Can a vegan diet prevent migraines

Diet for migraines

Table of Contents

  1. What exactly is a migraine?
  2. What can a smart diet do for migraines?
  3. What is the right diet for migraines?
  4. Nutritional tables for migraines
  5. The 3 particularly good foods for migraines
  6. The 3 Most Bad Foods for Migraines
  7. What shouldn't you eat if you have a migraine?
  8. Coffee for migraines?
  9. Causes of a Migraine
  10. Treatment options for migraines
  11. 8 everyday tips against migraines

What exactly is a migraine?

Migraines are a form of headache that can begin in childhood, but occurs more frequently between the ages of 20 and 50 (1). The migraines appear in attacks that can last four hours to three days. The headache is throbbing, pulsating or pounding, often only on one side. Sensitivity to light, noise or smell accompanies the nausea, as well as loss of appetite, vomiting or nausea. If the migraine becomes chronic, those affected can hardly cope with their everyday lives.

A migraine attack has four phases, but they don't all have to happen. Some of the patients feel exhausted, tired, irritable or have cravings before an attack. Sometimes an aura heralds the next attack. Then paralysis, abnormal sensations, visual or speech disorders set in and subside again before the headache phase. If the symptoms decrease, exhaustion often sets in, which can last for up to 24 hours.

What can a smart diet do for migraines?

Many people think that if they have an attack all they need to do is take medication. But migraine prophylaxis plays a far greater role - and this is where the migraine diet comes in. So that the disease strikes less often, it is important to avoid hypoglycaemia and unmask personal triggers. Eating regularly in the case of migraines in combination with a lifestyle change then improves the quality of life again.

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What is the right diet for migraines?

Migraineurs have a particularly fast "operating system"; so it depends on the energy supply. Skip breakfast, low-carb and extreme diets are not right for the brain. Eat more carbohydrates and rely on complex carbohydrates such as oatmeal, legumes, whole grain bread or potatoes. This fuel goes slowly and continuously into the blood.

Stick to fixed meal times to avoid fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Eat five small meals a day, eat in peace and do not skip a main meal, especially breakfast. Have dinner at least 2.5 hours before going to bed. If you feel hungry in between meals and prefer to nibble trail mix, almonds or walnuts instead of junk food - they also offer omega-3 fatty acids, which in turn are important for brain function.

The migraine diet also includes two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables. In addition, dairy products, fresh fish, lean meat and no more than four eggs a week. Drink at least two liters a day and preferably water. Adequate fluid intake supports cerebral blood flow and prevents headaches (2).

That's what our expert says

With expert advice on the nutrition of
The TV doctor and presenter relies on the advantages of both worlds - conventional medicine and naturopathy. As a bestselling author of several books, her focus is on the natural fight against ailments and diseases.

"Since fluctuations and changes can promote the development of attacks, those affected should pay attention to a structured daily routine as well as regular meals. Some ingredients from the diet can also be co-triggers - a complaint diary can help to identify your personal bad guys. Tip: A mild migraine attack can be relieved by a strong cup of coffee plus the juice of half a lemon. "

  • Recommended foods: Ginger (tea), mint, peas, broccoli, blueberries, kohlrabi, pumpkin, eggs, walnuts, salmon
  • Unfavorable foods: Cocoa, bananas, wine, cordon bleu, ready-made sauces, lollipops, iced tea, cheese sticks

Also interesting:

  • 3 particularly good foods for migraines more>
  • 3 particularly bad foods for migraines more>
  • What shouldn't you eat when you have a migraine? more>
  • 8 everyday tips against migraines more>

Nutritional tables for migraines

Get a grip on migraines with the right diet: Would you like to know which foods you can eat when you have migraines and which ones you should ignore? With our tables you can keep track of your migraine diet.

Some patients report that a certain food triggers an attack - but often the food overflows because they are already overworked and stressed. You can find these candidates under “suitable in moderation” (2), (4), (5).

