Q: How long should I avoid possible food triggers?
A: Many foods are possible triggers for migraine. Each food that is a trigger contains a natural or artificial substance that can act as a stimulant, such as caffeine. To get the best results from your treatment program, I suggest you avoid all food and drink triggers until you experience fewer than 2 migraine attacks a month lasting less than 2 hours for at least 8 months.
Q: What can I eat?
A: Those foods and drinks that are allowed (see Allowed food and drink) are not triggers unless they contain food additives. You must read the labels on all commercial or packaged food and drink. It is important that you avoid hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels) by not going too long without eating, and also that you do not eat too many carbohydrates with a high glycemic index (which raise blood sugar quickly). Such carbohydrates need to be limited and eaten along with a protein source.
Q: How do I change my eating habits to help control my migraine?
A: Planning is vital. Most of us are busy and eating on the run is common but eating prepackaged food and skipping meals will get you into trouble because of the additives in packaged food and low blood sugar that occurs if you don’t eat regularly. Menu planning, shopping for “migraine-friendly” food, and preparing food takes perseverance. Sticking with it will be worth all your efforts because you will save time by not having a migraine.
Q: How do I get started with a “migraine-friendly” diet?
A: The first step is to jot down in your migraine diary what you are eating and drinking. You cannot change your diet if you do not know how you are eating now. You may be surprised to know how many migraine triggers there are in what you eat and the way you eat it. Once you list your current diet, review the list of triggers. Plan to avoid as many as possible until you have control of your migraine.
Q: How do I go about menu planning?
A: You can refer to the menu planning guide (see Menu planning) to help you reduce or eliminate potential migraine triggers. This menu plan also helps you to avoid hypoglycemia and dehydration. Consult your doctor first to make sure there are no reasons for you not to follow a “migraine-friendly” diet.
Q: How do I find food without additives?
A: Buy as much fresh food as possible. If you think fresh food might have additives (for example, bakery bread often has preservatives), ask the store management. When buying packaged food, check the ingredients against the list of food and drink triggers to find out if it contains additives that should be avoided. Additive-free food is becoming increasingly popular nowadays.
Q: Why is it so important that I limit certain carbohydrates?
A: There are a couple of reasons. First, eating carbohydrates with a high glycemic index (see Menu planning) causes a rapid release of insulin, leading to a drop in blood sugar that triggers a migraine attack. By decreasing such carbohydrates, you decrease the carbohydrate load and avoid hypoglycemia. The other reason is that excessive consumption of certain carbohydrates can lead to weight gain. Studies have shown that there is a correlation between obesity and the development of chronic migraine.
Q: How can I eat enough protein if I am a vegetarian?
A: It may be difficult for those who depend upon vegetarian protein sources only, to get enough protein without using dairy products. You will need to use beans or legumes with the lowest tyramine content and avoid soy until you have control of your migraine attacks. Once you have control of your migraine you may return to using soy-based products. However, you will need to monitor your reaction closely for increase in migraine frequency. For those who are not vegetarians, soy and beans should be avoided until the migraine attacks are controlled for 8 months.
Q: What do I do if everything I like to eat is on the trigger list?
A: There are many tasty foods on the migraine trigger list . I struggle to stay away from many of them, especially when I have a stressful day. It is not simply the taste that makes the food so appetizing; it is also the sensation we experience after we eat them. It may be helpful to remind yourself that you are not giving up the pleasure of food forever, but simply until you have better migraine control. There are many delicious foods on the list of allowed foods. It will be easier to change your eating habits if you concentrate on what you can eat and on your goal of headache-free days.
Q: How do I avoid carbohydrates if my dinnertime is after 6.00pm?
A: It is important that you avoid food that has carbohydrates with a high glycemic index during the evening hours because these can cause hypoglycemia during your sleep and trigger a migraine attack. It will be helpful if you have protein and low carbohydrate vegetables easily available so you don’t end up eating a bowl of cereal at night. You will need to review the allowed food list and make sure you have food available from the list designated with the protein ♦ and free carbohydrate ♥ symbols.
Q: How do I eat enough protein if my cholesterol is high or if I cannot eat dairy products?
A: You need to have protein with each serving of carbohydrate to avoid triggering a migraine attack. However, you do not have to eat excessive amounts of protein with excessive animal fat. You can use poultry and fish for most of your protein sources and limit the amount of red meat and egg yolks to avoid elevating your cholesterol levels. Those with complicated dietary needs will find a consultation with dietician helpful.
Q: How much water do I need to drink and when?
A: It is crucial that you drink enough water to avoid dehydration and so avoid a migraine attack. You must drink at least 8 glasses of water a day. You may need to drink more water if you are very active or if you are in a hot, dry environment.
Q: I do not cook, so how do I follow a migraine-friendly diet?
A: It is very important that you avoid pre-cooked packaged food since this type of food is likely to contain food additives that trigger a migraine attack. You may want to hire someone to cook for you or start by cooking simple, easy-to-prepare recipes.
Q: How can I encourage my child to follow a migraine-friendly diet?
A: The child with migraine needs to understand that how and what he or she eats does have an effect on his or her headache frequency. Children need to have explained to them in terms they can understand how their eating habits can help them avoid a migraine attack. Start with simple changes, such as avoiding excessive carbohydrates, dehydration, and missing meals. Encourage the child to avoid food with additives. Lastly, restrict those food items that are more likely to trigger an attack, such as peanuts, chocolate, and citrus fruit.
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