Nutrition is one aspect of lifestyle that deserves some attention in one’s quest to manage
a migraine disorder.
Migraine is a complex neurobiochemical process – meaning it affects the nervous and
biochemical systems of the body. Food is the fuel that makes our engines run. We can
think about all the cells in the body as the components of the engine. When we do not
have adequate fuel or other things-like fluid levels, our engines will not operate properly.
A person prone to migraine attacks needs to pay extra attention to the daily maintenance
of their engines (their bodies) through their dietary habits and nutritional intake. If
something changes or is added to the engine, it may contribute to a change in the body
chemistry that could contribute to triggering a migraine attack.
Many sources for migraine information have focused on the importance of determining
migraine food triggers. This module focuses on looking at one’s dietary habits and basic
nutrition before looking at specific food triggers. That is, looking at how you eat before
looking at what you eat.
Once you have established healthy eating habits (e.g., regular
meal times) you can then begin to look at the foods you are eating, and make further
Begin by asking yourself the Nutrition Questions for Self-Reflection, and then read on
about some practical Hints’N’Tips and Additional Resources.
One study showed that 31% of people with migraine reported specific foods as triggers,
while 43% cited missing a meal as a trigger.
Source: Robbins, L. 1994. Precipitating Factors in Migraine: A Retrospective Review of
494 Patients. Headache. Apr.;34(4),214-216.
Nutrition Questions for Self-Reflection
- Are you familiar with Canada’s Food Guide
- Do you eat a healthy, well-balanced diet ,rich in vitamins and minerals
- Do you eat at least 3 meals per day
- Do you eat snacks between meals
- Have you identified any food triggers for your migraines
- Do you drink at least 2 liters of water per day
If you answered NO to most of the questions above, there is a lot you can learn. Click on
the Nutrition and Migraine Hints’n’Tips page to start learning more. You can also visit the
Additional Resources page.
Nutrition Hint’s and Tip’s
The nutritional recommendations for an individual prone to migraines do not differ much
from the basic principles of healthy eating. There are a number of specific foods, as well
as food additives and preservatives that have been reported as potential migraine
triggers,see Migraine Trigger Module. This page will focus on some basic suggestions
for healthy nutrition that a person with migraine should consider.
Begin by examining your dietary habits and intake eat a healthy, well-balanced diet as suggested in Canada’s Food Guide eat regular meals at consistent times each day ,try having a small meal every 4 hours
- if you cannot have meals more frequently, try eating small, carbohydrate-rich snacks
between meals do not skip meals as this may contribute to low blood sugars
- ensure that you eat breakfast to get your blood sugars up and energize you to start your day
- drink a minimum of 2-3 liters of water per day to keep you hydrated
- avoid simple sugars, simple carbohydrates, especially on an empty stomach i.e.,
- limit your intake of caffeinated beverages to 1-2 cups per day – this includes tea,
coffee and cola products
- choose more low glycemic index foods in your diet, i.e., choose multi-grain bread
over white bread which will help you better manage your blood sugars. To learn more
about glycemic indexes visit the Canadian Diabetes Association website.
Planning & Preparation
- avoid identified food triggers whenever possible
- pack your lunch to take to work or while traveling then you will know exactly what you
- carry snacks with you in case you are caught in traffic or delayed over your usual
- plan ahead for your meals according to your and your family’s schedule, such that
you can avoid eating out or making meals that have less nutritional value
- think about why you consume caffeinated beverages-is it the caffeine or the fizzy soft
drink. If you drink caffeinated beverages because of the effect of caffeine, choose
decaffeinated teas, coffee and soft drinks ,i.e., caffeine-free cola or ginger ale.
- be aware of the side effects of any of the medications you may be taking – some can
either suppress or stimulate your appetite. If you know what to watch for you can be
prepared to respond or discuss concerns with your doctor if you experience nausea and/or vomiting with your migraines, discuss possible treatment options, including prescription and over-the-counter medications that can reduce nausea. Even with nausea, it is important to keep up your nutritional intake –
try bland foods, such as soda crackers. It is also important to keep yourself hydrated
,especially if you are vomiting – electrolyte replacement drinks ,available at your local
pharmacy, may be helpful