‘A severe headache’, one could possibly imagine, is an appropriate description of a migraine. This neurological disease is so prevalent around us that even if you don’t have it, the odds are that you know someone who does. It has undoubtedly emerged as a major public health concern.
In India, a collaborative study done by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), and Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, has brought to light that more than 213 million people suffered from migraine in 2019. Its prevalence is found to have increased with age and peaked at around the age of 40-44 years, followed by a gradual decrease in both females and males.
The Connection Between Food And Migraines
So, can our dietary habits help in improving migraine? The answer is, yes. As per some estimates, while stress is considered to be the main trigger, food and beverage may also be responsible for up to 30% of migraines. However, the relationship between food and migraine is complicated. To understand the connection between diet and the incidence of migraines, we reached out to Dr. Siddhant Bhargava, Fitness and Nutritional Scientist, and the Co-Founder of Food Darzee. Dr Siddhant says,
Often foods are triggers only when they are combined with other factors such as stress or hormonal changes. Whether you get a migraine from a food or beverage may also depend on how much you consume. Further, in many cases, you may not get a headache for several hours to several days after eating a trigger food, making it harder to find the connection between migraines and dietary habits.
Here are a few foods frequently reported as migraine triggers, as shared by Dr. Siddhant.
One of the most popular beverages, coffee is high in caffeine, and may affect migraines in more than one way. High caffeine consumption has been reported to trigger migraine in certain people. If you drink coffee regularly, skipping it may cause withdrawal symptoms. This includes headache, nausea and poor concentration. Maintain your coffee schedule or gradually lower your caffeine intake over a few weeks to avoid any withdrawal symptoms. It is also recommended to limit caffeine intake or quit high-caffeine beverages such as tea, soda and energy drinks.
2. Processed Meat
A group of preservatives that includes potassium and sodium nitrite, often found in processed meat, may lead to headache hours or even minutes after its consumption. Processed meats that contain nitrites include sausages, ham, bacon, etc. Having high amounts of histamine, and hard-cured sausages may also trigger migraines in people with histamine intolerance. Try to eliminate processed meat from your diet to have a healthier lifestyle.
3. Alcoholic Beverages
A significant number of people with migraines believe that alcohol triggers a migraine attack in them. However, all alcoholic beverages do not act in the same way. Studies suggest that red wine, containing histamine, is more likely to trigger a migraine than any other alcoholic beverage, especially in women.
4. Aged Cheese
It may be surprising that a vast number of people have reported sensitivity to aged cheese. It is believed that this may happen due to its high tyramine content as people with chronic migraines tend to have high levels of tyramine. Aged cheese may also contain histamine, another catalyst that can cause migraines. However, the role of tyramine and other biogenic amines in migraines requires more research.
In conclusion, Dr. Siddhant says,
If you experience migraines, visit your doctor. He is the best person to rule out any underlying conditions and recommend and prescribe medication or suggest a change in dietary habits. You can have Butterbur, an herbal supplement; coenzyme, an antioxidant that plays an effective role in energy metabolism; and an adequate amount of vitamins and minerals to better treat the frequency of migraine attacks. However, continue to maintain a healthy lifestyle, avoid stress, eat a balanced diet, and have sound sleep. This will be the most effective treatment against migraines in any given situation.