Do “Migraine Diets” have this in Common?

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.

Last week we talked about another diet that some people have had success with – the gluten-free, casein-free diet.  One of the most common diets is the low-tyramine diet.

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.

And you can read the information packed and more motivational In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto (in the UK here).

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.

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3 comments… add one
  • Kayla Apr 24, 2010

    I was on a really strict diet for a few months, where I only ate fresh vegetables, some fruit, brown rice, and plain chicken/pork/seafood on the george foreman. I didn’t notice a single difference in ANYTHING, not my daily head pain or my IBS, and supposedly I have food intolerances/allergies.

    What I still do now is look at labels and make sure its not a long paragraph of ingredients, and its all fresh ingredients. I definitely stay away from sauces still, because I think they are the thing most people overlook. In general, I’m just eating healthier now and I hope that it helps me out in the long run, even if it doesn’t now.

  • Dvora Apr 30, 2010

    Anyone will benefite from eating healthier, but I think that all the Cronic
    Daily Headaches are a simptom of extra sensitivity to all alregant foods:
    The whole list of Dr. Bocholtz + (!) gluten, milk and eggs + meat!.
    It took me 4 months doing this extrem diet, including giving up meat
    and fish. The main thing is also eating very fresh and small quantities of
    even the allowed food. It’s hard only at the beginning, but becomes
    just a way of life… the last two weeks were the best in twenty years.
    I’ll keep everyone posted! I lost 10 pounds which is a bonos!

  • I’ve been fighting the good fight, trying to avoid migraines, for more years than I care to remember. Every day I seem to come up with another trigger, food being the most suspect. I avoid all the usual triggers, except coffee, something I’ve been having trouble giving up.
    I’ve been working on a cookbook about feeding your dogs and your family with the same ingredients (http://www.peoplefoodforpets.com/). When I am in my cooking and recipe mode, my headaches miraculously go away. Every food on the list of foods that are a problem for dogs is a migraine trigger for me: aged cheese, alcohol, bananas, beer, caffeine, chickpeas, chocolate, citrus, corncobs, eggplant, garlic, ketchup, mushrooms, mustard seeds, onions, processed meats, raisins, raspberries, red grapes, red plums, soy sauce, tea, tomatoes, uncooked yeast dough, walnuts, wine.
    I have no idea why it’s true, but when I eat like a dog, I don’t get migraines. Added to the list for me are: milk products, including all cheeses, cream, yogurt, sour cream, and butter, and artificial sweeteners.
    I’m now into heavy-duty writing mode, not developing recipes and I’ve been lax about trying to eat like a dog. I’ve also been plagued by migraines.
    Maybe I should come up with a new migraine diet and call it the canine connection.

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