Certain foods may help to prevent migraine headaches from occurring. Some people may also be able to manage migraine headaches by avoiding known triggers.

Conversely, some foods may reduce the frequency of migraine headaches or lessen their symptoms. While there is no definitive “migraine diet,” people may be able to reduce their migraine symptoms by monitoring what they eat.

In this article, we look at some of the foods that may prevent, trigger, or relieve migraine episodes.

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Many people believe that certain foods and drinks can help to treat acute migraine headaches. However, research into these natural remedies is often of low quality, and dietary interventions should never replace doctor-prescribed treatments.

Combinations of the following may help during a migraine headache:

  • Triptans: Triptans are anti-migraine medications that can offer relief during headaches.
  • Pain relievers: Over-the-counter pain relievers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen may help reduce immediate pain symptoms.
  • Caffeine: Caffeine may help relieve migraine symptoms, especially in conjunction with traditional pain relievers. However, caffeine cessation and withdrawal can also cause migraine episodes, so intake management is crucial.
  • Water: Dehydration is a possible migraine symptom trigger; staying hydrated during a migraine episode can support the body’s natural response to symptoms.

Migraine headaches can occur suddenly, and many dietary remedies focus more on prevention than cure. The following food groups may help lessen the frequency or severity of migraine occurrence.

Eating a healthful diet may help prevent migraine episodes. A healthful diet should consist of fresh foods whenever possible, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.

Fresh foods are less likely to have added food preservatives, which can trigger migraine headaches in some people.

Magnesium-rich foods

Limited studies show that magnesium may help prevent migraine frequency and severity. Foods high in magnesium include:

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are integral to a healthy overall diet. Ensuring adequate intake of Omega-3 fatty acids as part of a healthy diet may reduce the frequency and severity of headaches.

Foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids include:

High fat, low carbohydrate foods

Research suggests that following a high fat, low carbohydrate diet may prevent migraine headaches. Examples of such diets include:

On these diets, people will prioritize foods rich in protein and fats while limiting carbohydrate intake. Popular foods on low carbohydrate diets include:

Learn more about what to eat on a keto diet here.

However, there is no one-size-fits-all diet for migraine prevention, and different people can have different triggers. People can work with a doctor and registered dietitian to safely assess triggers through elimination practices and plan for the future accordingly.

Other prevention tips

Eating several small meals throughout the day can also help maintain steady blood sugar levels and prevent hunger, which can trigger migraine episodes in some people.

A nutritious approach to the diet can help a person maintain a healthy weight, too. According to the American Migraine Foundation, having overweight can make migraine symptoms worse.

The foods that trigger migraine will vary from person to person, and some individuals may not have any food-related migraine triggers.

However, some foods that commonly trigger migraine include:

  • aged cheeses
  • alcohol, particularly beer and red wine
  • chocolate
  • cured meats
  • food preservatives, such as nitrates, nitrites, and MSG
  • artificial sweeteners
  • smoked fish
  • yeast extract

Not eating anything at all can also lead to an increased incidence of migraine. For some people, prolonged hunger and not eating enough are known headache triggers. This may be due to a link between low blood sugar levels and worsening migraine headaches.

People with migraine can keep a food journal to track what they eat and any headache symptoms that they experience.

It is worth noting that some people may immediately react to a food, while others may not react for many hours after eating it.

The next step is to try removing one potential trigger food from the diet to see if migraine episodes still occur. For example, a person may decide to avoid all products that contain red wine for a week, including red wine vinegar and the wine itself.

This approach can ensure that people do not remove foods from their diet unnecessarily.

Doctors have identified five main trigger categories for migraine, one of which is different food types. The other four categories are:

  • Changes in the environment: Changes in atmospheric pressure, the season, and even storms may trigger migraine episodes.
  • Hormones: Changes in hormone levels that occur due to the menstrual cycle can trigger migraine, as can some hormonal changes during pregnancy.
  • Sensory stimulation: Bright lights, certain smells, smoke, and excessive and repetitive noises can all trigger migraine in some people.
  • Stress: Stress, intensive exercise, illness, or unusual sleep habits may trigger migraine.

Sometimes, a combination of migraine triggers can lead to a migraine headache. For example, a person could be very stressed, miss a meal, and reduce their hours of sleep.

Diet can play a role in preventing, triggering, and relieving migraine episodes. However, migraine symptoms vary from person to person, so a type of food that is beneficial for one person may not be suitable for another.

According to the Association of Migraine Disorders, fewer than 30% of people who have migraine have identified food-related triggers. Despite this, many people try keeping food journals or doing elimination diets in an attempt to identify potential triggers.

In cases that do involve the diet, people can avoid foods known to trigger headaches to help control pain and reduce the frequency or severity of their migraine episodes. It is best to work with a doctor and a registered dietitian to determine an effective diet and migraine prevention plan.

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