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Migraines

A Plant-Based Prescription for Migraines

Research has shown surprising links between migraines and food.

Certain foods can cause migraines, while others can prevent or even treat them. Physicians Committee research published in the Journal of Headache and Pain found that a plant-based diet reduces migraine pain. The severity of participants’ worst headache pain improved significantly when they were consuming a plant-based diet. The decline in migraine pain may have been due to the elimination of dietary pain triggers such as meat and dairy products or by weight loss or hormonal changes brought on by the diet change.

The first step in tackling your migraines is to check whether any of the common triggers are causing them. To do this, you simply avoid these foods. At the same time, include generous amounts of pain-safe foods in your routine and see whether migraines occur, and, if so, how often.

Here is how to start with anti-migraine foods. For two weeks:

  1. Have an abundance of foods from the pain-safe list.
  2. Avoid the common triggers completely.
  3. Foods that are not on either list can be eaten freely.

If your diet change makes your headaches disappear or become much less frequent, the next step is to confirm which foods are your triggers. To do this, simply reintroduce the eliminated foods one at a time, every two days, to see whether any symptoms result.

Migraine Diet: Pain-Safe Foods

Pain-safe foods virtually never contribute to headaches or other painful conditions. These include the following:

  • Rice 
  • Cooked Green Vegetables 
  • Cooked Orange Vegetables 
  • Cooked Yellow Vegetables 
  • Cooked or Dried Non-Citrus Fruits

Common Migraine Triggers

Common triggers often cause headaches in susceptible people. Certain beverages and additives are also among the worst triggers, including alcoholic beverages (especially red wine), caffeinated drinks (coffee, tea, and colas), monosodium glutamate (MSG), aspartame (NutraSweet), and nitrites. Here are the common food triggers, also known as the "Dirty Dozen":

  • Dairy 
  • Chocolate
  • Eggs
  • Citrus Fruits
  • Meat
  • Wheat 
  • Nuts and Peanuts
  • Tomatoes
  • Onions
  • Corn
  • Apples
  • Bananas

Kickstart Intensive: A Nutrition Immersion for Your Health

Join Dr. Barnard and Physicians Committee experts in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 11-12, and get all the tools you’ll need to kickstart your plant-based diet.