Woman holding head in pain

Avoid These Migraine Food Triggers

There’s possibly nothing worse than getting a migraine.

Well, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but still – migraines are truly awful! They make you want to simply curl up in a dark room and not leave until sound and light stop causing you pain.

If you’ve suffered from migraines, you know that there can be all sorts of triggers. And truly, the scope of triggers is quite vast. 

Now, there has been research which connects certain types of food with migraines. That means that you should at least reduce the amount of that food in your diet if you want to reduce the frequency and the intensity of your migraine attacks.

What Are Migraines?

Basically, migraines are extremely painful headaches, which can be accompanied by sensory sensitivity. Symptoms can vary from one person to another and can last anywhere from 4 to 72 hours, and sometimes even longer.

Some common symptoms of migraines include:

  • Headache
  • Disturbed vision
  • Sensitivity to sensory information (i.e. to light, sound, smells)
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Lightheadedness

However, migraines are usually also preceded and followed by other symptoms, so the impact of a single migraine attack can actually be quite long and debilitating. It can impact your everyday life to a significant extent, especially if you get them often.

Unfortunately, there is no medical cure for migraines currently. They are usually treated with other pain-relieving medication, or, in some cases, with preventive medication taken on a regular basis, which serves to reduce their severity or frequency.

However, there are things you yourself can do to prevent getting migraines. That may not completely eradicate your migraines, but it will certainly help significantly.

Migraine Triggers

Migraines are incredibly complex (they even used to be called complicated migraines). Even though there is plenty of research being done to see what causes them and to improve treatment, it seems that there is a long way to go still.

However, what most experts seem to agree on is that migraines are usually preceded by a specific trigger. The scope of triggers varies from one person to the next. While some triggers cause migraines in some people, they have no effect whatsoever on others, who are also suffering from migraines.

In any case, the scope of triggers is truly astounding. It involves things like hormonal changes, changes in sleep patterns, too much food, too little food, too much sleep, too little sleep, too much time in front of the computer, dehydration, and even the weekend.

Yes, even the weekend is a possible migraine trigger.

Many people suffer migraines due to the change in daily routine, which is why they experience a migraine at the weekend, when they should be relaxing.

Now that’s a pickle.

When it comes to food, there have been some studies that link certain types of food with the onset of migraines. However, because of its truly specific nature, scientists have been unable to find a common thread in all people who suffer from migraines.

That is why everyone should check their specific triggers. Here are some of the common food triggers that have been linked with causing migraines, which you might want to avoid. Now, this doesn’t mean you should stop consuming them completely. You simply need to control your cravings, and you’re on the right path.

Red Wine

Pouring red wine into two glasses

We know, we know.

This one hits home! How else are we supposed to (politely) manage all those boring dinners without getting (politely) tipsy on wine?

Well, if you’re a wine aficionado, we simply don’t know what to tell you.

And it’s not the wine’s fault, per se. Sulfites, which are used in red wine as preservatives, are, sadly, on the list of foods that may trigger migraines.

Additionally, alcohol in general is a major trigger. While you drink it, alcohol increases the blood flow to your brain and that, as you may have guessed, is known to trigger migraines.

Also – hangovers are simply the worst.

Dehydration, which is a common side-effect of the good ol’ hangover, can also cause migraines or, at the very least, a headache.

So, it might be a good idea to quit…

…fooling around and simply reduce the amount of alcohol you drink.

As they say, moderation is key.

Coffee

Woman holding a cup of espresso

Again, no need to completely quit coffee.

In fact, caffeine aids the absorption of many pain-relieving drugs.

However, if you’re used to several cups of coffee a day, when you don’t get the amount you’re used to, that’s when migraines appear.

Look into your daily consumption of caffeine, since it is not particularly healthy overall to drink too much of it. But, if you’re thinking about reducing the amount of coffee you drink, you have to do it gradually. So, no going cold turkey. Your body will not be happy.

According to most experts, daily intake of caffeine should be no more than 200 milligrams. The bad news is – it’s only one cup of coffee.

Chocolate

Dark chocolate truffles

When it comes to chocolate, many people have also said that it triggers their migraines. However, the jury’s still out on chocolate – some people who suffer from migraine headaches claim that chocolate helps ease their headache.

A study conducted at the University of California, San Diego analyzed oral and stool samples and found that people who experience migraines after eating chocolate have higher levels of gut microbes that modify nitrates.

Now, chocolate is full of nitrates.