These foods are recommended for migraines
Flour, bread, cereals & side dishes
Amaranth, buckwheat, wholegrain pasta, spelled semolina, oat flakes, millet, potatoes (freshly mashed mashed potatoes, pellet or boiled potatoes), coconut flour, almond flour, (multigrain) muesli with no added sugar, porridge, quinoa, sourdough bread, wholegrain bread and wholegrain rice rolls ) and parboiled rice
Leaf lettuce (all types), spring onions, garlic, cabbage vegetables (all types), pumpkin, leek, Swiss chard, carrot, peppers, radishes, rhubarb, beetroot, cucumber, celery (celeriac and white celery), asparagus, turnip, sweet potato, zucchini , Sweet corn (fresh), onion
Apple, apricot, blackberries, blueberries, currants, persimmon (sharon), cherries, mango, melon, nectarine, peach, gooseberries
Chia seeds, coconut (coconut chips, desiccated coconut), pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, macadamia nuts, almonds, pine nuts, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds
Eggs, Milk & Dairy Products
Buttermilk, crème fraîche, eggs (max. 4 / week), cream cheese, young Gouda cheese, kefir, grainy cream cheese, milk, mozzarella, natural yoghurt, ricotta, sour cream, whipped cream, sour cream, quark
Cold cuts of poultry (not cured), chicken, lean veal and beef, lean lamb, game meat (deer, roe deer, wild rabbit, wild poultry, wild boar), turkey meat
Fish & seafood
Freshly caught or frozen salt and freshwater fish
Butter, hemp oil, linseed oil, olive oil, rapeseed oil, walnut oil
Carbonated water, still water, unsweetened fruit tea, unsweetened herbal tea
Fruit spread, homemade jam made from suitable fruit
Herbs, Spices & Condiments
all herbs and spices, apple cider vinegar
Frozen vegetables without additives
These foods are not recommended for migraines
Flour, bread, cereals & side dishes
Croissant, peeled rice, sweetened cereals (chocolate, cornflakes, crunchy muesli, etc.), durum wheat noodles (light pasta), ready-made potato products (fried potatoes, potato salad, mashed potatoes, croquettes, French fries, pancakes), crispbread, pretzel pastries, muesli with added sugar, toast - bread rolls, white flour (flour type 405), white flour products
Vegetable mixes with butter or cream
(Candied) dried fruit, compote, fruit smoothie, canned fruit with added sugar
Roasted almonds, salted nuts, nuts wrapped in batter (wasabin nuts, Nic Nacs), nuts with chocolate glaze
Eggs, Milk & Dairy Products
Cream cheese preparations, fruit buttermilk, fruit yoghurt, fruit quark, cocoa preparations, mixed milk beverages, rice pudding, pudding, processed cheese, spray cream
breaded and fried meat, pork and sausage products made from them (beer sausage, bockwurst, bratwurst, pork knuckle, Lyoner, Leberkäse, mortadella, salami, bacon, ham, etc.)
Fish & seafood
Fish in mayonnaise, fish in cream, breaded, deep-fried or baked fish and seafood (fish fingers, fried fish), surimi (imitation crab meat)
Diestel oil, goose lard, coconut fat, margarine, palm fat, lard, sunflower oil
Alcohol (especially liqueur, red wine, sparkling wine), energy drink, fruit juice and nectar, drink syrup, light drink, soft drink
Jam, marmalade, nut nougat spread
Herbs, spices, sauces & condiments
Barbecue sauce, ready-made dressing, barbecue sauce, ketchup, mayonnaise
Vegetable products with additives (spices, fat, etc.), breaded and deep-fried foods, highly processed finished products (pizza, ready-made soup)
Sweet & salty snacks
Sweets, chips, ice cream, rubber animals, cookies, cakes, crackers, milk chocolate, muesli bars, pralines, savory biscuits, sweet dairy products
Agave syrup, fructose (fruit sugar, fructose syrup, fruit sweetness, glucose-fructose syrup, corn syrup, fruit sweetness), sweeteners, sugar (table sugar, candy, refined sugar, powdered sugar, etc.)
These foods are suitable in moderation for migraines
Flour, bread, cereals & side dishes
according to individual tolerance: Whole grain bread and rolls with yeast, pasta made from legumes (chickpeas, lentils, etc.)
according to individual tolerance: Eggplant, peas, green beans, legumes (beans, peas, lentils, soy etc.), mushrooms (all kinds), sauerkraut, spinach, sprouts, tomatoes, canned goods (mushrooms, gherkins, pickles, peppers, etc.)
according to individual tolerance: overripe fruit, fruit puree and pulp without added sugar; Pineapple, avocado, banana, pear, strawberry, raspberry, kiwi, papaya, plum, grapes, citrus fruits
according to individual tolerance: Cashew nuts, peanuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, walnuts
Eggs, Milk & Dairy Products
according to individual tolerance: Matured cheese (Bergkäse, Edammer, Emmentaler, Parmesan, Tilsiter, etc.), fine mold cheese (Brie, Camembert, Roquefort, Gorgonzola, etc.), plant-based drinks (such as almond drink, oat drink, soy drink)
according to individual tolerance: Cured meat products (corned beef, sliced ​​turkey breast, sliced ​​chicken breast)
Fish & seafood
according to individual tolerance: Smoked fish, canned fish (marinated herring, salted herring, tuna in oil, etc.), shellfish (such as crayfish, shrimp, lobster, crab, mussels, shrimp)
Clarified butter, virgin coconut oil
according to individual tolerance: Fruit juice spritzer (mixture 1: 3), green and black tea, coffee (1–2 cups)
Honey, sugar beet syrup;according to individual tolerance: Peanut butter, hummus, nut butter, vegetarian spreads
Herbs, Spices & Condiments
according to individual tolerance: Balsamic vinegar, yeast-based broth, tomato paste, wine vinegar, seasoning mixes and pastes (note the ingredients), soy sauce, mustard
according to individual tolerance: Soy products (such as tofu, miso, natto, tempeh, soy drink)
Maple syrup, birch sugar (xylitol), erythritol, honey, rice syrup, raw cane sugar, stevia, whole cane sugar, sugar beet syrup
Sweet & salty snacks
according to individual tolerance: Dark chocolate (70% cocoa)
Maple syrup, birch sugar (xylitol), erythritol, concentrated fruit juices, honey, coconut blossom sugar, rice syrup, raw cane sugar, stevia, whole cane sugar, sugar beet syrup

