1. Discover and Avoid Your Nutritional Migraine Triggers
To manage your migraines, you need to know your triggers and to avoid them as if they were landmines.
First, you need to understand where potential triggers might hide. The simple act of eating the wrong food or drinking the wrong beverage could open the door to a pounding headache. The list of foods that may trigger migraines is long. It ranges from chocolate and cheese to dried fruit and to foods that contain certain additives. For instance, monosodium glutamate (MSG) and artificial sweeteners are common culprits that provoke migraines.
To determine which foods and drinks you are sensitive to, keep a diary of what you eat and drink. Also, note when your headaches occur. Then correlate your nutritional intake with your migraine flare ups to find your triggers. Once you know what you should be avoiding, try not to keep those items in your home, helping you to steer clear of them.
If you need to avoid additives, you will have to become an expert label reader. That’s because MSG, for example, lurks in surprising places — chicken, sausage, dressings, Parmesan cheese, chips, soups and more. Also, you’ll find artificial sweeteners in Fiber One® cereal, which sounds so healthy, as well as some popcorns, yogurts, snack bars, protein drinks and, not surprisingly, diet sodas. If you don’t want to read the small print, at least try to stay away from anything that claims to be “diet” or “light.”
2. Eat and Drink Regularly
An empty stomach sometimes leads to migraines. Some medical professionals believe this phenomenon is due to low blood sugar levels. So, make sure you don’t go without food for more than three hours at a time. Also, since dehydration can make headaches worse, drink plenty of water throughout the day.
3. Manage Stress
Stress is any emotional issue that makes you feel tense. It was designed to help with survival—the fight or flight response. When you’re stressed, your brain releases certain chemicals to help you deal with the situation. Because these chemicals instigate changes in the blood vessels, they can set off migraine headaches. So try to keep your life on an even keel and avoid becoming stressed.
How can you do this? Learn not to worry about things that you cannot control. Ensure that you are in relationships where people are emotionally supportive. Schedule time every day for yourself and some relaxation. Also, you might try biofeedback that helps you to recognize when you’re becoming tense and reduce that tension. In addition, learn about deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation.
4. Stay Active
For some people, researchers are now discovering that moderate aerobic exercise can reduce the number of migraines and level of pain experienced with each attack. These studies show that exercise helps people to release endorphins, which control pain.1 Also, exercise reduces stress.
Of course, if physical activity triggers migraines for you, discuss it with your doctor first. Before ruling it out, however, consider other factors that may have contributed to your migraines following a workout. For example, it could be that you had not eaten enough, you were dehydrated, or you did not start slowly enough.
After you get the okay from your doctor, consider taking up jogging, swimming, cycling or fast walking—all can provide aerobic benefits. If you decide to take up cycling, make sure you wear a helmet to protect your head from any injuries that can potentially bring on migraines (and other issues!).
Are you ready to fight back against your pounding headaches? If so, explore the foods that trigger headaches and avoid them. Eat and drink regularly. Combat stress. And, if possible, exercise. None of these changes are a cure for migraines, but they will likely help you to live with less pain.
1 “Exercise and Migraine.” http://www.migrainetrust.org/factsheet-exercise-and-migraine-10714. Accessed November 21, 2015.