CBS 2 news. The anchorman sends it over to Serena Branson the Staples Center where the Grammy Awards are letting out. A pretty, smiling, blond woman appears on the screen holding a CBS microphone. She opens her mouth to speak, but, rather than words, what emerges is a series of garbled, unintelligible syllables somewhat resembling the English language. The nation looks on horrified.
What happened to Serena Branson? According to later reports, Branson was suffering from a medical mystery diagnosed as a “complex migraine:” a unilateral, painful headache that can affect the speech and vision. Migraines are a debilitating condition affecting over 300 million people worldwide, most of whom are women. While there is no proof that diet triggers migraines, experts agree that certain foods can cause them. If you are one of the 300 million migraine sufferers, here are some things you may want to know about the food-migraine link.
Lucy Rathier, PhD and associate professor of psychiatry at Brown University, says, “If someone tells me that a certain food triggers their migraines, I’m not going to argue with them. They should avoid that food.” If you’re one of the one out of three people who say alcohol triggers their migraines, you should probably heed Dr. Rathier’s advice.
According to Noah Rosen, MD and director of the Headache center at the Cushing Neuroscience Institute, alcohol’s effect on migraines has been proven in studies. “People single out red wine or dark liquors, but unfortunately any alcohol can be a trigger,” he says.
Other Possible Culprits
MSG (Monosodium Glutamate)
MSG is a food additive commonly found in restaurant foods and processed foods to enhance flavor. Studies find it to be a cause of migraines in up to 15% of sufferers.
While some caffeine can ease the swelling that causes migraines, and is even an ingredient found in some pain relievers, beware of overdoing it. Rosen says, “if you drink more than 120 mg a day and you miss 60 mg,” it might result in a headache from withdrawal.
Rosen puts cheese and preserved meats into a category that he calls, “speculated foods,” or foods that have not been scientifically proven to cause migraines, although many people claim that they do. Rosen also acknowledges that some triggers may be even less common, pointing out that two of his patients say that garlic triggers their migraines. Says Rosen, although “it’s not common, in these people, it may be the case.”
Is Food The Cause of Your Migraine?
If you get a headache within 12 to 24 hours of eating a certain food, you should consider it a possible trigger. The best way to target triggers is to keep a journal or use a migraine app. to track them. Because most people have more than one trigger, Rosen recommends taking notes on 20 to 30 attacks to best determine which foods are causing the headaches.
Once you discover which foods might be triggering your migraine, eliminate them from your diet for a month, one by one. If you notice a change for the better, you may want to consider cutting the food out permanently, or at least when your risk of migraine is highest. For women, high risk may be associated with certain times in the menstrual cycle.
It may not only be what you eat that is causing your headaches, but also how often. Rosen says, “Skipping meals and dehydration are both significant triggers. We know this from what’s called ‘Yom Kippur headache’ or ‘first day of Ramadan headache,’ since both events require fasting.” Experts recommend eating five or six small meals during the day, especially to those suffering from migraines
If you suffer migraines, let us know what your triggers are. You may have some valuable information.