Nutrition And Migraines

Migraines are a form of a headache with deep pain that occurs on one side of the head and lead to nausea, vomiting with disturbances or sensitivity to light and sound.  Some of the causes of a migraine include family medical history, lifestyle factors such as dehydration, poor sleep, hunger, stress, hormonal imbalances as well as certain food triggers

How does diet affect migraines? [1,2]

There are several dietary factors that can contribute towards a migraine. Some of the most common factors that can trigger a migraine include;

  •  Iron, riboflavin and magnesium deficiencies
  • Hunger
  • Tyramine found in cheese, processed meats, pickles, overripe fruits
  • Food additives including artificial sweeteners, MSG
  • Tannins, phenols and sulphites found in tea, banana, red wine, dark chocolate
  • Nuts
  • Olives
  • raisins
  • Onions
  • Certain beans (lima, pinto, fava beans)
  • Soy sauce
  • Canned soups
  • Caffeine withdrawals

Sometimes caffeine can either cause the migraine for some or help relieve migraines for some individuals. Studies have shown that for an individual who doesn’t drink coffee frequently, may attain relief from a headache with coffee compared to a regular coffee drinker. Nevertheless, if you suffer from chronic migraines it is generally recommended to avoid coffee altogether. [3]

What you can do?

We are all different individuals so a trigger for you may not be a trigger for another individual. This is why it is important to identify your potential triggers one by one. If you suspect certain food items to be triggers for your migraine, start by testing it out one by one in a safe manner. Start by changing only one aspect at a time to see if it has an effect on your migraines. If you include all the triggers at once it will be difficult to pin point the actual trigger. Additionally, some of the migraine trigger foods, could be dose dependent, meaning that for a certain individual ½ cup of coffee could be better tolerated compared to 1 cup of coffee. For additional support, speak to a Registered Nutritionist or Dietitian to help guide you through this process.

Thereafter, focus on any lifestyle changes that need to be made. For instance, looking at ways to destress, improving quality of sleep, drinking enough fluids, avoiding skipping meals and eating on time, engaging in gentle exercise may all aid in preventing and reducing migraines. Additionally, you can take medication to relieve migraines if prescribed by your health practitioner.


  1. Wöber C, Wöber-Bingöl Ç. Triggers of migraine and tension-type headache. Handbook of Clinical Neurology. 2010;:161-172.
  2. Migraine Headaches — Here’s How to Identify Food Triggers and Reduce Debilitating Symptoms [Internet]. 2012 [cited 25 June 2022]. Available from:
  3. Hagen K, Thoresen K, Stovner L, Zwart J. High dietary caffeine consumption is associated with a modest increase in headache prevalence: results from the Head-HUNT Study. The Journal of Headache and Pain. 2009;10(3):153-159.

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