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Having an occasional headache is common. In fact, it has been reported that up to 75% of people aged between 18 and 65 experience headache over a year's time, and over 30% of people have migraine, according to the WHO.
Migraine is a severe form of headache that develops on one side of the head, often accompanied by nausea or light sensitivity. The effects of migraine are long-lasting than a common headache, because the intensity of pain is greater.
Tweaking your diet can lower the frequency of migraines. According to a study, following a vegan diet can benefit people with migraine  .
Let's find out here what are the foods to eat and avoid to prevent a migraine attack.
Foods To Eat To Prevent Migraine
According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), consuming plant-based diets will improve your health and reduce a migraine headache.
Here is a list of foods and beverages that the PCRM considers good for migraine.
1. Green-, yellow- and orange-coloured veggies
Eating a variety of coloured vegetables can reduce your migraine attack, because veggies contain numerous amount of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants  .
2. Brown rice
Brown rice is an excellent source of magnesium, an important mineral that can help reduce a migraine attack. A study shows that a person with migraine is said to have low magnesium levels in his brain  .
Sometimes, a migraine headache is caused by dehydration as well. Eating fruits such as berries, cucumber, melons, tomatoes, and soups can lower the intensity of a migraine attack because these fruits are high in water content.
4. Natural Sweeteners
Natural sweeteners like maple syrup, honey and blackstrap molasses increase the antioxidant intake after consumption. So, having these foods will lower the pain associated with migraine and boost your overall health.
Foods To Avoid To Prevent Migraine
Chocolate is the second most migraine triggering food after alcohol, according to the American Migraine Foundation. Chocolate affects 22% of people who suffer from migraine because it contains caffeine and beta-phenylethylamine, which triggers a migraine headache  .
2. Artificial sweeteners
A lot of processed foods contain artificial sweeteners like aspartame, sucralose, stevia, etc. These artificial sweeteners are found in candies, baked goods, soft drinks, canned foods, jams and jellies and dairy products, which are thought to trigger migraine  .
Cheeses like feta cheese, blue cheese, and parmesan cheese contain an amino acid called tyramine which is commonly seen in aged foods. Tyramine has been linked to triggering migraine  .
4. Salty foods
Salty foods like salad dressing, pretzels, pasta sauce, instant noodles, mixed nuts, etc. contain harmful preservatives which may trigger migraine headache. Also, consumption of salty foods in excess can increase blood pressure, causing migraine  .
Alcohol is a common migraine triggering drink which causes dehydration, a significant contributor in increasing the chances of migraine headaches. Red wine and beer are said to affect migraine sufferers  .
Beverages with high caffeine content such as tea and coffee are said to cause migraines. Increased consumption of caffeine or caffeine withdrawal can lead to migraine  .
7. MSG foods
Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is the sodium salt of glutamic acid which has been linked to migraines. According to the American Migraine Foundation, MSG triggers severe migraines in 10 to 15% of those who experience migraines.
8. Frozen foods
Frozen foods and drinks like ice cream, yogurt, margarita, and slushies when consumed cause a severe, stabbing pain in the head  . So, avoid consuming these foods for migraine.
9. Cured meat
Usually, cured meat comes in the form of sausages, deli meats, hot dogs, and hams. These meat products contain preservatives called nitrates, which preserve colour and flavour. Upon consumption, they release nitric oxide which dilates blood vessels in the brain, causing a migraine attack  .
10. Fermented and pickled foods
Pickled and fermented foods are rich in tyramine content which is said to trigger a migraine attack. Avoid pickled foods like pickles, pickled okra, pickled jalapenos, kimchi and kombucha.
Ways To Prevent Migraine Attacks
- Limit your caffeine intake
- Eat fresh natural foods and never skip meals
- Get plenty of sleep
- Lower your stress levels by doing yoga or meditation
- Avoid looking directly at bright lights
-  Bunner, A. E., Agarwal, U., Gonzales, J. F., Valente, F., & Barnard, N. D. (2014). Nutrition intervention for migraine: a randomized crossover trial.The journal of headache and pain,15(1), 69.
-  Jain, M. M., Kumari, N., & Rai, G. (2015). A novel formulation of veggies with potent anti–migraine activity.International journal of computational biology and drug design,8(1), 54-61.
-  Ramadan, N. M., Halvorson, H., Vande‐Linde, A., Levine, S. R., Helpern, J. A., & Welch, K. M. A. (1989). Low brain magnesium in migraine.Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain,29(7), 416-419.
-  Moffett, A. M., Swash, M., & Scott, D. F. (1974). Effect of chocolate in migraine: a double-blind study.Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry,37(4), 445-448.
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-  Moffett, A., Swash, M., & Scott, D. F. (1972). Effect of tyramine in migraine: a double-blind study.Journal of neurology, neurosurgery, and psychiatry,35(4), 496–499.
-  Pogoda, J. M., Gross, N. B., Arakaki, X., Fonteh, A. N., Cowan, R. P., & Harrington, M. G. (2016). Severe Headache or Migraine History is Inversely Correlated With Dietary Sodium Intake: NHANES 1999-2004.Headache,56(4), 688–698.
-  Panconesi A. (2016). Alcohol-induced headaches: Evidence for a central mechanism?.Journal of neurosciences in rural practice,7(2), 269–275.
-  Lee, M. J., Choi, H. A., Choi, H., & Chung, C. S. (). Caffeine discontinuation improves acute migraine treatment: a prospective clinic-based study.The journal of headache and pain,17(1), 71.
-  Vincent T. Martin, Brinder Vij.Diet and Headache: Part 1.Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain, 2016; 56 (9): 1543
-  Gruber, H. J., Bernecker, C., Lechner, A., Weiss, S., Wallner-Blazek, M., Meinitzer, A., ... & Fazekas, F. (2010). Increased nitric oxide stress is associated with migraine.Cephalalgia,30(4), 486-492.