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Are Foods Contributing to Your Migraine Headaches?

Many things can contribute to triggering migraine headaches in a susceptible person.  The first thing many people think of is muscle tension, stress, sleep deprivation, etc. While those are definitely important factors, foods can also play a role in triggering this uncomfortable condition.
With between 60 and 80% of the immune system being in the gut, certain foods can cause the immune system to react by increasing inflammation, which can lead to migraines (depending on the individual’s unique immune system & physiology). Therefore, certain foods may trigger migraines in one person, but cause a completely different reaction, or no reaction, in another.
In order to determine if foods are contributing to your symptoms, the first step is to keep a food intake log and track symptoms accordingly. All beverages, food, and supplements should be tracked for at least a week. Symptoms should be tracked on a rating scale of 1-4 (1 being very mild, 4 being severe). Tracking will help identify patterns and point out which foods to trial eliminating.
According to the American Nutrition Association, the list of foods, food additives, and beverages that can precipitate headaches in migraine-susceptible persons includes the following:
  • Aged or strong cheese
  • Cured meats (hot dogs, bacon, ham, and salami)
  • Citrus fruits
  • Fatty or fried foods
  • Chocolate, nuts
  • Monosodium glutamate
  • Food dyes, additives
  • Pickled herring, chicken livers
  • Ice cream
  • Yogurt, sour cream
  • Meat and vegetable extracts
  • Pork and seafood
  • Canned figs, broad beans, tomatoes
  • Caffeine-containing drinks (coffee, tea, all “cola” soft drinks)
  • Caffeine withdrawal
  • Alcoholic drinks (red wine, beer)
  • Aspartame, nitrites, sulfites.
Does this mean you should go and eliminate all of these right away if you suffer from migraine headaches? Definitely not! If you consume any of these items regularly and suffer from migraines, it may be a good starting point to specifically track when your migraines occur around having these foods. To dive deeper, we suggest meeting with a registered dietitian for a individual consultation to help guide your plan. 
Written by Megan Green, RD, LD
Adapted from Today’s Dietitian