Migraine Awareness Week always brings the pain of migraine into sharp focus. Indeed, there are around six million sufferers in the UK dealing with this difficult and sometimes, debilitating, condition.
However, we understand much more about migraine now and, importantly, how certain foods can help.
Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five top migraine food and lifestyle tips.
Increase magnesium-rich foods
The mineral magnesium is very calming and is often found to be deficient in migraine sufferers. When deficiency has been rectified, the condition often improves. Top of the list of magnesium-rich foods are green, leafy vegetables especially broccoli and spinach, so try to include some in your diet every day. Importantly, try to eat a range of colourful fruits and vegetables which help to manage inflammation generally throughout the body.
All nuts and seeds (and even peanut butter), whole grains, including oats and brown rice, soya products (not soy sauce) and bananas are magnesium-rich so there’s plenty of choice. Why not mix up some pumpkin seeds, cashews, peanuts and almonds as a great on-the-go snack?
Keep blood sugar balanced
Fluctuations in blood sugar can often trigger migraine attacks. Eating protein at every meal is important for keeping everything in good balance. Great protein foods include chicken, turkey, eggs, all fish (ideally not tinned), quinoa, beans and nuts. You will also find energy levels are sustained much better throughout the day by eating protein regularly.
On the flip side, certain foods, especially aged cheese, contain amines which are a known migraine trigger. In fact, it’s best to avoid all cheese. Other amine-containing foods to watch out for are fermented meats, mushrooms, miso, soy sauce, chocolate, wine and beer.
Steer clear of wheat
It would seem that wheat can often be a migraine trigger, even if you’re unaware of any digestive upsets it might be causing.
Wheat-containing foods include bread, pasta, cakes, biscuits and cereals. However, the great news is that there are plenty of wheat-free alternative grains including oats, quinoa, buckwheat, rice, rye and barley. And because so many sweet, refined foods contain wheat, by avoiding those you’ll automatically be reducing sugar-load (another trigger) and will be helping your waistline at the same time.
Keeping good blood flow around the body is key for helping prevent migraines with lack of exercise being a known trigger for an attack. Whilst very intensive training might not be a good idea, gently elevating the heart rate with some brisk walking, cycling, or dancing is great for the body, but also the mind.
Stress is a definite migraine trigger and many people will certainly have been dealing with some difficult situations over the last few months. If you can find an exercise or activity that you enjoy, the benefits for your body and soul will be enormous. Even a brisk walk around the block can clear the head and encourage good blood flow around the body.
Take the herb Feverfew
Feverfew can be incredibly effective at helping reduce both frequency and duration of migraine attacks. It can take about two to three months to really work, but it’s well worth embracing the power of nature to find a solution.
Extensive research around feverfew has found that it contains a wealth of anti-inflammatory compounds, plus it reduces the body’s ability to produce histamine (an amine). Additionally, feverfew contains parthenolide compounds which may help reduce blood vessel constriction as well as encourage production of serotonin: this is in the same way traditional migraine medication works. It’s certainly worth turning to nature for some herbal help.
So, if you’re struggling with migraine, resolve to try some new natural and nutritional approaches to help to ease the pain.
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