Diet Can Impact Migraines
Eliminating that morning “Cup of Joe,” consuming processed foods high in nitrites or monosodium glutamate (MSG) and enjoying too much alcohol are potential headache triggers for people battling migraines, says Vincent Martin, MD, professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine.
An October 31st 2016 release from the university reports that there are two different approaches to preventing headaches with diet. The first approach would be an elimination diet that avoids foods and beverages known to trigger headaches. The second approach would be to follow a comprehensive diet that may prevent headaches, explains Martin, co-director of the Headache and Facial Pain Center at UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute and an expert in the area of migraine. His conclusions and others come after performing an exhaustive literature review of more than 180 research studies on the subject of migraine and diet.
Martin’s two-part review, is publsihed online in the Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain. It is co-authored by Dr. Brinder Vij, associate professor in the UC Department of Neurology and Rehabilitation Medicine.
The release quotes Martin as saying, “One of the most important triggers for headache is the withdrawal of caffeine. Let’s say you regularly pound down three or four cups of coffee every morning and you decide to skip your morning routine one day, you will likely have full-fledged caffeine withdrawal headache that day.”
That said, too much coffee may also present a risk. No more than 400 milligrams daily–one cup is 125 milligrams–is probably the maximum for migraine patients, says Martin. “Large amounts of caffeine can bring on anxiety and depressive symptoms as well as headaches,” he explains.
Another trigger for migraine is MSG, which is a flavor enhancer used in a variety of processed foods, including frozen or canned foods, soups, international foods, snack foods, salad dressing, seasoning salts, ketchup, barbecue sauce, and heavily in Chinese cooking, says Martin.
“You eliminate it by eating fewer processed foods,” explains Martin. “You eat more natural things such as fresh vegetables, fresh fruits and fresh meats. MSG is most provocative when consumed in liquids such as soups.”
Nitrites are preservatives food in processed meats such as bacon, sausage, ham and lunch meat to preserve color and flavor. Martin says a diary study found that five percent of individuals with migraine were statistically more likely to have an attack on days when they consume nitrites. Use of nitrites in foods has declined with stronger government regulation though checking labels remains a good idea, he explains.