How Diet and Supplements Can Help Prevent Migraines
by Joseph Mercola: What
You Need To Know About Vitamin K2, D, and Calcium
- Some migraine
sufferers report beneficial results by switching to a Paleo diet
– in essence a “real food” diet devoid of anything processed
- A Paleo
diet was defined as no grains, bread or pasta, and no pasteurized
dairy, but does include lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, some
nuts and oils along with wild caught fish, organic poultry and
grass-fed lean meats
- Over 150
studies have looked into the connection between food allergies
and migraines. Some of the top migraine-inducing foods identified
include wheat, cow’s milk, grain cereals, sugar, yeast, corn,
citrus and eggs
food additives, such as aspartame and MSG, are also notorious
for causing headaches and triggering migraines
to some experts, migraines are related to mitochondrial dysfunction,
so one of the most critical dietary supplements is ubiquinol (the
reduced form of Coenzyme Q10). Other helpful supplements include
magnesium, vitamin B2, B6 and B12, along with folic acid
26 million Americans suffer with migraines. Approximately 80 percent
of them are women. All in all, about one in five women get migraines
while only one in 16 men get them, according to migraines.org.1
About 60 percent of women affected have menstrual-related migraines,
meaning it tends to coincide with their menstrual cycle.
headache is characterized as an intense throbbing or pulsing headache,
typically in one area or side of your head, and is commonly accompanied
by nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound.
Those who have
never had a migraine before can be very frightened with the neurological
symptoms. The visual problems are most problematic as a migraine
can simulate a stroke where you start to have disturbed vision and
even short term visual loss and flashing lights.
can cause debilitating pain for several hours to several days. Some
migraineurs experience "aura" sensations before an attack. These
are sensory warning symptoms, such as flashes of light, blind spots,
or tingling in your arm or leg.
recently brought up the dietary links to migraines – specifically
how the grain- and dairy-free Paleo diet appears to help banish
the pain for many people. This is not entirely surprising, considering
that milk and wheat are two major food allergens.
Are Food Allergies
Causing Your Migraines?
medical literature in PubMed.gov using the search terms "migraine"
and "food allergies" will provide you with more than 150 different
Some of the top migraine-inducing foods identified include:
in general can also contribute to allergies for a number of different
reasons, and most processed foods contain a variety of food
colorings, flavors, preservatives, and other additives that
may also promote headaches and migraines. Both aspartame
and MSG are notorious for causing headaches and triggering migraines.
Besides noting whether or not your migraines typically occur after
eating a specific food, additional questions that can help you determine
whether or not you might have a food sensitivity or allergy are:
- Do you experience
bloating after meals, gas, frequent belching, or any kind of digestive
- Do you have
chronic constipation or diarrhea?
- Do you have
a stuffy nose after meals?
- Do you have
low energy or feel drowsy after eating?
If you answer
yes to any of these questions, you may want to investigate further.
Keeping a detailed food diary is the easiest way to start tracking
down potentially migraine-inducing foods, as well as foods that
cause other symptoms of sensitivity. Keep in mind that eliminating
your migraines is not the only health benefit you can reap from
identifying food allergies or sensitivities. Eliminating food antigens
is also critical for gut health. I've written extensively on this
topic, as medical science is now beginning to realize just how
important your gut is, not just for physical health, but emotional
and psychological health as well.
Diets Shown Helpful in Reducing or Eliminating Migraines
In a 1979 study
published in the Lancet,4
60 migraineurs with food antigen immunoreactivity who were put on
an elimination diet experienced profound relief. According to the
foods causing reactions were wheat (78 percent), orange (65 percent),
eggs (45 percent), tea and coffee (40 percent each), chocolate and
milk (37 percent) each), beef (35 percent), and corn, cane sugar,
and yeast (33 percent each).
average of 10 common foods were avoided there was a dramatic fall
in the number of headaches per month, 85 percent of patients becoming
headache-free. The 25 percent of patients with hypertension became
normotensive. Chemicals in the home environment can make this testing
difficult for outpatients. Both immunological and non-immunological
mechanisms may play a part in the pathogenesis of migraine caused
by food intolerance."
double blind, cross-over study published in 20105
also found that a six-week long diet restriction produced a statistically
significant reduction in migraines in those diagnosed with migraine
without aura. If you notice your migraines start up shortly after
eating a specific food, then that's a good place to start. Keep
in mind that you can also be sensitive to food additives like artificial
colors, preservatives, flavor enhancers (MSG), and aspartame so
read the food labels, and note the ingredients in your food journal.
