Be careful what you eat! Your noggin' minds...

By Lindsey Bannish on July 7, 2012

Image from foodaddictioninstitute.org Food Triggers

Know that moment when you’re starving and you feel like you’d eat whatever was placed in front of you? I do, that’s for sure. However, we know that you can’t necessarily always eat whatever is there, and some people have to be particularly careful with what they eat. These people are most commonly recognized as diabetics or those with food allergies; however, people who get migraines are a large percentage of this population of careful consumers. A study done at the Mayo Neurology Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona explored the connections between food cravings and food triggers associated with migraines. Doctors began to notice connections between headaches and food; “About 20% to 40% of people coming into the headache clinic report having food as a trigger” says one Mayo Clinic doctor.

Certain foods have shown up in surveys across the United States as extremely common and universal migraine triggers. Some of these foods are fruit, salt, dairy products and alcohol. All four are notorious food triggers which are extremely prevalent in the diets of many Americans. A study done by the Head Wise staff at Head Wise Magazine explored what it was about these foods which made them such common triggers. It was found that the brain is particularly sensitive to salts found in everything from canned soup to anything packaged. Much like salt, they discovered that citrus fruits and dairy products increased sensitivity drastically. Because alcohol can dilate blood vessels in the brain, it becomes a large cause of headaches and migraines.

Many doctors have developed ways of helping individuals create diets which stay away from common food triggers. One of these resources is the Migraine Cookbook which can be found both online and in book form; in soft and hardcover, if you were wondering. The cookbook explores ways to eat both a healthy and balanced diet without triggering migraines and without sacrificing your favorite meals. The book suggests eating foods high in protein, magnesium, riboflavin and omegas; such as fish and lean meats. Also using supplements such as kosher salt or sea salt, instead of MSG salts, are suggested.

Be wary however, some foods which are known as migraine helpers can actually become food triggers when not consumed in moderation. A study done at the Manhattan Center for Headaches and Neurology under the guidance of Audrey Halpern MD, found that foods such as chocolate, caffeine and gluten were amongst these foods. All three of these can prove helpful to some individuals suffering from headaches; however, when not taken in moderation, these foods can increase sensitivity of migraines tremendously. An example is caffeine in coffee, which can help migraines in small amounts, but can stimulate migraines if ‘overdosed’, aka more than 2-3 cups per day.

So until next time, be cautious of what you are putting into your body! Whether you experience the occasional headache or are a head injury veteran like me, find your food triggers and be mindful of what you eat.

I'm Lindsey, I am a Neuroscience major at Mount Holyoke College class of 2015. I have experienced a multitude of brain injuries which has made me very passionate about neuro-research. I hope to inform, support and some day help other young adults and teens who have gone through similar trauma and experiences with brain injury. In my column I hope to talk about specific health issues pertinent to college students across the United States.

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