Foods that Help Headache & Migraine Relief

Foods that Help Headache & Migraine Relief
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Plant-based diets are put to the test for treating migraine headaches.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Headaches are one of the top five reasons people end up in emergency rooms, and one of the leading reasons for which people see their doctors in general. One of the things you can do to try to prevent them is to identify the triggers and avoid them. Common triggers for migraines include stress, smoke, hunger, sleep issues, certain trigger foods, like chocolate, cheese, and alcohol, your menstrual cycle, or certain weather patterns.

In terms of dietary treatments, the father of modern medicine, William Osler, suggested trying “a strict vegetable diet.” After all, the nerve inflammation associated with migraines may be reduced by a strictly plant-based diet, as many plant foods are high in anti-inflammatory compounds and antioxidants, and likewise, meat products may have pro-inflammatory properties. But it wasn’t put to the test for another 117 years.

Among those given a placebo supplement, half said they got better; half said they didn’t. But when put on a strictly plant-based diet, they did much better, experiencing a significant drop in the severity of their pain. Now, “it is possible that the pain reducing effects of the [plant-based] diet may be, at least in part, due to weight reduction”—they lost about nine more pounds in their vegan month.

Even just lowering the fat content of the diet may help. Those placed on a month of consuming less than 30 grams of fat a day, like less than two tablespoons of oil a day, experienced highly significant decreases in headache frequency, intensity, duration, and the need to take medications––a six-fold decrease in the frequency and intensity. From three migraine attacks every two weeks down to just one a month. And by low-fat, they didn’t mean SnackWells; they meant more fruits, vegetables, beans. Before the food industry coopted and corrupted the term, eating low-fat meant like eating an apple, not Apple Jacks.

Now this was a really low-fat diet, like 10% fat, for someone eating 2,500 calories a day. What about just less than 20% fat, compared to a more normal, but still relatively lower-fat diet than average? Same significant drops in headache frequency and severity, including a five-fold drop in attacks of severe pain. Since the intervention involved at least a halving of saturated fat intake, mostly found in meat, dairy, and junk, the researchers concluded that a reduction of saturated fat intake may help control migraine attacks. But it’s not necessarily something that they’re getting less of. There are compounds present in live green real veggies that might bind to a migraine-triggering peptide known as CGRP. Drug companies have been trying to come up with something that binds to it, but the drugs have failed to be effective, and are also toxic, a problem you don’t see with cabbage.

Green vegetables also have magnesium. Found throughout the food supply, but most concentrated in green leafy vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. It is the central atom to chlorophyll. So, you can see how much magnesium foods have in the produce aisle by the intensity of their green color. Magnesium supplements do not appear to decrease migraine severity, but may reduce the number of attacks you get in the first place. You can ask your doctor about starting 600mg of magnesium dicitrate every day, but note that magnesium supplements can cause adverse effects, such as diarrhea. So, I recommend getting it in the way nature intended.

Any foods that may particularly help? I’ve talked about ground ginger. Combining caffeine with over-the-counter pain killers like Tylenol, aspirin, or ibuprofen may boost their efficacy––about 130 milligrams for tension-type headaches, and 100 mg for migraines, about what you might expect to get in three cups of tea. Though I believe it is just a coincidence that the principal investigator was named Lipton.

Note: you can overdo it. If you take kids and teens who have headaches, drinking one and a half liters of cola a day, and cut the cola, you can cure 90% of them. Though, this may be a Coca-Cola effect rather than a caffeine effect.

And finally, one plant food that may not be the best idea is this innocent-looking fellow: the Carolina Reaper, the hottest chili pepper in the world… so mind-numbingly hot it can clamp off the arteries in your brain, and you can end up with a so-called thunderclap headache, like this 34-year old man—why am I not surprised it was a man?