3 particularly good foods for migraines

  1. Ginger: Its ingredients, gingerols and shogaols, slow down inflammation and so can relieve pain. Studies suggest that the tuber may make an attack less painful. Even if the root can fight travel sickness, it is still unclear whether this can also be achieved with migraines (6), (7).
  2. Oily sea fish: such as herring, salmon and mackerel shine with eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These omega-3 fatty acids keep the blood vessels supple, protect against inflammation and plaques and are indispensable for the brain: About 10–15 of our thinking centers consist of DHA; both fatty acids support normal brain function (8).
  3. Linseed oil: Ithas the highest content of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) among domestic vegetable oils. This omega-3 fatty acid ensures that the blood flows well; In addition, the body can produce a small part of EPA and DHA from alpha-linolenic acid itself. Walnuts are also an excellent source.

3 particularly bad foods for migraines

  1. Sweets, cookies or cakes: Although they provide the brain with lightning-fast energy, they also lead to a rapid rise and fall in blood sugar levels. That prepares the ground for a new attack. You can also swap peeled rice, light pasta and white bread for the whole grain variety.
  2. Sweet alcoholic beverages: Liqueur, sweet red wine and sparkling wine are triggers and can trigger an attack. Apparently the contained sugar disrupts the carbohydrate metabolism in the brain and brings the energy supply of the nerve cells to a standstill.
  3. Ready meals: Many ready meals, but also sausage and chips, are too salty, too rich in fat and contain huge amounts of saturated fatty acids. All of this clogs the blood vessels and increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases. But what does this have to do with migraines? Unfortunately, migraines are particularly at risk of heart attacks and strokes.

