Stress does not cause migraines, but it can trigger tension headaches.
Migraines result from changes in biochemical processes and hormones.
These cause dilation and inflammation of the cerebral arteries. Key triggers include:
- hormonal changes in women
- seasonal changes, weather
- change in sleep pattern
Headaches may also occur with a sudden change in activity level or exertion, heavy cigarette smoking, change in noise level or light sources (flickering fluorescent lights), extended periods spent reading or in front of the computer.
Less than 10% of migraine triggers are related to food. Migraine is not an allergy symptom (watery eyes, hives, wheezing, stuffy nose). Symptoms related to migraine headaches include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, blurred vision, and muscle weakness.
Foods do not cause migraines, but they can trigger an underlying proneness to migraines. One of the most common triggers is low a blood sugar caused by skipping meals or allowing too much time between meals. Some general dietary and lifestyle recommendations include:
1. Eat every 3-4 hours
2. Ensure you have a source of protein at your meal
3. Eat high fiber foods (whole grains, fruit and vegetables)
4. Reduce refined sugar intake
5. Avoid crash diets
6. Exercise regularly
7. Get adequate sleep
8. Avoid smoking
9. Relax and reduce stress in your life
Common dietary triggers of migraines include foods containing tyramine, histamine, octopamine and phenylethylamine. The following is a list of the most common dietary migraine triggers. Not everybody is sensitive to the same food, therefore individual assessment is required to isolate and remove the suspect triggers from the diet for 2 weeks to see if migraines become less frequent.
- Red plums
- Broad beans (Lima beans)
- Chicken liver
- Peanut Butter
- Shellfish Some fish
- Pork Nitrites (cured)
- Sour cream
- Aged cheese
- Homemade bread
- Pickled foods
- Red wine
- Soy sauce
- Citrus fruits
- Caffeine Aspartame (pop, gum)
- MSG (soup, soy sauce)
Treatment of Migraines:
Eat foods that contain magnesium – nuts, fish, legumes, bran flakes, dark green leafy vegetables. Often a magnesium supplement of 350mg/day can help.
Supplements including feverfew extract and B2 may also help reduce headache symptoms and frequency of migraines.
Fish oil supplements have also been studied in the treatment of migraines as they promote vasodilation and reduce inflammation.
The Bottom Line: Do what you can to reduce the triggers, in particular, eat often, stay well hydrated, be active daily, reduce stress and get adequate rest.