Food and Migraine: Attack Triggers and Diet Tips

Food is often identified as trigger of migraine attacks. Knowing which foods do and don't work for you can help you to manage your migraine.
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A migraine attack can be triggered by a number of different day-to-day choices and your body’s reaction to these choices – this may include the food you choose to eat, and when you choose to eat it. This is because eating food causes a number of changes in our body. When we digest food, our blood sugar level rises which then leads to hormonal changes. Whilst an exact connection between migraine, food, and these bodily changes has not yet been identified, many people facing the condition have noticed potential attack triggers in their diet. It can therefore be helpful to keep track of what you eat during the day. Keeping a food (and migraine) diary and following a few diet tips can help you manage your condition and potentially predict (or even prevent) migraine attacks!

Foods to choose

The best foods for maintaining a healthy, balanced diet and defending yourself against migraine attacks are whole, natural foods. Whole, natural foods aren’t processed which means that they don’t contain any preservatives or artificial flavourings.

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) have compiled a list naming specific ‘pain-safe’ foods – that is, foods that don’t tend to trigger painful conditions (including migraine attacks). Foods on the ‘pain-safe’ list include:

  • Orange, yellow, and green vegetables
  • Water
  • Rice (particularly brown rice, as it is less processed than white rice)
  • Dried or cooked fruits
  • Natural sweeteners or flavours (such as honey or maple syrup)

Foods to avoid

Whilst whole, natural foods are unlikely to trigger migraine attacks, it is probably best to avoid processed foods. Of course, diets have different effects on different people. Always pay close attention to when your migraine attacks happen to identify any personal triggers. That being said, migraine sufferers often note the following food items as attack triggers: Chocolate, cultured dairy products (e.g. cheese), nuts, soy, products, and vinegar (to name just a few).

Migraine Attacks, Triggers, and Food: The Key Takeaways

According to the National Migraine Centre, the most important dietary triggers are actually lack of food and lack of fluid. So whilst eating meals and snacks that make you feel good and avoiding those that don’t definitely isn’t a bad idea (keeping a migraine diary can help you identify which foods fit into each of these categories), your main focus should be on eating and drinking regularly. This includes a high-fibre breakfast within an hour of waking up, followed by evenly spaced meals throughout the day. Additional to a balanced diet, plenty of regular exercise and movement also proves to be a huge bonus!


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