Written by Dietitian-Nutritionist, Dimitra Balaska
A migraine is a chronic neurological condition and its main symptom is intense pain in either half or the entire head. It lasts between 2 and 72 hours and it is accompanied by symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, photophobia (increased intolerance to visual perception of light) or phonophobia (a fear of or aversion to loud sounds). Exact mechanisms leading to a migraine are not known but it is believed that they are caused by a mix of environmental and hereditary factors. It is worth mentioning that fluctuations in hormonal levels can play a part since women suffer from migraines two to three times more compared to men. It is also impressive that migraines stop during pregnancy.
Nutritional factors, such as intolerance to certain foods and defficiency of specific nutrients, as well as stress, can cause migraine attacks.
It is estimated that 20% of migraines are caused by intolerance to a certain food. Foods with vasoconstricting properties can cause migraines to vulnerable groups. Foods with such properties are red wine, beer, yogurt, milk, tea, coffee, sausages, cola-type drinks, chocolate, aspartame, and monosodium glutamate used as flavor enhancer at Chinese restaurants.
Hypoglycemia is another factor that may cause migraines. Foods causing a migraine after hypoglycemia are chocolate, cheese, citrus fruits, banana, nuts, cereal, beans, and pizza.
Finally, riboflavin (vitamin Β2) and magnesium (Μg) deficiency appear to have a correlation with migraines.
However, you need to note that foods causing migraines to someone may not affect someone else and food intolerance limits may vary from time to time, even in the same person!
Because of this reason, there are no general instructions regarding the avoidance of certain foods and the assessment is performed on each patient individually.
It is, therefore, clear that migraine attacks are related to each individual’s nutrition and thus the collaboration of the dietitian and the doctor is important both for the prevention and the treatment of the migraine symptoms.