If you suffer from migraines, you are probably ready to do whatever you can to make it go away. A migraine isn’t just a headache that you can deal with while waiting for pain relievers to work. The American Migraine Foundation describes migraines as a disabling neurological condition and states that the pain can be “unbearable”. The difficult thing about migraines is that often there isn’t a specific cause, which means that it can be difficult to actually prevent them.
What you can (and should!) Do is focus on figuring out how to treat them if they arise, and this is where the food comes in. While there is certainly no promise that eating certain foods will magically make a migraine go away, there is some evidence that some foods can help prevent a migraine – and perhaps even reduce its severity. Well, you definitely shouldn’t throw away your migraine medication to focus on eating the following foods. Whenever you’re figuring out how to treat a migraine headache, you should always speak to your doctor to find out what works for you. But trying to include some of these foods in your diet can help.
It’s also important to remember that while these foods help some people, they don’t help everyone (remember when we said migraines were difficult? We weren’t having fun). Even so, are these foods worth trying, and honestly? It doesn’t help that they are tasty.
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Leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, and Swiss chard are loaded with both magnesium and the B vitamin folate, both of which can affect headaches. Research on women from 2015 found that a diet low in folate could increase the frequency of migraines compared to women with adequate folate levels in their diet.
In 2013, the Association of Migraine Disorders stated that several studies showed that many people with migraines have low levels of magnesium in the brain. Leafy vegetables are high in magnesium, so eating more of them can be helpful.
Research from 2020 showed that omega-3 fatty acids, a natural anti-inflammatory agent, can be beneficial and used to treat migraine symptoms, which seems to support a much older 2002 study with similar results. A 2017 review of clinical trials of omega-3 fatty acids in people with migraines found that they can significantly reduce the duration of seizures. So there is a lot of evidence! Salmon is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids and there are so many ways to include it in your diet.
Mushrooms are a great source of riboflavin, a B vitamin that can be effective in treating migraines. A 2004 study gave patients 400 mg of riboflavin capsules daily and then recorded the frequency, duration, and intensity of the headache. They found that the frequency of headaches was significantly reduced, although the intensity and duration did not change. In 2012, the Quality Standards Subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology and the American Headache Society determined that riboflavin was “likely effective” in preventing headaches.
And it’s not just normal old mushrooms: In November 2020, scientists began studying the effects of psilocybin on migraines. (Psilocybin is the substance primarily responsible for the psychedelic effects of “magic mushrooms”.) They found that psilocybin can provide long-lasting benefits for migraineurs.
Sweet potatoes are high in anti-inflammatory nutrients like beta-carotene, as well as vitamin C, copper, manganese, niacin, potassium, vitamin B2, and vitamin B6. Inflammation has been linked to migraines, so consuming anti-inflammatory foods is never a bad idea.
Bananas are a great source of magnesium, which in turn can be an important nutrient in fighting migraines. The American Migraine Foundation found that the calming effects of magnesium can be helpful in preventing and treating migraines.
Using coffee as a migraine treatment isn’t as straightforward as it sounds. Too much coffee can trigger and worsen migraines, but research has shown that small amounts of caffeine can help. A 2014 systematic review of studies found that taking around 100 mg of caffeine per day with pain relievers can provide more relief than just medication alone. So one small cup of coffee a day can definitely make a difference – just don’t overdo it.
Beets are high in manganese, potassium, and vitamin C and are also an excellent source of folic acid. A 2016 study published in the Journal of Headache and Pain found that migraineurs who received 2 mg of folic acid along with vitamins B12 and B6 were more successful in reducing their migraine symptoms than those who received just 1 mg of folic acid along with vitamins B12 and B6 .
Again, magnesium is probably one of the most important nutrients that can potentially combat migraine symptoms, so any food high in magnesium can help. Dark chocolate is high in magnesium and this can help relax and relieve stress.
Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables can be especially helpful for premenopausal women who have migraines. A 2012 study that defined menopausal migraines as a subspecies of migraines that occurs within two days before or three days after the onset of menstruation found some evidence that the phytoestrogens in these vegetables might help Prevent menstrual migraine attacks during PMS.
If fish isn’t your thing, avocado is a plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids. A 2015 study published in the Journal of Head and Face Pain found that the antioxidants in healthy fats like this can help fight oxidative stress and migraines. Avocados also contain vitamin D, and a 2015 study found that vitamin D can prevent oxidative stress that can lead to migraines.
If you have migraines and are ready to do whatever you can to get rid of them, it may be time to cut out cheese and try a vegan diet. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Headache and Pain found that a plant-based diet followed by an elimination diet can reduce migraine pain. The study was small and looked at only 42 adult migraineurs, half of whom followed a vegan diet for four weeks, then an elimination diet. They concluded that while the vegan diet seemed to help, more research was needed.
OK, so it’s not a food, but water is so essential to treating migraines that it felt foolish not to mention it. Dehydration is a major cause of headaches. A 2020 study looked at 256 migraineurs and found that the duration, pain severity, and frequency of migraines were significantly lower in those who consumed more water. Drink up!
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