Elimination diet for migraine headaches
Mar 21, 2019 // By:migrainer // 5 comments
Howdy migraineurs and non-migraineurs! Today’s topic is the elimination diet for migraine headaches. I know there are tones of information about this topic online, but I would like to connect this topic to migraine headaches. What are possible differences between regular elimination diet and an elimination diet for migraine, what to pay attention to, possible useful advice, etc…
This article is based on certain pieces of information about the elimination diet and my personal opinion. I am not a doctor, I just wanna help others with some ideas to win the battle with migraine headaches. First of all, you really need strong goodwill and persistence. Elimination diet helped me with some other health issues (food sensitivity and inflammatory), also I have used this diet for weight loss. It was kind of a minor weight correction, specifically, it’s about losing 7 kilograms.
My migraines are more connected to weather changes and my periods, so an elimination diet is not a solution for me. But my fiance and future hubby has more problems than I do, and I would like to try this experiment with him also. He likes sweets, especially chocolate, he also eats a lot of sugar and dairy products, then there are many hours in front of computer screens, so there is a lot of to figures out. But I believe this diet could possibly help him too.
What is an Elimination diet and how it works?
An elimination diet is a short-term regulated diet where you eject certain foodstuff which you think are a possible cause for your health issues. It lasts for about five to six weeks and it is divided into two phases.
The first one is the elimination phase and it lasts for 3 weeks. In this phase, you remove all the foodstuffs for which you suspect to cause health issues. Or you stick to the recommended list of food which you can see below in What you shouldn’t eat during an Elimination diet section. Also, this phase needs to last 21-23 days if you want to get the full effect of the elimination of antibodies from your system. You could also read how sensitivity, intolerance and antibodies works.
The second one is reintroducing phase, where you ingest foodstuffs which were ejected one group at a time. So after three weeks or 23 days, you ingest one ejected foodstuff per day. For example, on the 24th day you ingest cheese and other dairy products, then during that day and the 25th day you track every single change in or on your body. It is good to note everything, have a food diary to assists you.
You want to track symptoms such as:
- Rashes and skin changes
- Joint pain
- Headaches or migraines
- Changes in breathing
- Stomach pain or cramps
- Changes in bowel habits
- Acne, constipation, diarrhea, bad breath, weakness, sleepiness, insomnia, fatigue, etc…
What is an Elimination diet used for?
An elimination diet is a short-term diet and it is used for many things and have its benefits. There are a lot of kinds of tests for food intolerance, allergies or sensitivities, but as they are not fully correct elimination diet remain as the gold standard for this. This is the primary function of a diet. Also, it is good for weight loss, or if you need to regulate blood sugar level, cholesterol, etc. Therefore, a corrected elimination diet could help you to establish and regulate many things.
Elimination diet – types?
As elimination diet has more purposes there are few categories of it:
- Low FODMAPs diet – FODMAP stands for fermentable oligo-saccharides, di-saccharides, and polyols. So you are removing all FODMAPs which are short-chain carbohydrates and some people simply can’t digest.
- Few foods elimination – In this case you are eating a combination of foods which you don’t eat regularly.
- Rare foods elimination diet – Similar to the second type, but here you are eating food that you eat extremely rare. Such as yams, buckwheat, and starfruit.
- Fasting elimination diet – This diet means strictly drinking water for five days and up, then you are reintroducing food groups. This is quite extreme, it is not recommended without doctor supervision and permission. I personally would never recommend this to anyone, it’s really too extreme and highly dangerous for health.
- Lactose-free diet
- Wheat-free, etc.
There are more types of it but one more I would like to add on this list is an Elimination diet for migraine headaches.
What you shouldn’t eat during an Elimination diet?
Here you can read which type of food is recommended to avoid:
- Citrus fruits: citrus fruits (such as oranges and grapefruits)
- Nightshade vegetables: tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, white potatoes, cayenne pepper, and paprika.
- Nuts and seeds: Eliminate all nuts and seeds.
