Confirm Your Food Triggers

Last week, we talked about foods on a safe list and foods that are known migraine triggers. However, each person is totally different, bio-individual as we would say at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. The first step in tackling your migraines is to investigate what common triggers are causing your migraines. This is simple to do by simply avoiding those foods on the common migraine trigger list, while including generous amounts of the pain safe foods listed in last week’s blog.

According to, following an anti-migraine food two week test is the best way to go. Here’s how to get started.

  1. Have an abundance of foods from the pain-safe list.
  2. Avoid the common triggers completely.
  3. Foods that are not on either list can be eaten freely.
The key is to be very careful in avoiding the common triggers. See Foods that Fight Pain by Physicians Committee President Neal Barnard, M.D., for trigger-free recipes.
Confirming Your Food Triggers
If your diet changes help your headaches to disappear or they become less frequent, then what you next need to do is find out for sure which foods are your triggers. This is easy enough to do – you simply re-introduce the eliminated foods one at a time, every two days, to see if you have any symptoms. I would suggest starting at the bottom of the list. Start with bananas, and work your way up to the riskier foods. You can also do the same thing with the beverages and additives on the common trigger list.
Introduce a generous amount of each new food so that you will know whether or not it causes symptoms. If you don’t have any issues, then keep it in your diet. It’s safe. Anything that causes a headache should be eliminated again. After a couple of weeks, try that suspicious food again just to confirm that it is indeed, one of your trigger foods. While you are doing this, it is beneficial to keep your diet simple so that you can more easily determine the effect of each newly introduced food.
Checking for Other Food Triggers
If two weeks on the basic anti-migraine diet doesn’t reduce your headaches, then the next thing to do is check whether one of the foods that is not on the list of common migraine triggers may be causing your symptoms. This is less common, but does happen with some people who have some other specific food sensitivities. An elimination diet will help you figure out which food is causing you a problem.
If you are affected by several foods, eliminating only one may make no difference, which may lead you to believe that foods aren’t a problem;
  • Foods that have caused headaches are usually eaten within three to six hours before the migraine attack;
  • Sometime the triggering food will not show up if eaten in small amounts. In other words, it could take a few days of the same food being eaten until the headache shows up;
  • With some people, eating a certain food in small amounts doesn’t bother them, while if eaten in large quantities, it will trigger a migraine;
  • Migraine triggers can change over time; and
  • It is possible that your tolerance may be different at different times. For example, I have found that I can eat chocolate at times with no effect on my migraines, and yet at another time, perhaps if something is going on hormonally, or my stress levels are higher, the same amount of chocolate will trigger an intense migraine;
If you have a migraine, try some of the following tips:
  • For some people, a little caffeine can work as a treatment, so you can try 1 to 2 cups of coffee at the onset;
  • Try eating a starchy food like toast, crackers, rice or potatoes. For some reason in some people (me being one of them), this type of food, along with the coffee, definitely lessens or eliminates the migraine pain;
  • Try some fresh ginger, or even 1/4 tsp. of powdered ginger in a glass of hot water. The inflammation fighting properties in ginger has been found helpful to treat migraines;
  • Try taking Magnesium Asporotate which has been found to be helpful in prevention of migraines;
  • Lie down in a quiet, dark room and try to sleep. Use hot or cold compresses, and massage the blood vessels at the temples.
Finding Your Food Triggers
Although this may sound like a daunting task to begin with, finding your food triggers can be key with the prevention of migraine attacks. Ask yourself, is it worth a few weeks of experimentation with foods, to find some triggers that you can eliminate from your diet, and thus eliminate many of your migraines? I know most of you would absolutely say yes. It is definitely worth the effort. Imagine your life without all those awful pain-filled days. You can change your life through this simple investigation!