One of the
best things you can do if you believe you are suffering from a food
allergy is to do a diet elimination challenge. Simply remove all
foods that contain what you believe you are allergic to and see
if your symptoms improve over the next several days. Keep in mind
that depending on your typical migraine frequency, you may need
to avoid the suspected food for a few weeks in order to evaluate
whether it had an effect or not.
the results, you'll want to reintroduce the food or drink (on an
empty stomach). If the suspected food is the culprit you will generally
be able to feel the allergy symptoms return within an hour, although
migraines can sometimes have a longer lag time than, say, bloating
Diet for Migraine
Quite a few
people report ridding themselves of migraines on the Paleo diet,
which can be summarized as "any food that can be eaten without being
processed." That means no grains, bread or pasta, and no pasteurized
dairy, but does include lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, some
nuts and oils along with wild caught fish, organic poultry and grass-fed
lean meats. You can easily mold your diet around the principles
of Paleo eating by following my
nutrition plan. The full details are described in the plan,
but generally speaking, the following key factors apply to any "healthy
all gluten products
the other 10 common foods that the Lancet study found helpful
in making 85 percent of participants headache free
all artificial sweeteners, especially aspartame. My sister is
one of many who will get a guaranteed migraine if she consumes
any aspartame. Obviously, even if you don't have migraines, there
simply is no reason to ever consume aspartame
- Often raw
or only lightly cooked (ideally, try to eat at least one-third
of your food raw, or as much as you can manage)
or grass-fed, and free from additives and genetically modified
- Come from
high-quality, local sources
primarily come from vegetables (except corn and potatoes, which
should typically be avoided). Dramatically lowering your intake
of non-vegetable carbs could improve leptin and insulin signaling
which could also improve migraines
I believe a
return to "real food" is one of the most profound interventions
for the 21st century. We've strayed so far from the foods we are
designed to eat, going back to basics and refocusing your diet on
fresh, whole, unprocessed, "real" food can improve just about anyone's
health, regardless of what health issues you need to address.
In terms of
supplements that might be helpful for migraines, one of the most
critical is ubiquinol
(the reduced form of Coenzyme Q10). According to experts like Dr.
Robert Barry, an underlying problem involved with migraines is mitochondrial
dysfunction. Ubiquinol plays a vital role in ATP production, which
is the basic fuel for your mitochondria. Your body does produce
ubiquinol naturally, in fact it is the predominant form in most
healthy cells, tissues and organs, however, with rampant pollution
and poor diet, mitochondrial dysfunction has become increasingly
A 2005 study
published in Neurology6
found that CoQ10 was superior to a placebo in preventing migraines
and reducing severity. Of the patients who received 100 mg of CoQ10
three times a day, 50 percent reported significantly reduced frequency
of headaches compared to only 14 percent of those who took the placebo.
Ubiquinol is the reduced form of CoQ10, and studies have repeatedly
demonstrated that it is far more effective than CoQ10 due to its
supplements that can be helpful for migraines include:
This is probably the most important one as it contributes to relaxing
the brain blood vessels that cause the pain. The best magnesium
supplement I know of is magnesium threonate as it penetrates cell
membranes, including the mitochondria, and no other magnesium
supplement does this. Interestingly, some of the best drugs used
to treat migraines are calcium channel blockers, and that is how
magnesium works. Supplemental magnesium would be FAR safer than
a calcium channel blocker
- Folic acid
A 2009 study7
evaluated the effect of 2 mg of folic acid, 25 mg vitamin B6, and
400 micrograms of vitamin B12 in 52 patients diagnosed with migraine
with aura. Compared to the placebo group, those receiving these
supplements experienced a 50 percent reduction in migraine disability
over a six-month period. Previous studies, such as a 2004 study
in the European Journal of Neurology,8
have also reported that high doses of B2 (riboflavin) can help prevent
400 mg riboflavin per day. Headache frequency was reduced from four
days per month at baseline to two days per month after three months.
Headache duration and intensity did not change significantly however.
Keep in mind that prophylactic supplement regimens may take several
weeks to produce results, so don't give up too soon. Typically,
if the supplement is the right one, you'll notice results in about
three to six months.
something that should also be considered as an enormously useful
Last but not
least, the Emotional
Freedom Technique (EFT) often provides results for migraine
headache relief. Newcomers who use this simple process by themselves
tend to achieve relief 50 percent to 80 percent of the time. EFT
is a very profound intervention that can be used in addition to
the above strategies, it can also be useful for helping compliance
to the lifestyle changes recommended.
2012 Dr. Joseph Mercola
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