Foods to Eat For Migraines and Other Headaches
Foods most likely to trigger headaches and migraines include wheat, milk, cheese, chocolate, coffee, sugar, peanuts, pork and chemical additives and preservatives. Fortunately, some foods do not cause or exacerbate headaches, and some can help prevent or alleviate headaches and migraines. Many adults have unrecognized food allergies, and a high percentage of headaches involve food intolerances. Migraine sufferers experience fewer headaches after eliminating foods to which they were unknowingly allergic.
Whole grains are helpful in preventing and fighting headaches because the fiber content helps maintain balanced blood sugar levels. Fluctuating blood sugar can cause headaches. One way to reduce or prevent headaches is to eat a breakfast that includes magnesium-rich oatmeal or whole-grain cereals. The American Family of Physicians explains that people who have migraines or cluster headaches often have low levels of magnesium. You need carbohydrates to replenish glycogen, the main source of energy for your brain. Reducing energy to the brain may cause dehydration, which can trigger headaches.
- Whole grains are helpful in preventing and fighting headaches because the fiber content helps maintain balanced blood sugar levels.
- One way to reduce or prevent headaches is to eat a breakfast that includes magnesium-rich oatmeal or whole-grain cereals.
Fish and Meat
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Salmon, mackerel and trout are fatty fish that contain large amounts of essential fatty acids, which reduce the body's production of hormones that cause inflammation and pain and help prevent and alleviate the pain of migraines and headaches. Vitamin B6, found in tuna, turkey, chicken and beef liver, increases serotonin levels in the brain and acts as an antidepressant and neurotransmitter that may lower the risk of ongoing pain. Because of this, foods containing vitamin B6 are useful in reducing headaches and fatigue.
Nuts, Seeds and Legumes
The magnesium found in almonds, cashews, brown rice, black beans, peas and other legumes may help relax blood vessels, which can protect your body from painful headaches and migraines. Because sesame seeds are rich in vitamin E and help balance estrogen levels and improve circulation, they may prevent migraines from occurring during your period. Sesame seeds are also a good source of magnesium, which adds to their ability to prevent headaches.
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Dehydration is a major cause of headaches, and nutritionists recommend drinking water and eating foods that contain water, especially watermelon. Water found naturally in fruits and vegetables contains magnesium and other essential minerals that are beneficial for headache prevention. Other fruits with vitamins, minerals or high water content may help ease headache pain. These include berries, cucumber, melon, tomatoes, grapefruit, cantaloupe, apricots, papaya, peaches and cherries. Fresh pineapple contains water and is also a source of bromelain, an enzyme with anti-inflammatory qualities that may reduce pain symptoms. The potassium in bananas and the magnesium in apples and avocados make them good fruits to eat when you have a headache. Another home remedy for migraine and headache pain is herbal tea with lemon slices.
- Dehydration is a major cause of headaches, and nutritionists recommend drinking water and eating foods that contain water, especially watermelon.
- The potassium in bananas and the magnesium in apples and avocados make them good fruits to eat when you have a headache.
Spices and Seasonings
Marjoram, when consumed as tea, can be beneficial in relieving headache pain. Cinnamon and rosemary both help prevent or lessen headaches. Ginger root has anti-inflammatory qualities that help your body reduce the inflammation and swelling that can lead to headaches.
You should stay away from foods that contain nitrates found in processed meats or monosodium glutamate – MSG – used in seasonings and spice mixes, as these additives are migraine triggers.
- Marjoram, when consumed as tea, can be beneficial in relieving headache pain.
- You should stay away from foods that contain nitrates found in processed meats or monosodium glutamate – MSG – used in seasonings and spice mixes, as these additives are migraine triggers.
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- American Academy of Family Physicians: Therapeutic Uses of Magnesium
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- U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR): QuickStats: Percentage of adults who had migraines or severe headaches, pain in the neck, lower back or face/jaw, by sex --- National health interview survey, 2009. Published December 3, 2010.
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- Vollesen AL, Benemei S, Cortese F, et al. Migraine and cluster headache - the common link. J Headache Pain. 2018;19(1):89. doi:10.1186/s10194-018-0909-4
- Gustavsen MW, Celius EG, Winsvold BS, et al. Migraine and frequent tension-type headache are not associated with multiple sclerosis in a Norwegian case-control study. Mult Scler J Exp Transl Clin. 2016;2:2055217316682976. doi:10.1177/2055217316682976
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. QuickStats: Percentage of Adults Who Had Migraines or Severe Headaches, Pain in the Neck, Lower Back, or Face/Jaw, by Sex - National Health Interview Survey, 2009. MMWR. 2010;59(47);1557.
- Gebhart, M. Headache in the first manifestation of Multiple Sclerosis – Prospective, multicenter study. Brain Behav. 2017 Dec; 7(12): e00852. doi:10.1002/brb3.852
- Pelikan JB. Cluster headache as the index event in MS: A case report. Headache. 2016 Feb;56(2):392-6. doi:10.1111/head.12768
Maura Wolf's published online articles focus on women, children, parenting, non-traditional families, companion animals and mental health. A licensed psychotherapist since 2000, Wolf counsels individuals struggling with depression, anxiety, body image, parenting, aging and LGBTQ issues. Wolf has two Master of Arts degrees: in English, from San Francisco State University and in clinical psychology, from New College.