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Video production by Glass Entertainment

Motion graphics by Avocado Video

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Headaches are one of the top five reasons people end up in emergency rooms, and one of the leading reasons for which people see their doctors in general. One of the things you can do to try to prevent them is to identify the triggers and avoid them. Common triggers for migraines include stress, smoke, hunger, sleep issues, certain trigger foods, like chocolate, cheese, and alcohol, your menstrual cycle, or certain weather patterns.

In terms of dietary treatments, the father of modern medicine, William Osler, suggested trying “a strict vegetable diet.” After all, the nerve inflammation associated with migraines may be reduced by a strictly plant-based diet, as many plant foods are high in anti-inflammatory compounds and antioxidants, and likewise, meat products may have pro-inflammatory properties. But it wasn’t put to the test for another 117 years.

Among those given a placebo supplement, half said they got better; half said they didn’t. But when put on a strictly plant-based diet, they did much better, experiencing a significant drop in the severity of their pain. Now, “it is possible that the pain reducing effects of the [plant-based] diet may be, at least in part, due to weight reduction”—they lost about nine more pounds in their vegan month.

Even just lowering the fat content of the diet may help. Those placed on a month of consuming less than 30 grams of fat a day, like less than two tablespoons of oil a day, experienced highly significant decreases in headache frequency, intensity, duration, and the need to take medications––a six-fold decrease in the frequency and intensity. From three migraine attacks every two weeks down to just one a month. And by low-fat, they didn’t mean SnackWells; they meant more fruits, vegetables, beans. Before the food industry coopted and corrupted the term, eating low-fat meant like eating an apple, not Apple Jacks.

Now this was a really low-fat diet, like 10% fat, for someone eating 2,500 calories a day. What about just less than 20% fat, compared to a more normal, but still relatively lower-fat diet than average? Same significant drops in headache frequency and severity, including a five-fold drop in attacks of severe pain. Since the intervention involved at least a halving of saturated fat intake, mostly found in meat, dairy, and junk, the researchers concluded that a reduction of saturated fat intake may help control migraine attacks. But it’s not necessarily something that they’re getting less of. There are compounds present in live green real veggies that might bind to a migraine-triggering peptide known as CGRP. Drug companies have been trying to come up with something that binds to it, but the drugs have failed to be effective, and are also toxic, a problem you don’t see with cabbage.

Green vegetables also have magnesium. Found throughout the food supply, but most concentrated in green leafy vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. It is the central atom to chlorophyll. So, you can see how much magnesium foods have in the produce aisle by the intensity of their green color. Magnesium supplements do not appear to decrease migraine severity, but may reduce the number of attacks you get in the first place. You can ask your doctor about starting 600mg of magnesium dicitrate every day, but note that magnesium supplements can cause adverse effects, such as diarrhea. So, I recommend getting it in the way nature intended.

Any foods that may particularly help? I’ve talked about ground ginger. Combining caffeine with over-the-counter pain killers like Tylenol, aspirin, or ibuprofen may boost their efficacy––about 130 milligrams for tension-type headaches, and 100 mg for migraines, about what you might expect to get in three cups of tea. Though I believe it is just a coincidence that the principal investigator was named Lipton.

Note: you can overdo it. If you take kids and teens who have headaches, drinking one and a half liters of cola a day, and cut the cola, you can cure 90% of them. Though, this may be a Coca-Cola effect rather than a caffeine effect.

And finally, one plant food that may not be the best idea is this innocent-looking fellow: the Carolina Reaper, the hottest chili pepper in the world… so mind-numbingly hot it can clamp off the arteries in your brain, and you can end up with a so-called thunderclap headache, like this 34-year old man—why am I not surprised it was a man?

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Video production by Glass Entertainment

Motion graphics by Avocado Video

Doctor's Note

I’ve previously covered ginger and topical lavender for migraines. Saffron may help relieve PMS symptoms, including headaches. A more exotic way a plant-based diet can prevent headaches is by helping to keep tapeworms out of your brain.

Though hot peppers can indeed trigger headaches, they can also be used to treat them. Check out my wild video on relieving cluster headaches with hot sauce.

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