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Food & Migraine

The Facts and What We KNOW-

There is a clear link between the gut and brain. Migraine has been linked with other chronic conditions like celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disease. On the other hand, migraine has associated gastrointestinal symptoms, like nausea, vomiting and dyspepsia.

Many people wonder if food can be a trigger for migraine attacks. Determining if food is a trigger for migraine can be a difficult thing to assess. There are many factors that can be in play. How long a certain food can trigger a migraine attack can vary on how long it takes to digest the food and break down its components. It also can be difficult to assess what individual ingredients may be the triggering factor especially in foods that are bought or processed, as opposed to fresh ingredients made in the home.

One method to determine if a certain food or ingredient is a trigger for migraine is to use a headache diary. This can be cumbersome but involves keeping a detailed diary of all the food eaten in a day as well as tracking which days a person had a migraine attack. Another method is to eliminate possible triggers and then track if there is an improvement in the frequency of migraine attacks. It is important to keep in mind that some foods can take some time to be completely eliminated from the body. For example, many believe that gluten insensitivity can be a trigger for migraine. Once foods with gluten are eliminated, it can still take up to a month for it to be cleared out from their system. In order for a food to be considered a trigger, it must bring on a migraine attack more than 50% of the time that it is consumed, usually within a day of exposure.

From available data, some common triggers do include alcohol as well as aspartame and MSG, as well as other artificial sweeteners and preservatives found in foods. Many people believe that caffeine is a trigger for their migraine attacks. This can be difficult to sort out. Some people find that when they have a migraine, caffeine can help to treat their migraine. However, for some people, abrupt changes in the amount of normal caffeine that someone has in a day can be a trigger for their migraine attack. It is thought to be this change in the amount of caffeine that can be a trigger, especially for those that are sensitive to this highly active substance.

There is also some evidence that some types of diets can be helpful in treating migraine overall. The keto diet, that mainly focuses on lowering amount of carbohydrates and eating more protein has been found to be helpful in treating seizures, as well as possibly in migraine attacks as well. The ketogenic diet has been found to be neuroprotective as well as lower neuroinflammation, and possibly lower cGRP levels, a molecule believed to be involved in the pathophysiology of migraine.

It can also be helpful to have a low glycemic diet which also is thought to decrease inflammation. Increasing omega 3 fatty acids also are thought to reduce inflammatory responses and regulate vascular tone. These two diets have shown some promise in helping to reduce frequency and severity of migraine attacks.

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