I’m convinced diet is not the silver bullet that can "cure" all migraine and chronic headache. That being said, I am also still convinced it’s one of the most powerful weapons we have to fight migraine.
Why is it that so many very different diets work? Is it simply that we’re all very different? Different genetic factors, perhaps different forms of migraine?
I think that’s part of the answer.
But one of the interesting things about migraine, cluster, and many chronic headaches, is that we have limited knowledge about what actually causes them, what actually is going on in our complex bodies. That’s why you’ll often hear me say that we aren’t sure why such-and-such works. It’s not poor research (I hope!), it’s just that our bodies are complex, and often treatments are found to work long before we know why.
Even with migraine’s most popular abortive drugs, the triptans, this has been the case. Developed for migraine, years later we believe they work for a completely different reason than we thought they worked in the first place!
So back to diets. Why do they work, and why do different ones work?
Recently a friend of mine was told by her doctor that her diet was working for a different reason than she originally thought. It seems now that there was one specific thing that her body wasn’t properly absorbing, and so supplements are now making a big difference.
Different body chemistry plays a role, different types of migraine or headache. But there may be one more factor.
Paying attention, and being careful.
What do many of these diets have in common? If you’re trying to cut out MSG, or gluten, or dairy, you need to make drastic changes. Usually, these changes mean less processed foods, more home cooking, simply paying more attention to your diet.
With MSG in so many things, you can’t simply buy whatever you want. You need to read labels, make your own mixes and meals from scratch.
No matter how much diet helps you specifically fight pain and other symptoms, paying closer attention to your diet and making more healthy foods from scratch has to help.
Sounds like a lot of work? It can be, but the benefits are tremendous. Right now, our family is investigating more ways to eat healthier and yet do it in less time. We need to be able to make food quickly, or have food handy when, for example, someone is sick. Hopefully I can share more ideas later.
But here’s the bottom line. I think many of these diets are valid. I’ve continued with some interesting research after my post on gluten free and gluten free/casein free diets, and I’ll hopefully share that with you later.
But it may be that one of the most powerful factors is that, whatever diet you’re on, you’re eating healthier.
If you need motivation, take a look at two very helpful books by Michael Pollan: The one I just finished, the brief and to the point Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual (right now just US$5). Also available in the UK here. I’ve copied the rules to put up in my kitchen.
Don’t be overwhelmed – improve your diet little by little, step by step. Every bite is a step toward better health, and hopefully a step toward fewer migraine or headache attacks.