Ear Center: Headache I Diet for Migraine

Headache I Diet for Migraine Patients

Meat and Meat Substitutes
Dairy Products
Bread, Cereals, and Starchy Vegetables

Purpose: To identify which, if any, foods act as triggers for migraine headaches.

Diet Principles

  1. Foods which may cause migraine headaches are completely eliminated for four (4) weeks. These foods contain caffeine, nitrites, nitrates, MSG (monosodium glutamate), tyramine (a precursor to serotonin, a neurotransmitter), or phenylmethylamine.
  2. After the fourth (4th.) week, add in only one food per week. Begin by eating a large amount of that food, then reduce to normal amounts for the rest of the week. If a headache occurs within 24 hours, you have identified a trigger. Eliminate the food from your diet. If no headache occurs, eat the food as always in moderation. The following week, start with another item.
  3. Eat all perishable, refrigerated meats within 48 hours because the tyramine content of meats increases with storage.
  4. Read food labels carefully. MSG is also contained under other labels, the most common being "flavorings" and "natural flavorings". Avoid sauces, seasonings or toppings that may include MSG. limit commercial salad dressings. If you drink a lot of beverages with NutraSweet, try eliminating it for a week or two, then add back.

Food Groups

1. Meat and Meat Substitutes

  • Foods Allowed: beef, chicken, turkey, fowl, fish, lamb, water packed tuna. Use deli meats in 48 hours.
  • Foods to Avoid: liver, pepperoni, beef sticks, salami, sausage, meat tenderized or marinated over 24 hrs, canned meat or fish, hot dogs, bologna, bacon, ham, aged beef, meats prepared with soy sauce, pork.

2. Dairy Products

  • Foods Allowed: skim or low fat milk, cream cheese, cottage cheese, processed cheese: sliced and Velvetta. Limit yogurt to 1/2 cup.
  • Foods to Avoid: aged or hard cheese, blue cheese, mozzarella, imitation cheese, sour cream, buttermilk

3. Vegetables

  • Foods Allowed: any vegetables not mentioned directly below in 3.B.
  • Foods to Avoid: onions, egg plant, broad bean pods, pinto beans, most peas, sauerkraut

4. Fruits

  • Foods Allowed: all other fruits not mentioned below in 4.B. Limit citrus fruit or bananas to 1/2 per day.
  • Foods to Avoid: avocado, raspberries, figs, raisins, fresh pineapple, and red plums

5. Desserts

  • Foods Allowed: all other desserts not mentioned below in 5.B. The term "flavorings" in baked goods generally does not refer to MSG.
  • Foods to Avoid: desserts made with chocolate, peanuts, peanut butter, raspberries, bananas, or figs

6. Beverages

  • Foods Allowed: decaffeinated beverages, juices, white wine
  • Foods to Avoid: caffeine or chocolate, red wines, beer, ale

7. Bread, Cereals, and Starchy Vegetables

  • Foods Allowed: commercial breads, cereals not containing dried fruit, raisins or nuts; potato, rice, pasta, most plain crackers
  • Foods to Avoid: sourdough bread, fresh yeast breads or coffee cake (but yeast deactivates with refrigeration), breads and crackers containing cheese, chocolate or toppings containing MSG or flavorings

Copied and Adopted from the Headache Wellness Center, Greensboro, NC, Dr. James Adelman, Neurologist