The bacteria in our gut modifies and then its waste product, nitrites, become nitric oxide in the blood.

Nitric oxide is usually great for many things, including circulation, but it’s not particularly great for people who experience migraines.

So, again, while chocolate itself is not too bad, having too much of it can lead to headaches.

Tyramine

Sliced ham on wooden chopping board

Yeah, we bet you’re thinking you’ve never had tyramine in your life.

But, you have, you definitely have.

Except in other, sneakier (and tastier) forms.

Tyramine can be found in aged foods, as well as fermented foods, such as:

  • Cured meats
  • Aged cheese
  • Smoked fish

Tyramine is also found in some types of beer and even some fruits and veggies.

Food is more likely to have more tyramine if it is stored for long and if it isn’t kept in sufficiently cold environments.

An enzyme in the human body called monoamine oxidase (MAO) actually breaks down monoamines like tyramine. If you do not have enough of it in your system, it’s possible that you’ll get a migraine.

However, because it is such a complex issue, it’s still not completely clear how tyramine exactly triggers migraines.

Now, for some good news. There are actually types of meats and cheese which have higher and lower levels of tyramine. Here are some of them.

Meat/Poultry/Fish

Freshly cooked sausages and tomato dish, still in pan

When it comes to meat, you should avoid processed meat such as sausages, salami, as well as gravy (we know, this one’s hard for us, too). Another thing you should avoid is pickled fish, but we have a feeling not many people are dissatisfied with this one. However, this also includes smoked fish, so that might be a bit more difficult.

On the other hand, there is also meat which doesn’t have that much tyramine, such as fresh meat, fish, and poultry. Also, canned meats or fresh fish are also good for consumption and are not that likely to cause a migraine.

Cheese/Dairy

Freshly grated cheese on chopping board

Unfortunately, some of the best types of cheese are really high in tyramine. These include all sorts of aged cheese, cheddar, blue cheese, Camembert, Swiss cheese, Parmesan, Stilton, and even feta.

This one’s sad as sad can be.

Seriously, how can you have pasta without Parmesan?

But, people with migraines have to cool it with the cheese.

On the other hand, types like cottage cheese, farmer’s cheese and even cream cheese are good. Also, yoghurt, fresh milk and sour cream are low in tyramine, so you can have them whenever you want.

Fruit/Vegetables

Halved citrus fruits on wooden board

If you’re not a fan of sour fruit, then you won’t be too affected by this. Oranges, tangerines, grapefruit, lemons, limes and pineapple are higher in tyramine.

When it comes to vegetables, you might want to steer clear from beans and sauerkraut. Also, you should avoid fermented food. That doesn’t mean you should completely cut them out. It simply means that you might want to reduce the quantity. Fermented foods are otherwise incredibly healthy and they can have many other health benefits. However, if they trigger your migraines, you might want to cool it on the fermented food.

On the other hand, you can eat most vegetables – fresh, canned or frozen – and it is unlikely that they will cause any migraines.

How to Lower Tyramine in Food

Tyramine actually increases the longer food is held at room temperature. That is why you should store your food in the refrigerator.

When you thaw frozen foods, do it in the refrigerator or, if you have it, a microwave.

Another good tip for lowering tyramine is to cook or eat fresh meat or fish on the day you bought them. Otherwise, it’s best to freeze them.

Also, never ever eat something that has been kept in the fridge for more than a day.

Check Your Triggers

So, if you’re wondering whether food really can be a trigger for migraines, the short answer is – yes.

Your diet alone cannot cause migraines. It’s unlikely that you’ll always get migraines when eating certain food.

However, while there are types of food in general believed to be causing migraines, there is also food that specifically causes your migraine.

The best way to identify your triggers is to write a combined food/migraine diary. If you’re suffering from migraines, you already have a pretty good idea what may trigger yours. Migraines can occur a day after eating triggering food.

You should combine a food diary with a headache diary to see whether some foods cause headaches. Headaches themselves are not too bad. However, combined with other possible triggers, they may cause a full-blown migraine.

Then, the next step is to reduce the food that you’ve noticed has that effect on you. If you really like something, you don’t need to completely cut it out. But, it would be valuable for your overall health if you were to reduce it significantly.

There Are Beneficial Foods Too

Now that we’ve listed all the bad food, it’s time for a look on the other side. It has been proven that certain food is “pain-safe,” that is, it does not trigger any conditions.

Including, you might have guessed it – migraines.

