Food and Drinks to Avoid if You Get Migraines
Food and Drinks to Avoid if You Get Migraines
I thought I was having a stroke, not a migraine!
I was at work when I lost the vision on one side, my arm on that side started to feel heavy, my head hurt and I was struggling with my words. I told my work colleagues what was happening to be on the safe side.
The day after it happened again but on the other side of my body.
I won’t lie, it was a bit scary.
Turned out it was a migraine. I continued to have migraines over several years, luckily never as bad as these two but always with my vision being affected. I used to get zigzag lines across my vision just beforehand, otherwise known as an aura which about 20% of people who suffer from migraines can experience.
This started me looking into why I’d suddenly developed migraines when previously I didn’t even really suffer with headaches. I gradually learned that I could almost guarantee a migraine if I went to the gym before work without having anything to eat which led me to think that low blood sugar was one cause.
It wasn’t the only cause though as I’d get them at different times of the day. Sources suggest that emotional triggers such as stress, shock and excitement and physical factors such as lack of sleep, shoulder and neck tension and poor posture can trigger migraines, along with hunger, jet lag and dehydration.
The Link Between Food, Drink and Migraines
Migraines affect about 15% of adults, so they’re fairly common. Apart from a painful headache other symptoms include disturbed vision, sensitivity to light, sound and smells, feeling sick and vomiting.
And, while the exact cause is not known, there are lots of known triggers some of which I’ve listed above. Many foods and drinks are common triggers of migraines too. If you are unlucky enough to experience them you may have noticed certain foods, and drinks trigger your migraines. Sometimes the migraine comes on within an hour of the food/drink. Other times it may happen several hours, up to a day later. Avoiding these triggers can help.
Avoiding common triggers can be a great way of reducing these painful headaches. You may be sensitive to one, or many of these foods/drinks. They act as migraine triggers in some people, but not all. You can find out by eliminating them and see if avoidance helps you. Or you could download my food tracker and keep tabs on what you’re eating and how you’re feeling.
Migraine in Midlife
Although my migraines didn’t start until my late twenties, often they first happen when we’re younger and there is some evidence that as we get older symptoms can lessen. That’s the good news. This has, fortunately, been my experience as I no longer get migraines...touch wood!
However, as we get older and other health conditions kick in such as hardening of the arteries, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease or stroke this can impact on migraines. Additionally, triggers can change over time so you might find that you need to reconsider what is potentially causing them.
Three Foods to Avoid if You Get Migraines
The first food that commonly affects migraines is hard cheese like cheddar and Swiss; this is because they contain "tyramine" which is from an amino acid in the protein found in cheese. Other foods high in tyramine include those that are aged, cured, dried, smoked or pickled. These include sauerkraut and tofu.
Cured or Processed Meats
The second common ‘migraine foods’ are cured or processed meats. Hot dogs, lunch meats, and bacon are in this category; this is because of their nitrates and nitrites that can dilate blood vessels in the brain. Even if these are not a trigger for you, it's best to reduce or eliminate them from your diet because of other health issues they may be associated with, like colon cancer.
The evidence over chocolate is conflicting, as some studies show a link and others don’t. You may or may not be sensitive to chocolate's effects on the brain but you might have to eliminate it to find out.
Three Drinks to Avoid if You Get Migraines
Sorry!...alcohol is a common trigger for headaches and migraines. Red wine and beer seem to be the most common culprits. We're not sure why, but it may be red wine's compounds such as histamine, sulfites, or flavonoids.
Very Cold Water
Ice and ice-cold water have also been shown to trigger headaches and migraines. So try not to eat or drink things that are too cold.
Diet Drinks with Artificial Sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners like Aspartame are another common trigger. Aspartame is in diet drinks and other processed foods to make them taste sweet without adding sugar. As with MSG, there is not a lot of research on its effects with migraines. But again, it is something to consider eliminating from your diet and see if that makes a difference.
Migraines are varied in their symptoms and severity but thinking about what you eat and drink could be a start in helping to identify triggers. Try tracking what you eat and drink to see if there are any patterns; download my food tracker here. But obviously go and see your GP if symptoms are not easing.
The information contained above is provided for information purposes only. The contents of this blog are not intended to amount to advice and you should not rely on any of the contents of this blog. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this blog. Midlife Menu Ltd disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this blog.