It is estimated that between six and eight million people in the UK suffer from regular migraines. And women are twice as likely as men to suffer from them. These figures are only rough estimates though as it is believed that as many as 50-60% of people who suffer from migraines never visit their GP. The average migraine sufferer (if there is such a creature) will have approximately 13-15 attacks a year.
Staggeringly, migraines cost the NHS more than £1 billion per year. And what is particularly frustrating is that in the vast majority of these cases simple dietary modifications can prevent them from ever occurring again.
The condition can be absolutely debilitating for sufferers. Symptoms range from seeing flashing lights, vomiting, severe headaches (usually down one side of the head) and even partial loss of sight in severe cases. These attacks can last for a few hours or even for days on end.
The vast majority of migraines can be directly linked to food intolerances. The main two culprits are wheat and milk. These may account for approximately 80-90% of cases. What is also interesting is that in a large proportion of migraine sufferers (40-50%) they have the bacteria helicobacter pylori living in their stomach and intestines. Other fairly common triggers for migraines are a poorly functioning liver as a result of alcohol consumption, too much caffeine, too much saturated fat in your diet and a lack of water (you should aim for approximately 2 litres a day – more if exercising). The weather, high stress levels and poor sleeping patterns can also exacerbate the condition.
Below is a list of some of the worst and best foods to eat if you are a migraine sufferer. Just keep in mind though that everyone is different. A food that triggers a migraine in you may not cause symptoms in somebody else. I suggest that as well as modifying your diet around the below foods, you also keep a diary of the foods you are eating until your symptoms are completely eradicated.
Common Migraine Triggers
- Cheese, dairy, milk and wheat are among the most common triggers. Many sufferers also report migraines developing after consuming citrus fruits, peanuts, crisps, biscuits, corn and chocolate.
- Avoid all processed and refined sugars – found in all processed foods!
- Avoid artificial flavours, colours, preservatives and anything else that is not natural.
- Avoid or limit animal fats and other foods that contain hydrogenated fats.
- Reduce the amount of animal proteins and meats that you consume (and also eggs). We know from lots of research that those who eat dramatically fewer saturated fats experience dramatically fewer migraine attacks.
- Another common trigger that people don’t know about is associated to infrequent bowel movements. When food is sat in the intestines, certain bacteria can easily convert tyrosine to tyramine. Tyramine can then circulate in the body and trigger migraine attacks.
- Two great fruits to eat on a regular basis are papaya and pineapples. Both have enzymes that help the body digest foods. This will help keep you regular and prevent tyramine build-up.
- Incorporate more turmeric into your foods. It is one of the most potent anti-inflammatories in the world and known to reduce the symptoms of migraine attacks.
- Try and aim for at least nine portions of fruit and vegetables a day (opt for organic if you can). This will ensure your fibre intake is above 35 grams a day and that the amount of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds circulating in the body are greatly increased.
- Dehydration massively exacerbates migraines. Ensure you drink a minimum of two litres a day. More if you are exercising.
- Make your own wheat free bread.
- Drink more herbal teas.
- Stress less (try yoga) or listening to relaxing music.
- Try green juices if you aren’t already.