Also, they are overall beneficial in reducing the frequency of your migraines and alleviating pain. The food and drinks that actually cannot trigger your migraines include:

  • Rice (especially brown)
  • Almost all vegetables
  • Fruit (which was not listed above)
  • Green tea, ginger tea
  • Fish
  • Chicken

Making ginger tea

There has even been research to show that a plant-based diet can really benefit people who suffer from migraines. So, if you want to get rid of migraines, you know what to do!

(No, you don’t have to go vegan. Simply adjust your diet a bit and you’ll see an improvement in time.)

Home Remedies for Migraines

There are ways to also naturally reduce the intensity of migraines once you get them. While they may not completely cure your migraines, these are known for helping with the symptoms. There are also cures to treat headaches, and they also might alleviate your pain.

Here is what you should do when you get a migraine:

  • Lie in a dark, quiet room. Due to sensory sensitivity, which can worsen your headache, it is recommended that you simply lie down in a room in which the blinds are drawn shut. If you live in a noisy part of the city, use earplugs to make sure the noise doesn’t bother you.

Woman sleeping soundly in bed

  • Cool your head down. Experts believe that cooling the head reduces the blood flow to the brain, which might lower the pain you’re feeling. When you get a migraine, you should put an ice pack on your forehead or neck. Or, if that’s too cold for you, use a washcloth that has been put under cold water and drained. The only problem is that you will have to rinse it often because it can heat up quite fast.
Woman looking stressed and bored at work

6 Easy Focus Shifters for a Healthier Mind

There are times when you’re faced with a problem or a period in your life that you cannot deal with. When your mind feels like it’s stuck in a bog, and there’s no way out

That’s why it is very important to know when to press pause. To stop. To refocus.

And how are you to do that?

Well, by shifting your focus.

When you shift your focus, you are able to postpone thinking about the problem that causes you stress. As a direct result your stress levels decrease, helping you cope with the hurdles on your path. When you have done that, when you’ve managed to relax, that’s when you’re capable of dealing with the practical side of things. 

So, here are some ways of shifting your focus that will help you in the long run.

Take A Creative Break

Did you know that stepping back for a while can actually increase your chances of finding the answer to your problem? 

As the old saying goes, sometimes you can’t see the forest from the tree. It’s blocking your view and your path to the solution. It’s stopping you mentally, as well as physically.

So take a break from the issue you’re currently having and engage your mind in a different way.

Not sure where to begin? Here are a few ideas:

  • Organize the bookcase that you haven’t come round to
  • Watch an episode of your favorite sitcom 
  • Take a nap. Research shows that taking a nap is a foolproof way of rebooting your brain
  • Solve a different kind problem, like a crossword puzzle or Sudoku

Many people would call this the art of procrastination, but people neglect how it can be useful, as well. While you’re letting your brain gallivant across unimportant things (except the sitcom! That is incredibly important!), you’re actually allowing it to rest.

The point is to do something mind-engaging that you enjoy. To restart your brain while you have fun. To drag it out of the bog long enough to see that the sun is shining and the bog is not the place for it.

Make A Phone Call 

This is a super easy way to shift your attention to something else. It’s quick and immediately effective. In fact, people do it all the time. But instead of calling your friends and loved ones every once in a while to catch up, why not send them a text whenever you need a break?

Not only will this help you re-focus your attention, but it will also have the added benefit of keeping your friends and loved ones regularly in your life.

Middle-age woman working on her computer in a cafe

Are you unsure of what to say in your text or call?

It doesn’t have to be anything long or specific. Just ask them about their day, how their work is going, and have they seen that last episode of Game of Thrones?

Sure winner, really.

Help Someone Else

Sometimes it’s necessary to get out of our own heads and into helping someone else. Not only does this engage our attention in a completely different direction, but it also gives us some perspective. As it turns out, we’re not the only people with problems after all.

So how should you go about helping someone else?

It can be as easy as turning to your co-worker and ask if they need any help. If you’re aware of the projects they’re working on, offer some ideas or suggestions. You can also offer to make them a cup of coffee, or pack some lunch on your way out.

If you don’t feel like reaching out to a co-worker, why not think about those in your immediate social circle? Is your husband trying to find a gluten-free cookie brand that he doesn’t hate? Try researching some reviews online to see what other options are available. Is your best friend looking for a good book to read? Make a list of five different books you think she’ll enjoy, and send the list to her. She’ll appreciate it!

List the Positives

Negativity has a huge impact on our lives. And yes, some people are naturally more prone to think negatively.

