Which Foods Are “Cures” Or “Causes” For Triggering Your Migraines?


Nutrients help with brain health

Certain foods can trigger headaches while other foods can help prevent them.

It’s fall! And with the changing seasons comes shifting temperatures and the resurgence of festive foods – both potential triggers for migraines and headaches. When you can’t afford downtime because there’s work to be done or the kids have soccer practice, the last thing you need is a debilitating headache causing you to lose focus. Here are a few nutritional tips for heading off these nuisances before they start.
You may have heard that certain foods can trigger migraines – that’s true, and while some people’s “cure” foods might be others’ “cause” foods, like caffeine, there are a few foods that are pretty sure to help nearly everyone prevent the onset of a migraine.
Dr. Majid Fotuhi, a neuroscientist from John’s Hopkins recommends the following nutrients for brain health and headache prevention:
Riboflavin – also known as vitamin B2 – helps improve brain energy metabolism and the brain’s muscle cells according to Dr. Fotuhi. The good news is, it’s also fairly easy to find, appearing in star foods like spinach, asparagus, mushrooms, and quinoa. If none of these are on your top ten list, throw some spinach in an omelet or a smoothie and remember how much better spinach is than a headache.
Magnesium – especially effective for women who suffer from hormonal triggers, magnesium is found in spinach (apparently an all-purpose win for headache prevention), swiss chard, sweet potatoes, bananas, millet, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds. Due to changes in water filtration, people are often magnesium deficient without even knowing it. Dr. Fotuhi recommends getting 450mg of magnesium per day as a good goal. You can also check with your doctor to see if you need an extra boost of this mineral.
CoQ10 – or CoenzymeQ10 as it is also called – is a major source of energy and contributes to healthy blood vessels, says Dr. Fotuhi. If you suffer from tension headaches or stress triggers your migraines, upping your CoQ10 intake may help. This little nutrient is also a neutralizer of free radicals (which are often stress-induced), meaning it prevents premature cell aging. If you are in Blacksburg or Radford, you can find CoQ10 locally at the Indigo Farms Seafood truck (mackerel and tuna are good sources) as well as in eggs, broccoli, and cauliflower.
Omega-3s – The fatty acids contained in fish and some seeds are also important immune-supporting factors. These powerful little anti-inflammatories can be found in fish, especially salmon, and flaxseed (a nearly untasteable addition to your spinach smoothie).
Last but not least, water is, without a doubt, the most important nutritional preventative measure you can take. Many of the beverages that we enjoy, like coffee, tea, alcohol, soda, or other sugary drinks actually dehydrate the body. Dehydrated cells are much more prone to illnesses of all kinds, including headaches and migraines. Opt for water and sparkling water when choosing what to drink and stay away from artificial sweeteners and excessive caffeine (known migraine triggers according to Dr. Deborah Friedman, M.D., a professor of neurology and neurotherapeutics at University of Texas-Southwestern). There are also some excellent water-rich fruits that can help you stay hydrated, including strawberries, watermelon, cantaloupe, pineapple, and grapefruit.
Just as there are a few foods that are very likely to help prevent migraine onsets, there are also some pretty common triggers; several experts, including Dr. Anne MacGregor, author of “Understanding Migraines and Other Headaches,” recommend journaling your food intake and activities throughout the day if you are headache-prone to help identify those things that lower your threshold for a migraine. These men and women suggest that excess caffeine (in coffee and chocolate), monosodium glutamate (or MSG – found in some Chinese food, processed meats, some canned vegetables, gravy, soup, and dip mixes, and soy-based foods), aged meats and cheeses, beer and wine, artificial sweeteners, and some preservatives, like nitrates and nitrites (found in some deli meats, bacon, etc.) can and should be avoided if you suffer from frequent headaches and/or migraines.
While avoiding foods can be less than fun, finding healthy, nutrient-rich, seasonal recipes with preventative value can help ease the pain. As we’ve mentioned above, smoothies are an excellent way to get many of these nutrients. We’ve included links to recipes for fun fall drinks featuring spinach, flax, and fruits listed above for you to add to your daily routine.
When headaches are making life miserable, we’re here to help. Prevent migraines and headaches through these proactive nutrition tips, stress-reducing activities like yoga, stretching, daily exercise, and chiropractic care for a healthy, happy fall.

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