Food Allergies May Trigger Migraines

Watch what you eat if you're a migraine sufferer

If you suffer from migraines, you may wonder whether your diet could be playing a role in the frequency of their occurrence. Well, researchers in Europe have been wondering the same thing, and recently completed a small study to test whether “elimination diets,” in which people avoid eating certain “trigger foods,” could reduce the frequency of migraines among people who get them at least four times per month.

Thirty migraine patients, mostly females, participated in the study. Each patient followed their normal diet for six weeks and tracked their headache patterns to establish a baseline.  Then, their blood was tested for a type of antibodies (called IgG antibodies) against 266 different foods; the presence of which can suggest a possible allergy to that specific food.

The food categories that most commonly elicited IgG reactions were:

  • spices
  • seeds and nuts
  • seafood
  • starches
  • food additives

The patients were then randomly divided into two groups: a “provocation diet” group and an “elimination diet” group. For the next six weeks, the provocation diet group ate an individualized, prescribed diet that contained many foods against which their blood contained IgG antibodies.  Meanwhile, the elimination diet group ate an individualized, prescribed diet in which they avoided the foods that provoked production of IgG antibodies in their blood. Following a two-week wash-out period, another six-week trial commenced in which all subjects were switched to the opposite group. The researchers kept track of how many headache days and individual migraine attacks each subject experienced.

Compared to baseline, participants on the elimination diet showed an average 25 percent reduction in headache days and a 29 percent reduction in the number of individual migraine attacks compared to their own baseline headache pattern. There was no difference in severity of attacks or duration of headaches on the elimination diet compared to baseline, nor was there any significant difference between any parameters for participants on the provocation diet compared to their own baseline (or “normal”) diet.

Although the conclusions we can draw from such a small study of primarily women are limited, the findings do suggest that some migraine attacks may result from an inflammatory response to undiagnosed food allergies, and that individually-designed elimination diets could offer a promising new treatment option to help reduce their frequency.  Larger studies with more diverse populations could help validate these findings for future application, which perhaps could include an individualized, dietary strategy designed by an allergist and a registered dietitian, specifically for you.

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1 Comment

  • Foods being Migraine triggers doesn’t necessarily mean that people are allergic to those foods. Many people have been tested to see if they were allergic to the foods that are triggers for them, but weren’t allergic to them. Inversely, plenty of people are allergic to foods that are not Migraine triggers for them.

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