Migraine headaches are a nightmare for the millions of people who experience them every year, and when one hits, it can take a person out of commission for days at a time. If you’ve experienced one, you know how debilitating they can be — and you also know the lengths you’ll go to when it comes to figuring out how to prevent migraines in the first place.
Different (and uglier) than your average headache, migraines are characterized by the wide range of symptoms that can accompany the throbbing head pain — which include (but are certainly not limited to) nausea, weakness or imbalance, mental fog, visual disturbances, and severe sensitivity to lights, sounds, and smells, according to the Association Of Migraine Disorders. Once a migraine hits, its effects can reportedly carry on for up to three days.
Living with migraines is not only frustrating because they’re awful to experience, but also because experts still aren’t sure exactly what causes them or how to prevent them. Like many ailments, the causes (and the effective treatments) vary widely from person to person.
Some common triggers include stress and anxiety, lack of sleep, and exposure to bright light, but there are also a lot of foods that cause and affect migraines — and some foods that can help you prevent them. As Dr. Lauren R. Natbony, assistant professor of neurology, headache and facial pain at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, tells Bustle, “Food can be used as part of a preventative tool for migraine.” It’s just a matter of knowing which foods.
Here are some ways to use food to stave off migraines that could potentially make a big difference if you suffer from these headaches.
1. Avoid Common Trigger Foods
While food-related triggers vary from person to person, there are a number of foods that are generally considered no-go’s if you’re trying to keep migraines at bay. Unfortunately, some of the most commonly reported triggers are alcohol and chocolate, according to an article written by Dr. Merle L. Diamond and Dr. Dawn A. Marcus for the American Migraine Foundation.
Another major trigger appears to be processed food. According to Diamond and Marcus, artificial sweeteners, preservatives, and additives (such as MSG, aspartame, and nitrates) are potential migraine triggers as well.
Rachel Nall RN, MSN identified some other trigger foods as being aged cheese, cured meats, and smoked fish in an article for Medical News Today. Pay close attention to your body’s reaction if you do end up incorporating any of these foods into your diet. If you start feeling migraine symptoms within 24 hours of consuming it (and it happens at least half the time you consume that food), then it may be considered a trigger for you.
2. Stock Up On Preventative Foods
As mentioned, everyone is different, but there are certain foods that are considered safe when it comes to migraines. And, according to Natbony, the best migraine prevention diet is one that is filled with vitamins.
Natbony tells Bustle, “We typically recommend foods that are high in vitamin B2 (found in green leafy vegetables) and coenzyme Q10 (found in meats, fish, poultry, peanuts, strawberries) as both of these vitamins are involved in mitochondrial energy production which can be impaired in those with migraine.”
Even if your day-to-day meals don’t adhere to the above suggestions, if you happen to start feeling the early symptoms of a migraine hitting, you can start to implement these foods for the day for some added protection.