by Carlie Saint-Laurent, RDN

Did you know headaches, specifically migraines, effect 12% of the adult population?  This equates to 30 million adults! This negatively affects the productivity of the economy, significantly. Migraines occur between the ages of 10-40 and wean after 50 years old.  Headaches can be accompanied with nausea, vomiting, vasospasm, sensitivity to light or sound, increased coagulation, and visual disturbances.

Let’s first  note the different types of migraine:

1)Migraines with aura (MA), also known as classic migraines,  are headaches causes by visual and sound disturbances.

2) Migraines without aura, also known as MO, which is more prevalent.

Awareness of the type, severity, and the symptoms of the headaches could help us provide better recommendations for clients.

The possible causes and associations of  migraines are; decreased sleep and food intake, fatigue, stress, anxiety, melatonin disturbances, exposure to light, celiac disease, women on their menstrual cycle due to lowered estrogen levels , and certain medications and supplements like black cohosh, ephedra, and sibutramine.  Furthermore, a BMI greater than 25 increases risk and/or worsens migraines.  It’s important to keep in mind that headaches can be multifactorial and vary case by case.

Supplements and herbs that have little to no evidence but may help:

  • magnesium
  • Coenzyme Q10
  • riboflavin
  • ginger
  • red pepper
  • evening primrose
  • feverfew
  • red pepper
  • Melatonin
  • vitamin D

 

Nutritional considerations:

  • Keep a Diary/ record of foods consumed with onset headache. This can provide your Family Food Registered Dietitian with valuable data.
  • Monitor symptoms aftereliminating a potential food trigger from diet
  • Detect any onsets with foods containing tyramine, histamine, nitrites, nitrates, aspartame, monosodium glutamate, phenylethylamine, and sulfites
  • Get adequate sleep/relaxation and overall self care (exercise, smoking cessation, meditation, ect)
  • Regular mealtimes and patterns, as skipping meals can lead to headaches
  • Moderation of caffeine, According to the American migraine foundation, coffee consumed sporadically can reduce migraines and recommends less then 100 mg of caffeine.

Possible headache-causing foods

Alcohol  
Caffeine: Soft drinks, coffee, tea
Chocolate  
Fermented foods: Red wine, chicken livers. Sauerkraut
Fruits: Bananas, figs, raisins, some citrus fruits
Gluten  
Histamine-containing foods: Avocados, aged cheese, spinach, tomatoes, yogurt cider, dried fruit, eggplant
Ice cream: If sensitive to the cold
Monosodium glutamate (MSG)  
Nuts, peanuts, soy foods: May contain vasodilators
Processed Meats: Hot dogs, bacon, ham, jerky, corned beef, salami,
Sulfites: Shrimp, dried fruits packaged potato items, salad bar items
Tyramine: Fish, chocolate, soy sauce, cheese, alcoholic beverages, processed meats
Vegetables: Onions, pea pods, lima beans

 

Sources:

Escott-Stump, S. (2015). Nutrition and diagnosis-related care. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer.

Halker, R., Ailani, J., Dougherty, C., & Slavin, M. (2016). Migraine and Diet. Retrieved from https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/understanding-migraine/migraine-and-diet/

Shaik, M. M., & Gan, S. H. (2015). Vitamin Supplementation as Possible Prophylactic Treatment against Migraine with Aura and Menstrual Migraine. BioMed Research International, 2015, 1-10.

Whitney, E. N., & Rolfes, S. R. (2011). Understanding nutrition. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

 

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