Foods to prevent migraines
If you are unable to identify any food triggers, then we can also try foods that can possibly help reduce the frequency and severity of migraines.
There are several strategies and diets that may help alleviate migraines.
Ketogenic and modified Atkins diets place a greater emphasis on fat intake for energy whilst severely restricting carbohydrate intake. Scientists aren’t sure as to why these diets can help, but believe it is due to an increase in energy production in the brain, reducing the intensity of signals to nerve cells, assisting hormone (serotonin) function and decreasing certain protein synthesis and release.
However, the increased emphasis on fat intake could be bad news for your cholesterol levels; especially if there is a higher intake of saturated fats. The elimination of nutrients can also lead to malnutrition and side effects such as low mood and low energy levels.
If you are considering either of these diets, speak with your GP and/or a dietician first as it may be unsuitable for you.
Low fat diet
Low fat diets may also be an option. Following high fat meals, platelets can clump together. In doing so it can release serotonin which can lead to our blood vessels narrowing, increasing the feeling of pressure in the head. Therefore, lowering our fat intake from 25-30% of our calorie intake to less than 20% has been shown to reduce both the frequency and severity of migraines.
It’s important to realise though that we still do need fats in our diet, particularly unsaturated fats like omega 3. Having a high intake of omega 3 has also been seen to reduce platelets clumping up and can keep our nervous system and our heart healthy. Fish, nuts, seeds and plant oils are all good sources of omega.
Low GI foods
Opting for more low glycaemic foods can also have a positive effect on reducing the frequency of migraines due to the slow release of glucose into the blood stream (surges in blood sugar levels can act as a trigger).
Good low GI options are wholegrain carbohydrates, fruit, vegetables, beans and lentils. Try building meals around these throughout the day to promote good blood sugar regulation.
There is a link between gastrointestinal diseases and migraines. Migraines themselves can even present several gut-related symptoms. Increasing the number of good bacteria in our gut can help reduce inflammation in the body which has been linked to migraines.
Eating plenty of fibre from wholegrain foods, beans, pulses, nuts, seeds, fruit and vegetables can help the good bacteria in our gut to flourish.
Find out more on how to keep your gut happy.
Our diet can play a role in the prevention and management of migraines. Look to identify trigger foods that can be eliminated from your diet and try to enhance your current diet regime with foods that can help prevent the frequency and severity of your migraines.
- NHS (2019). Migraine. Retrieved here: Migraine - NHS (www.nhs.uk).
- Hindiyeh, N.A., Zhang, N. Farrar, M., Banerjee, P., Lombard, L., Aurora, S.K. (2020). The Role of Diet and Nutrition in Migraine Triggers and Treatment: A Systematic Literature Review. Retrieved here: The Role of Diet and Nutrition in Migraine Triggers and Treatment: A Systematic Literature Review - Hindiyeh - 2020 - Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain - Wiley Online Library
- Jahromi, S.R., Ghorbani, Z., Martelletti, P., Lampl, C., Togha, M. (2019). Association of diet and headache. Retrieved here: Association of diet and headache | The Journal of Headache and Pain | Full Text (biomedcentral.com)
- Gazerani, P. (2020). Migraine and Diet. Retrieved here: Migraine and Diet (nih.gov)