Migraine! A word that is synonymous with the overwhelming pain and disability that it causes. Migraine is more than a headache. The intensity and symptoms vary for each person and may include head pain, often occurring on one side the head, nausea &/or vomiting, sensitivity to light or sound, changes in vision, fatigue, muscle stiffness &/or dizziness. While migraine is a complex disease, there are some things suffers can do with changes to diet and targeted supplements that can help improve their quality of life.
Even under the best of circumstances, migraine pain is temporarily immobilizing and negatively impacts the affected person’s ability to function. In more serious cases, migraine interferes with every aspect of daily life and can cause long-term disability. Migraines are more common than most people realize and affect approximately 12% of the population or approximately 40 million Americans, with the majority of sufferers being women.
Migraine is often a progressive disease that for many of the afflicted becomes more challenging to manage over time. While living with migraine can seem like a never ending, uphill battle, there are dietary interventions that may help you regain more control over your migraines and your life.
Because of the complexity of migraine and how it effects individuals, there is not a one-size-fits-all approach that can be taken when addressing diet in migraine; however, research has shown that there are a few diets and food consumption patterns that can help decrease the severity of headaches in patients with migraines. These include the DASH Diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), the Ketogenic (Keto) Diet and elimination diets.
The focus of the DASH Diet is to help decrease blood pressure by lowering the amount of sodium consumed in your diet. This can be achieved by using sodium free spices, not adding salt when cooking, limiting consumption of processed foods and minimizing consumption of foods where the sodium content of the food is not readily available, as is the case with many restaurants.
While the DASH diet may focus on low sodium and low fat foods, the Ketogenic (Keto) diet emphasizes consumption of foods that are rich in fat. In addition to a heavy emphasis on fat intake, the Keto diet is also characterized by moderate intake of protein and relatively low intake of carbohydrates (typically 25 g or less per day). Consumption of higher levels of dietary fats and low levels of carbohydrates allows your body to burn fats as the primary energy source, rather than carbohydrates, which then places your body into a state of ketosis.
When following the Keto diet, it is important not to neglect vegetables and to focus on healthier protein sources such as cold water fish, organic chicken and turkey, plant protein sources (eg., pea and hemp) and/or nuts. Examples of healthier fat sources include olive oil, avocado oil, nut oils, grass fed beef, flax seeds and cold water fish.
Several elimination diets have been shown to be effective in the management of migraine including eliminating foods and food ingredients which are known to provoke migraine. The elimination plans include a low fat vegan + elimination diet, common food allergy elimination diet and food additives and provocative food chemicals. Some of the more commonly cited foods and food ingredients linked to migraine are nuts and peanuts, citrus, beans, aged and fermented dairy products, gluten, MSG and related food additives, caffeine, chocolate, artificial sweeteners and processed meats, to name a few.
Along with diet, certain dietary supplements have been shown in clinical studies to have some level of beneficial effect on migraine. The most commonly cited of these supplements in the clinical literature are:
There is emerging evidence that cannabinoids, terpenes and related compounds found in the cannabis plant provide benefits in the management of migraine, headache and pain. Consuming a whole foods based diet is also critically important for improving and maintaining overall health, particularly when a complex, progressive disease such as migraine is present.
It is also important to note that each person’s body can respond differently to dietary interventions and dietary supplements. Our bodies are unique and it can be challenging to identify that combination of interventions that is best suited for each person’s needs.
To learn more about the latest in migraine prevention and how your dietary patterns, dietary supplements, epigenetic and hormonal risk factors, blood chemistry markers and lifestyle fit together to help influence overall health and wellness become a subscription member and join our community of experts today!