- Legumes: Eliminate all legumes, such as beans, lentils, peas, and soy-based products.
- Starchy foods: Avoid wheat, barley, corn, spelt, rye, oats, and bread. Also, avoid any other gluten-containing foods.
- Meat and fish: Avoid processed meats, cold cuts, beef, chicken, pork, eggs, and shellfish.
- Dairy products: Eliminate all dairy, including milk, cheese, yogurt, and ice cream.
- Fats: Avoid butter, margarine, hydrogenated oils, mayonnaise, and spreads.
- Spices and condiments: Avoid sauces, relish, and mustard.
- Sugar and sweets: Avoid sugar (white and brown), honey, maple syrup, corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup, agave nectar, desserts, and chocolate.
Also if you think that something more is causing you health issues it is recommended to avoid as well. A very important fact is that the more elimination diet is restricted there is a higher chance of establishing a cause of health issues. Once you establish, which food is causing you trouble your problem is long-term solved.
What you should eat during an Elimination diet?
The list of what not to eat is long, but there is a replacement for this. Generally, the food below is recommended for ingestion during the diet:
- Fruits: Most fruits, excluding citrus fruits.
- Vegetables: Most vegetables, excluding nightshades.
- Grains: Including rice and buckwheat.
- Meat and fish: Including turkey, lamb, wild game and cold-water fish like salmon.
- Dairy substitutes: Including coconut milk and unsweetened rice milk.
- Fats: Including cold-pressed olive oil, flaxseed oil, and coconut oil.
- Beverages: Water and herbal teas.
- Spices, condiments, and others: Including black pepper, fresh herbs and spices (excluding cayenne pepper and paprika) and apple cider vinegar.
Elimination diet for migraine headaches: how it works?
Accordingly all above with an elimination diet you could discover hidden food intolerances, sensitivities, and allergies, but also you could discover much more. Such as, why are you having acne, why is your skin dry, why are you having eczema, etc. The most important thing is that you could establish what is causing your migraine headaches and headaches in general.
Above in section what you shouldn’t eat and what you should eat during an elimination diet you can see different categories of food which are most likely to cause health issues. But migraine is a little tricky. Migraine trigger can be a specific food or specific chemical trigger which food contains.
For example, if only orange from all citrus fruit cause you a migraine headache, then your trigger is specific food. But if orange, lemon, pineapple, and avocado are causing you a migraine headache, then it’s most likely that tyramine is a trigger and you are having tyramine induced migraine. So in the first case you are having one specific foodstuff (orange) which is causing you a migraine, in the second one you have a group of food (lemon, orange, pineapple, and avocado) which cause you a migraine headache because of the specific chemical trigger – tyramine.
Therefore maybe you need a little upgrade for an elimination diet for migraine headaches. In the sections below let’s complete and understand what to pay attention to.
What you shouldn’t eat during an Elimination diet for migraine headaches?
Above in this text, we have a list of a certain food that you shouldn’t eat. If you want to prevent a migraine you should pay attention to next:
- Food and tyramine induced migraine – cheese especially aged cheese, orange, lemon, pineapple, avocado, grapes, watermelon, beans, onion, nuts, condiments
- Allergenic proteins or casein induced migraine – milk,
- Nitrites and nitrates oxide induced migraine – canned or processed meats, bacon, salami, hot dogs, ham, beetroot, etc…
- Histamine and phenolic flavonoids induced migraine – alcohol beverages such as red wine and beer
- Aspartame-induced migraine – food which contains artificial sweeteners
As you can see, some chemicals are in more than one group of food. So what you should do is to make a combined list. You take the first and second one and make one full list of what to avoid. It needs to contain types of food such as citrus fruits, nightshade vegetables, nuts and seeds, legumes, starchy foods, meat and fish, dairy products, fats, beverages, spices and condiments, sugar and sweets and chemicals which that food contains. That’s what you need to pay attention to.