It’s a glass-half-empty type of thing.

But in order to shift your focus, you have to shift the driving force of your thoughts.

Out with the negativity, in with the positivity!

While you’re looking at a problem or, even, your life, on a grand scale, stop and focus on the positive things. 

What are the positive things? Well, start by thinking about what good this particular problem can bring in the future, what you will have learnt and what you’re yet to learn. 

If that fails, there are other foolproof ways of shifting your focus to more optimistic dimensions. Consider focusing on these:

  • Your strengths – is it your sensitivity? your social skills? or maybe it’s your ambitious approach in new projects?
  • Your achievements – this may be closing a sales account sooner than expected, reaching your own financial savings goals, or just finishing three different chores on Sunday
  • The things you love – your dog, your sister, your husband, your kids and the thick forest near your home are all fodder for optimistic thought
  • Your environment – the technology you’re using, the bird outside, the change of seasons

Young woman writing in a scheduler, with her laptop and phone, in a cafe

Optimism can aid you significantly, as you will learn. It will lead to greater success, better overall health and, of course, decrease your stress levels.

By focusing on positive thoughts, you can actually live longerIf that’s not a good enough reason to switch to positivity, well, we don’t know what is.

Get Out and Exercise

Not to get all Latin on you, but ancient Romans did know a thing or two about life. Well, we can only imagine, since so many proverbs remain. And there is one particular wisdom that is incredibly useful when trying to shift focus.

Mens sana in corpore sano.

See? Even the ancient Romans knew that a healthy body is the foundation of a healthy mind, its support and enabler. And just like a house is wobbly without a proper foundation, your mind will also suffer without a healthy body.

And one way to change that is to exercise.

Exercising on a regular basis has so many benefits that it is difficult to list them all. And not just when it comes to the physical part.

It is known to reduce stress, to alleviate anxiety symptoms, and even aid with depression. When your body changes and becomes something you consider good, that will also lead to increased self-esteem that can pour into other spheres of life. Truly, the effects of exercising are gargantuan in the long run.

But, did you know that it can also help you at the precise moment you need it?

Let’s go back to the beginning. We mentioned some menial tasks, or even some harder ones, used to relax and shift your focus. Well, exercise can do that, as well. Only here, you also have the added benefit of endorphins making you feel good.

Infographic on endorphins

Once you’re faced with an overwhelming task or an overwhelming period in your life, one of the ways you can shift your focus is to exercise. It doesn’t have to be for too long. You don’t have to slave away at the gym, building muscles. You simply need to dedicate some time to your body.

And your body will show that it’s grateful by providing your mind with solutions and changed perspectives and, simply, contentedness.

Two things come to the fore when you exercise to shift your focus:

  • You step away from the situation, which is, as it has been established, a good thing.
  • You are improving both the state of your body and your mind.

So, the next time you’re feeling stuck, the best idea might be to go for a run or to the gym. Just for a little while, just for a little respite for your mind. Once you return to the problem, your mind will be rested and your body delightfully relaxed.

Act Like It’s Thanksgiving Every Day

No matter what you may think, this is not a utopian idea. And no, it does not include inviting all of your family around to feast every day. Although, that does sound like a nice idea.

In a matter of speaking, Thanksgiving Day is beneficial because it reminds us that we have something to be grateful for. It reminds us to give thanks for having those things. And that is not something we do often.

So, teach yourself to be grateful.

Turning every day into Thanksgiving Day means reminding yourself that life, in all its complexities, is actually an amalgam of many things. Yes, there will be times when there are more bad things. But, there will also be times when you will feel like jumping from joy.

Employ this technique when faced with a hurdle. Instead of letting stress get the best of you, remind yourself that this is just another moment in a sea of moments of varying quality. You’re swimming through a bad one right now, but the good one is just around the corner.

Happy smiling woman looking grateful, with her hands clasped together

Being thankful doesn’t have much to do with anything momentous. It can include something incredibly small, but big to you. You may be grateful that your kid said their first word. You may be grateful that you have a supportive family that helps you achieve your dreams. Or, also, you may be grateful simply because the bus came on time today.

If you want, you can do this on a regular basis. Pick three things that you are grateful for each day and, soon enough, you will see the difference.

Giving thanks gives way to smiles, which gives way to a happier you. And a happier you will be more adept at solving whatever hurdle life has presented before you.

So, change your focus. Clear your goggles.

See the reality of life and its astonishing nature. And that will surely lead to a healthy mind.