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Migraine Diet Triggers

Posted by Aisling Murray on

Migraine Action Week takes place September 12th to 19th. Whelehans and the Migraine Association are hosting a Migraine Information event in the pharmacy on Tuesday September 15th from 12pm to 2pm. As a result of questions I am asked by my clients regarding migraine food triggers, I decided to revisit this subject.


Diet triggers

Keep a food diary as it can help you identify what food irritates your body and triggers an attack. Your food diary should consist of foods you ate and at what times, your sleeping pattern, weather, state of mind and emotions. It is important to keep the diary up to and surrounding the time of an attack and not just the day you have the migraine. Studies indicate food has an influence on migraines; common foods blamed for causing migraines include chocolate, cheese, red wine and dairy.  Foods containing amines (organic compounds) especially tyramine and phenylethylamine are suspected to cause migraines. Reducing the intake of foods containing amines can decrease migraines in 20% - 50% of individuals.


More on Food triggers

Foods with most amines include: dairy products, chocolate, eggs, citrus fruits, meat, wheat, nuts and peanuts, tomatoes, onions, corn, apples, and bananas. The list contains beneficial foods including foods containing vital nutrients so it is not recommended to avoid these foods totally.


Chocolate: Chocolate may not be the cause of the migraine but rather the craving for chocolate is an indication that a migraine is on its way. For this reason chocolate may be sometimes wrongly blamed for bringing on a migraine. Cheap chocolate brands can be a contributing trigger as it contains more additives than more expensive or darker versions.


Cheese: Aged cheese such as cheddar, blue cheese, Swiss, parmesan, feta, brie etc. contain tyramine and phenylethyamine and for this reason can be a migraine trigger.


Alcohol: The darker the drink the more likely it is to induce migraine; this is due to the high levels of sulphites. Dark beers, whiskey, bourbon and red wine are examples of dark alcoholic beverages.


Caffeine: Caffeine found in tea, coffee, energy drinks and some medication can affect those living with migraine in different ways; paradoxically caffeine can ease or exacerbate the migraine depending on the person. Withdrawal from caffeine can also trigger a migraine attack so to prevent this happening stagger caffeine intake throughout the day and reduce amount consumed. Switching to herbal or green tea can be a better alternative to high caffeine drinks.


How to identify a food trigger

Food can be a trigger for only 20% of migraine suffers and can be wrongly blamed for an attack in the majority of cases. In order to identify what is really causing your migraine, refer back to your food diary. If a certain food does trigger a migraine, it may not be the only contributing factor. Fasting or skipping meals can bring on a migraine so eat little and often. If you wish to identify a triggering food then an elimination diet may be the best solution. I previously discussed the elimination and re-introduction diet in my column in the Examiner. If you missed this call in to Whelehans or check for this article and more information.


Next Migraine information event

A Migraine Information Event is next Tuesday the 15th September from12 pm to 2 pm in Whelehans Pharmacy. Staff from Migraine Association of Ireland will provide information and answer your questions.  You can simply call in on the day between 12pm and 2pm; due to the popularity of these events we advise registering in advance by calling Whelehans Pharmacy at 04493 34591. This event is free of charge to attend.


Aisling Murray has a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and offers a one to one specialist nutrition service at Whelehans Pharmacy. Plans start from €10 per week. Call Whelehans at 04493 34591 for an appointment

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