For example, if you drink milk on the 24th day and migraine occur on the 25th day. Then on the 26th, you ingest aged cheese and migraine occurs on the 27th day. Then on the 28th day you ingest fresh cheese and there is no migraine. You could establish that the trigger isn’t dairy products but its most likely chemicals such as tyramine which aged cheese contains in large amounts or casein which is ingested with milk.
What you should eat during an Elimination diet for migraine headaches?
Here you are doing basically the same thing, you are making a list of safe foods. So you take the safe groups from above, make a list of all potential safe foods and you add notes of possible negligible chemicals trace. And you stick to the list for a recommended period until your organism is cleared from antibodies.
Pay attention to your health status
I already pointed on some things what to pay attention to. But the most important thing that you need to consider at the beginning of an elimination diet is your current health condition. Such as known allergies, food intolerances, sensitivities, or any other health problem.
This is very important because you are trying to help, not to harm yourself. So every single thing about you needs to be included. Health condition, diseases, your everyday life, habits, work, etc. So you need to include all of this in a calculation in order to provide this diet as safe as possible.
What are the benefits/risk for an Elimination diet?
Benefits of an elimination diet in general are:
- It may reduce symptoms of IBS Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Possibility to reduce symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity behavioral disorder ADHD
- It may Improve skin conditions like eczema
- It may reduce chronic migraines
Possible risks of an elimination diet are:
- Nutrient deficiencies
- In the case of children with allergies, it is recommended an elimination diet under doctor supervision
- Children are also more likely to have severe reactions such as anaphylaxis, in the reintroducing phase. Because their bodies can become extra sensitive to foods after avoiding them.
Prepare yourself well for this, here are some tips that may help you:
Food diary – Keep a food diary every single day, what you have eaten, in what quantities, what was a meal made of, a period of meals, etc.
Making a list of safe and avoid food for diet – Make a list of what you should and what you shouldn’t eat. Try to collect as many possible safe foodstuffs to experiment with.
Recipes – Find as many as recipes as you can for safe food during a diet. Try to make more nutrient meals from safe food as possible it is.
Read the labels – When you are buying foodstuffs, read the labels to ensure yourself that you are not ingesting forbidden food.
Clean the kitchen from forbidden food – Don’t let this food to tease you. There are higher chances to be clean during an elimination phase. Try hiding that food, don’t look at them every day. Or if you think that is possible to look at those candies and not to eat them, then leave them.
Don’t rush yourself in diet – Prepare yourself. Firstly do the research, what to do, how to do, basic information, all above from this list, etc.
The doctor advises: yes or no?
Of course, it is advised to consult your doctor. Because an elimination diet for migraine headaches and elimination diet at all is needy and involve many factors, it is good to seek advice from your doctor. He already has a deeper insight into your health condition which only could help you. Also, he can give extra advice on how to go through the whole process. And it is kinda easier when you have someone to rely on, especially if something goes wrong. So I would definitely recommend consultation with a doctor. If you think that yours is bad and don’t do proper work, seek for the other one to help you.
In brief, an elimination diet is short-term, but once you establish what is causing you health issues you are solving a problem and improving health condition for a long-term. It is needy indeed. Don’t rely only on doctors words, always look for other opinions, read about it, inform yourself, it only can help you. Also, it is safer to do under supervision, but you can do it on your own. If that is a case, you and only you are fully responsible for everything that happens to you, good or bad.
Also if you are about to do an elimination diet for migraine headaches, you really need to pay attention to chemical triggers, you need to improve the list of foods. In the reintroducing phase, you should divide food by chemicals not just according to the type of food. So when you are reintroducing dairy products try to ingest them more thoughtful. For that, it is good to know basics like aged cheese contains huge amounts of tyramine but fresh cheese has less trace of tyramine. Consequently, there are higher chances that aged cheese could provoke a migraine. On the other hand, fresh cheese is a safe alternative.
Altough if you are not prepared for this more complicated process, you could try improving your diet. That is not a bad idea at all. Take a look at other articles for food and migraine headaches and make one healthier diet regime that suits you. That can’t harm you at all, it only could help.