Migraine is one of a number of chronic conditions in which food is not the underlying cause, but some foods may exacerbate or trigger symptoms in some sufferers.
The identification of dietary triggers can often be difficult, as the trigger food may not cause symptoms for some hours (even into the next day). Keeping a daily food and symptoms diary for a couple of weeks may help to identify potential dietary triggers.
The most common food triggers are listed below, and it may be useful to avoid them all for four to six weeks to see if this helps reduce the migraines. If you only get migraines occasionally then the foods should be excluded for longer.
Different drinks affect different people. Some can drink white wine, but not red, some can only drink champagne.
Migraine can be provoked by quite small amounts of chocolate - a square of chocolate, chocolate bar, or even the chocolate in a sauce or pudding.
Mature cheese (stilton, brie, emmental, and camembert) can be more likely to produce attacks.
Citrus fruits appear to trigger migraines more commonly than other fruits.
Missing or delayed meals and slimming
Missed or delayed meals, or insufficient food or drinks can initiate attacks, which come on during a period of fasting, or soon after eating.
If you are planning an elimination diet, it should have a start and end date. They should not be ongoing unless there is good evidence that certain food exclusions have helped. Avoiding foods without a good reason can result in a deficient diet and it is essential to replace excluded foods with something of similar nutritional value.
In addition to dietary triggers of migraine, it is useful to explore possible non-food triggers too.
Environmental triggers can include:
- Loud/repetitive noise
- Strong odours/perfume
- Air pollution
- Florescent lighting
- Flickering lights
- Computer monitors/TV screens
- Altitude changes
- Second hand smoke
- Weather changes
Keep a record of your dietary intake and the day and time when attacks begin. Remember:
- Attacks can be triggered by a food eaten many hours earlier
- Do not miss breakfast and eat regular meals and snacks.
Again keeping a food and symptoms diary, recording when the attacks occur, may help to identify whether your migraine is food related. However, be mindful that food does not play a role in every person suffering from migraine.
Last update: October 2012