Is Food Causing Your Migraines?

Last modified: August 2, 2019

Richard Honaker M.D.
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If you get migraines just like millions of Americans do, chances are, you want to do all you can to figure out why you’re getting them despite having optimal health. Most people blame the food that they eat. However, there really isn’t any proof that diet triggers migraines. Experts still agree, however, that many things can cause them, and in particular, food.

Alcohol, Food and Migraines . . . Oh My!

One out of three people who have migraines swear that alcohol is their trigger. Most say red wine or dark liquors are the usual triggers, but unfortunately, any type of alcohol can be a trigger. Health theories are abound about this. One in particular is that alcohol dehydrates you, and that it has specific chemicals that seem to trigger migraines.


Alcohol is not the only culprit. Evidence also suggests that two common food ingredients can trigger migraines:

  • Is MSG causing your migraines?
  • Is caffeine rich soda and coffee causing your migraines?

MSG or monosodium glutamate is a food additive used to enhance flavor and is usually found in processed, packaged, and restaurant foods. Studies show that it causes migraines in up to 15% of people. Health tips recommend that you avoid eating food with MSG.

Related: 6 Excellent Ways to Relieve Sciatic Nerve Pain

Caffeine is an ingredient in some pain relievers and some may be helpful in easing some swelling that can cause migraines. But if you drink more than 120 mg a day and you miss half, you may get withdrawal headaches. So health tips suggest that if you’re going to drink caffeine, don’t drink too much of it.

Remember that a cup of coffee has 95 mg and a cup of tea only has half of that!

Some say that aged cheese and preserved meats trigger their migraines. In some rare occasions, some have also said that they get migraines when they eat garlic. Health wise, there really is no specific food that can trigger migraines in everyone. It still depends on the individual. That’s why you need to find out which really do cause your migraines.

Related: 7 Period Problems Solved! Take Back Your Cycle


How To Find Out If Certain Food Causes Your Migraines?

Before you can consider food as a trigger for your migraines, it should regularly give you a headache within 12 to 24 hours after eating that food. It would be better if you can keep a diary or use a migraine app. Actually, most people have more than one trigger.

So health tips recommend that it would be best to track and take notes of about 20 to 30 migraine attacks. When you’ve found out the foods that could be causing your migraines, remove these foods one at a time from your diet for a month. Health tips say that you should continue to keep track of your migraines and take notes of the changes.

If there’s no change, then that food alone may not be the trigger. If there’s a change, avoid eating it. Also consider that for women’s health, certain food that triggers their migraines may be during specific times in their menstrual cycle.

If you’re not into keeping a diary or using an app but still willing to make changes to your diet and aim to become more focused on your health, experts’ advice states that you should eat food that’s as wholesome, fresh, and unprocessed as possible. This will help you get rid of the supposed chemical triggers and will be the closest thing to a migraine-prevention diet.

Related: Migraine Headache Facts for Women During Pregnancy


Consistency May Help When it Comes to Your Health

One more benefit to keeping track of what you eat is that it may reveal that you get a headache when you don’t eat or drink anything at all. Not eating and dehydration are significant triggers. This is more commonly called ‘Yom Kippur headache’ or ‘first day of Ramadan headache’ because both events require fasting.

Experts actually recommend that everyone should eat five or six small meals all throughout the day. This is especially important for those who have regular migraines. Studies show that this can reduce migraines. And you’ll get a bonus of firing up your metabolism, which prevents weight gain, another connecting factor to getting migraines. Your physical health will benefit so much from this.

Richard A. Honaker, M.D. — Chief Medical Advisor at YourDoctors.Online

Join Dr. Honaker June 15th for a webinar on Depression & Anxiety, presented exclusively by YourDoctors.Online. For information, kindly leave us a message via our contact page. Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to get more details on Dr. Honaker’s discussion, and learn more about our new membership program. 

Submitted by Dr. Richard Honaker:

Disclaimer: This article provides general information and is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease or medical condition. If you require specific advice, please consult one of our medical professionals through the app. However, in case of an emergency, please call 911.

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