Back when migraines were the plague of my existence, I’d try eating something to help them go away. But it never worked. Once a migraine began, food made no difference.
Imagine if, instead of waiting for a migraine to start, I’d been following a migraine diet plan or choosing from a list of foods that help migraines subside and rarely return?
As it turns out, there IS an effective migraine diet plan. However, there’s also considerable confusion about the foods that help migraines and those that don’t.
The Questionable Food-Migraine Connection
Increased hunger often precedes a migraine, so many migraineurs grab a snack or bite to eat when they sense an attack is imminent. When the full-blown migraine arrives, what the victim ate often becomes the scapegoat.
The last food we ate getting the blame may partially account for the widely varying opinions about which foods trigger migraines.
The gluten-free crowd tells us to stay away from gluten. Of course, if you have celiac disease, staying away from gluten will surely help!
In this study headed by researchers at the Sheffield Teaching Hospitals’ Academic Department of Neurosciences, 75 percent of celiac patients who eliminated gluten from their diets stopped getting headaches.
But the study specifically targeted celiac patients, not the general population!
Many others would never dream of including chocolate among the foods that help migraines, even if they crave it in the early stages of an attack.
However, when Italian researchers analyzed the purported scientific evidence backing a chocolate-migraine association, they found it sorely lacking.
What they did discover is that other triggers, including:
- alcohol consumption
and lack of sleep were 2 to 3 times more likely than chocolate to cause migraines.
They concluded that the analyzed studies were “unequivocal, and clearly demonstrated” no difference between chocolate and placebo in migraine association.
The list of other potential migraine-triggering foods is an extensive one. So let’s switch our focus instead to foods that help migraines go away and stay away!
Migraine Diet Plan and Foods That Help Migraines
The available research is consistent, the best migraine diet plan is mostly or entirely plant-based. Multiple studies have examined how specific diets impact migraines.
The first one looked at the MIND diet, already known to lower the incidence of cognitive decline. As a primarily plant-based diet, it specifically encourages the consumption of green leafy vegetables and berries.
Researchers at the Tehran University of Medical Science published their cross-sectional study in 2020. Its 266 female participants aged 18 to 50 had a history of migraines.
The ones following a MIND diet reported their migraines were less severe, less frequent, and of shorter duration.
Another Tehran University of Medical Science study enrolled women given referrals to a headache clinic. It compared the migraine experiences of another 266 female participants based on how closely they followed the DASH diet.
The ones whose diets were closest to DASH had 46 percent fewer severe migraines and 36 percent fewer moderate headaches than those whose diets were least healthy.
Once again, Tehran researchers had shown that the best diet migraine plant is one abundant in fruits, dark leafy greens, other veggies, legumes, and whole grains!
Why Are So Many Foods That Help Migraines Plant-Based?
The second Tehran study concluded that:
and spinach contain active substances capable of blocking CGRP (calcitonin gene-related peptide.) CGRP may cause nervous-system pain and inflammation during a migraine.
“In some cases,” the researchers observed, the plant compounds were “…more effective than administered drugs.”
As a high-fiber diet, DASH reduces inflammation by changes the gut microorganisms and slows the rate of glucose absorption. It also provides generous amounts of magnesium, potassium, and calcium – all anti-inflammatory minerals.
Magnesium also plays a role in blood vessel constriction, serotonin release, and blood platelet inhibition. All those processes affect migraine development.
In general, the researchers wrote, a diet containing lots of magnesium- and potassium-rich fruits and veggies while skimping on saturated and total fat “may ease the frequency, or even prevent, migraine headaches.”
Finally, a randomized cross-over trial from researchers in Washington DC randomly assigned 42 adults to two groups who switched places halfway through the study.
While one group was eating a low-fat vegan diet, the other took a placebo supplement. The vegan diet produced “significant changes” in headache intensity and pain.
The bottom line?
Significant research shows that eating a diet high in plant-based ingredients results in fewer, less intense migraines.
My own experience is a dramatic reflection of those findings. After I went entirely on my plant-based migraine diet plan, my migraines almost completely disappeared.
And the occasional piece of chocolate remains on my menu!