Headaches are common and a nuisance. The World Health Organization estimates that nearly 75% of adults experience at least one headache annually, with 30% of those questioned reporting migraines. With such a large percentage of the population suffering from headaches, it is natural to ask about relief, and with the focus of the health industry on organic and whole foods, it is also natural to ask if diet can help with such a common problem. The answer is a resounding yes!
What Causes Headaches and Migraines?
Medical professionals understand that most headaches result from chemical interactions in your brain, muscles, nerves, and blood vessels, causing your head’s pain-sensitive structures to overreact. Unfortunately, narrowing down the causes more than that remains aloof.
However, the type of headache you experience — primary, secondary, or migraine — can have several triggers, including diet. In fact, many of the triggers leading to primary headaches can be tied to food and drink choices, including red wine and processed meats. Skipping meals might even be enough to bring about a migraine.
Because of the potential significance of food triggers, a significant portion of recent studies suggests that tweaking your diet reduces the frequency and likelihood of a migraine or other primary headache.
What Dietary Changes Can You Make To Reduce Migraine and Headache Risks?
It is important to note that while many medical professionals agree that dietary changes can reduce the likelihood of a migraine or other headache, research is not currently clear on what ingredients trigger headaches. Consequently, these professionals suggest a diet consisting of clean foods, those without preservatives and artificial flavorings — whole and natural foods.
Some doctors, such as those belonging to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, believe a plant-based diet is the best way to improve overall health. In fact, a study conducted for the Journal of Headache and Pain found that a vegan diet or one free of headache triggers benefitted the small trial group of 42 adults.
Does a Pain-Safe Diet Exist to Eliminate Migraine or Headache Risks?
The PCRM does advocate the consumption of a plant-based, pain-safe diet, but there is no guarantee that it can prevent or eliminate migraine and headache risks altogether. The diet includes whole, natural foods free of additional preservatives or chemicals. According to the PCRM, pain-safe foods include:
Tap, spring, or carbonated water
Orange, green, and yellow vegetables (carrots, squash, spinach, etc.)
Rice, mainly brown rice
Natural sweeteners and flavors (vanilla extract, maple syrup, etc.)
Dried or cooked, non-citrus fruits (cranberries, cherries, etc.)
While the PCRM pushes for plant-based options, the Association for Migraine Disorders and the American Migraine Foundation argue that some poultry, fresh meats, and fish are also migraine-safe. According to these organizations, the key to reducing the frequency of migraines through diet is choosing foods that are not smoked, processed, or made with broths and tenderizers.
Additionally, the American Migraine Foundation suggests consuming more riboflavin, or vitamin B-2. The vitamin is known for decreasing the frequency of severe headaches, such as migraines. Salmon, red meat, mushrooms, and grains contain vitamin B-2.
While there is no definitive cause for headaches, many medical professionals know that food is a potential trigger, mainly processed foods. Knowing dietary choices have a substantial effect on the entire body, it stands to reason a healthier diet focused on whole, natural foods can provide some relief to those who experience frequent headaches.
Do you experience chronic or occasional headaches? Have you or are you willing to try making changes to your diet to find relief? Leave a comment below.