About once a month, I get an excruciating headache. I'll think it's because I didn't eat much that day (skipped lunch) or had too much Coke Zero. But some days, I eat lunch and skip the Coke Zero, and I still get a migraine.
Well, sometimes headaches are caused by environmental or physiological factors. We can’t control pollution or change our genes, but we can control what we put in our mouths and research shows that diet can have a big effect on headaches. If you suffer from frequent headaches or migraines, here are the top foods to avoid and to load up on to ease your pain.
Worst Foods for Headaches:
- Alcohol - You already know that a hangover can bring on a nasty, pounding headache, but migraine sufferers can experience a headache after just one small drink.
- Excessive coffee - A Norwegian study found that those who have the highest caffeine intake were 10% more likely to get headaches, so experts advise limiting yourself to around four cups a day, which is still a lot. And be consistent with drinking coffee, going cold turkey after drinking it daily can definitely lead to a headache.
- Chocolate - No one wants to see this one on the list, but it is debatable if chocolate brings on headaches. It contains a couple amino acids that could trigger migraines in some but not others.
- Artificial sweeteners - Research suggests artificial sweeteners, especially the popular aspartame that’s in Diet Coke, may increase the risk of migraines.
- Citrus - Sure, it’s a healthy source of vitamin C, but one study found 11% of migraine sufferers reported symptoms after eating citrus fruit. It’s probably the amino acid tyramine that does it and other foods like pineapple, soy, kimchee, and raw onions are high in it, too.
- Aged cheese - The fermentation process of cheeses like blue and cheddar raises levels of tyramine and other amino acids, so these could bring on headaches.
- Processed meat - It’s the preservatives, the nitrates in these meats that could cause migraines.
Best Foods for Headaches:
- Water - Dehydration is one of the biggest causes of headaches, so getting your eight glasses a day can help ward them off. And fruits and veggies with lots of water, like cucumbers and watermelon can help quench your thirst too.
- Low-sodium foods - Cutting back on processed foods and meats is a good way to consume less salt and avoid potential headaches.
- Leafy greens - Kale, spinach, and the like are high in the B vitamin folate, and early research on women suggests that a diet low in folate could increase the risk of migraines. Avocados and seeds are a good way to get your folate fix too.
- Almonds - They’re a great source of magnesium and some studiessuggest low levels of this essential mineral could be to blame for headache symptoms.
- Milk - It’s high in calcium and vitamin D, which can play a part in headache prevention.
- Small amounts of coffee - Yes, coffee makes both the naughty and nice list, but it’s all about how much you’re drinking. Research suggests small amounts of caffeine, like the amount in a small cup, along with pain meds could provide more headache relief than just the medication alone.