Migraine Diet

Dr. John Carey, M.D. – Johns Hopkins Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery – 03/26/2012

Food may play a significant role in the frequency of your headaches. Although some migraine patients find that eating certain foods will provoke a headache every single time, the effect of diet may be less obvious. In general, the more “trigger” foods you consume, the more headaches you may have. The hope is that by avoiding these possible triggers, the better off you will be. Eating regularly timed meals, avoiding hunger, avoiding dehydration, and avoiding skipping meals is probably more important than the specific foods you do or do not eat.

 

Category

Foods to Avoid, Reduce, or Limit

Foods that are OK

Caffeine

No more than 2 servings/day. Do not vary the amount or timing from day-to-day. Coffee, tea, colas, Mountain Dew, Sunkist, certain medications (Anacin, Excedrin)

Decaffeinated coffee, herbal tea, caffeine-free sodas, fruit juice (see below)

Snacks/Desserts

Chocolate, nuts (peanuts especially), seeds

Fruits listed below, sherbet, ice cream, cakes, pudding, Jello, sugar, jam, jelly, honey, hard candy, cookies made w/o chocolate or nuts

Alcohol

Avoid all, especially: ales, Burgundy, chianti, malted beers, red wine, sherry, vermouth.

Note: some medications contain alcohol (Nyquil)

Non-alcoholic beverages

Dairy

Certain cheeses (aged or fermented): Brie, blue, boursault, brich, Camembert, cheddar, Emmenlalaer, gouda, mozzarella, Permesan, Provolone, Romano, Roquefort, stilton, Swiss, Buttermilk, chocolate milk, sour cream, eggs

Other cheeses: American, cottage, cream cheese, farmer, ricotta, Velveeta.

Milk, yogurt

Egg substitute

Cereals & Grains

Fresh breads and yeast products, fresh bagels, fresh doughnuts, yeast extracts, brewer’s yeast, sourdough

Commercial breads (white, wheat, rye, multi-grain, Italian), English Muffins, crackers, rye, toast, bagels, potatoes, rice, spaghetti, noodles, hot or dried cereals, oatmeal

Meats

Aged, canned, cured, or processed meats (bologna, pepperoni, salami, other pre-packaged deli meats), pickled meats or fish, salted or fried meats or poultry, hot dogs, sausages, jerky

Fresh/unprocessed meats, poultry, fish, lamb, pork, veal, lamb, tuna

MSG (monosodium glutamate)

Avoid all in its multiple forms: Soy sauce, foods containing “hydrolyzed protein products” or “autolyzed yeast”, canned soups, bouillon cubes, Accent, meat tenderizers, seasoned salts. Pickled, preserved, or marinated foods.

Salt and other spices, butter, margarine, cooking oil, white vinegar, salad dressing (small amounts)

Sweeteners

Aspartame (Equal, Nutrasweet) (somewhat controversial)

Sucrose (sugar), high fructose corn syrup, sucralose (Splenda), saccharine (Sweet ‘n Low)

Vegetables

Pole or broad beans, lima beans, Italian beans, lentils, snow peas, fava beans, Navy beans, pinto beans, pea pods, sauerkraut, garbanzo beans, onions, olives, pickles

Asparagus, beets, broccoli, carrots, corn, lettuce, pumpkins, spinach, squash, string beans, tomatoes, all those not listed

Fruit

Avocadoes, figs, papaya, passion fruit, raisins, red plums. Limit bananas and citrus fruit

Apples, berries, peaches, pears, prunes, fruit cocktail

Mixed Dishes

Beef stroganoff, cheese blintzes, frozen meals/TV dinners, lasagna, macaroni and cheese, pizza

 

Note that tyramine, nitrites, and MSG are found in many foods and may be difficult to avoid. Learn to read labels

While there are few consistent scientific studies of the effect of food on headaches, there is a general consensus about which foods may be important to avoid. The above list is drawn from various sources including the National Headache Foundation, journal articles, websites (http://www.kirchnerheadacheclinic.com/diet.asp) and books (such as David Buchholz’s Heal Your Headache: The 1-2-3 Program for Taking Charge of Your Pain).

© Jason Rosenberg, M.D.

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