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Foods for Migraines: Food as Prevention

June 27, 2015

As I outlined in the first part of this series, food is believed to play a significant part in the triggering of migraine headaches. But what if it can also help to prevent them?

The American Academy of Neurology and the American Headache Society (2012) have provided evidence based guidelines and rated a variety of natural treatments for migraine relief, rated on a scale of effective to possibly effective for migraine treatment.

Caffeine can be helpful in relieving a migraine because it enhances the analgesic activity of NSAIDS and helps to reduce the pain.  On the flip side, excessive caffeine could be the cause of the migraine.  If cutting back, do so gradually over time.  Cutting caffeine too quickly can result in flu like symptoms and a migraine.

Butterbur (Petasites) is considered to be an effective treatment, as it reduces frequency of attacks by about 48%.  The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database recommends using the name brand Petadolex. It is proven effective and other formulations may contain a carcinogenic compound called pyrrolizidine.

Riboflavin, rated probably effective, is a B vitamin that is now being used in high doses to significantly reduce the frequency of migraines.  Therapeutic doses range > 200 times the recommended daily intake and may cause diarrhea and bright yellow urine.

Feverfew, also rated probably effective, can reduce the frequency and severity of migraines.  Although it can help prevent migraines, it may not be effective as treatment during an attack.  Avoid Feverfew if you are allergic to ragweed or take blood thinners. Talk with your physician about dosage and potential interactions.

Co-enzyme Q10, rated as possibly effective, taken 3 times/day can decrease the frequency of migraines by 30%. It may take weeks to months to notice a significant benefit.

Magnesium, also rated as possibly effective, is involved in a vast number of body functions and a deficiency can be the root cause of a migraine.  Magnesium is used therapeutically during an acute attack and may prevent migraines in those with a deficiency.  Some drugs can deplete magnesium levels like steroids, diuretics, estrogen and proton pump inhibitors (PPI).  Have your physician check your magnesium levels if you are taking these medications and experiencing migraines.  High doses of magnesium, prescribed by a physician, can reduce the frequency and severity of migraines. Only use under a physician’s care as high doses can cause diarrhea and adversely affect people with kidney or heart disease. Food sources of magnesium include whole grains, spinach, nuts, legumes, white potatoes.

Other potential dietary factors under investigation that may provide migraine relief include a vegan diet, nighttime snacking, probiotics and a low fat diet.

Talk to your physician before taking a supplement to treat your migraines as specific dosages are needed to reach effective treatment and may interfere with current medications or conditions.  Consult with a dietitian to evaluate diet/headache diaries and nutrient deficiencies, pinpoint food triggers, and re-adjust menus to support a healthy eating plan.

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