exasperating headaches,” she explains. “Since the caffeine in coffee is a vasoconstrictor, it can help alleviate a headache by helping to reduce the size of the blood vessels.” But hold off on the triple venti. Too much coffee could make matters worse. “Caffeine is also a diuretic, which can increase dehydration and increase the severity of a headache,” adds Palinski. “The bottom line: One cup of coffee may be helpful for decreasing hangover-related headaches, but drinking coffee throughout the day would not be the best choice for curing a headache.”
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Low-carb dieters beware: Too little carbohydrates and you might bring on a headache. “When you follow a low-carbohydrate diet, you begin to deplete glycogen stores, which are a main source of energy to the brain,” says Palinski. “This also causes an increase in fluid losses from the body, which can trigger dehydration. By reducing energy to the brain and causing dehydration, these low-carbohydrate diets can trigger headaches.” When one hits, consider reaching for healthy carbs, such as those found in whole-wheat bread, oatmeal, fruit or yogurt. Bonus: A healthy boost of carbs may also improve your mood, as they help your body to release serotonin, the feel-good hormone.
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According to past research, magnesium, found in almonds, may protect your body from the brunt of a headache by relaxing blood vessels. Migraine sufferers may also experience relief by following a diet rich in magnesium, some experts believe. “To increase your magnesium intake, try consuming magnesium-rich foods such as bananas, dried apricots, avocados, almonds, cashews, brown rice, legumes and seeds,” suggests Palinski.
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Can you say caliente? It may sound unusual, but spicy foods such as salsa and hot peppers may help you snap back from a headache faster. “Depending on the type of headache, spicy foods may be helpful,” says Palinski. “If a headache is due to sinus congestion, spicy foods may help to decrease congestion and open the airways, helping to decrease pressure and the accompanying headache.”
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When your head is pounding, your body may be calling out for calcium, says Metsovas. “The brain depends on calcium to function efficiently,” she adds. “Make sure you are consuming calcium-rich foods, like fat-free plain Greek yogurt, which is a great source of calcium, with no added sugars and beneficial probiotics for your gut.”
Sprinkle them on salads, in oatmeal or on top of soups and stir-fries. Why? These tiny seeds pack a big nutritional punch. “Sesame seeds are rich in vitamin E, which may help to stabilize estrogen levels and prevent migraines during your period,” says Palinski. “It also improves circulation, which helps prevent headaches.” Bonus: Sesame seeds are also rich in magnesium, which may give them added headache-preventing power.
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What worked for Popeye may work for your headache. “Spinach has been shown to help decrease blood pressure, prevent hangovers and may help to alleviate headaches,” says Palinksi. “Try using spinach leaves instead of lettuce for a headache-preventing power salad.” This summer salad is packed with headache-soothing foods: Toss together 2 cups spinach leaves, 3/4 cups cubed watermelon, 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots and 2 Tbsp chopped walnuts or almonds, and drizzle with raspberry vinaigrette.