What not to eat when you have a migraine?

There are many factors that can trigger migraine attacks. Ripe cheese, sparkling wine, red wine, ripe bananas, canned fish or citrus fruits are often mentioned. The alleged culprits are the contained biogenic amines such as histamine, phenylethylamine, serotonin or tyramine. Glutamate from Asian food, ready meals and sauces or sodium nitrate or nitrite is also suspected. They make cured meat and sausage products durable and cause a slight reddening.

Many migraineurs therefore avoid them preventively - and probably for no reason. To what extent they all actually act as triggers is scientifically controversial. It seems possible that the food could provoke an attack if the affected person is already under great stress or other stress. If you still suspect a food, a complaint diary can be helpful. For this detective work you can use the headache calendar of the German Migraine and Headache Society (DMKG). The Kiel Pain Clinic provides a digital migraine app.

Likewise, chocolate used to be the trigger for the next attack. Today we know that snacking is not a cause, but rather the first phase of migraines: Before the headache sets in, some feel a craving for sweets. The desire is the last, mostly in vain attempt to compensate for the energy deficit. While chocolate isn't a trigger, sweet alcoholic beverages can actually provoke an attack (9).

Coffee for migraines?

Coffee and other beverages containing caffeine are suspected of causing an attack. Many therefore do without the wake-up call. This is not necessary, because the quantity counts: One or two cups of coffee are harmless, even useful. Its caffeine stimulates and accelerates the use of energy in the brain. But four to five trigger a migraine because the energy reserves are again exhausted. If the usual daily portion is missing, the caffeine withdrawal also leads to headaches (10), (2).

If the next seizure is looming, some swear by the strong cup of coffee with lemon juice. Another measure is coffee with a little sugar and a glass of water. But if the inflammatory mechanisms in the blood vessels of the meninges are already in full swing, the home remedy may come too late.

Causes of a Migraine

It is true that not all the causes have yet been clarified; but the predisposition to the disease lies in our genes. Several members of a family are often affected. It is noticeable that the brain of migraineurs reacts particularly sensitively to all stimuli. Compared to healthy people, it is constantly under high voltage and thus has a consistently high energy consumption.

If the thinking center lacks fuel, so-called triggers can easily set off a migraine attack - but they are not the cause. The most common triggers include stress, skipping meals, irregular diurnal rhythms, and overexertion. With all these factors, the nerve cells need a lot of energy. The ups and downs of female hormones also trigger an attack. Some also react to fluctuations in caffeine levels.However, the key stimuli are very different from person to person (5).

Researchers used to assume that there was a circulatory disorder in the brain. This theory is now being questioned. There are many indications that a certain messenger substance (CGRP) triggers the attack. It is released in the trigeminal nerve (brain stem) and causes the blood vessels in the brain to stretch, but it also causes inflammation of the brain tissue and meninges. That makes for the pounding pain (13).

Treatment options for migraines

General practitioner, neurologist or pain therapist: Although the general practitioner is familiar with headaches, a specialist has detailed knowledge. Our tip: Be absolutely demanding when looking for a doctor. Do they take time for you, do they listen to you, are you allowed to finish speaking and are many questions asked? The Kiel Pain Clinic, the Techniker Krankenkasse (TK) and the Schleswig-Holstein University Medical Center (UKSH) have set up a nationwide network of experts together with around 400 pain therapists. Here you will find specialized practices and outpatient clinics in your area.

The doctor diagnoses whether it is actually a migraine. Your own migraine calendar is a good support here. In this way, possible triggers, the course of the headache, their intensity and duration, possible accompanying symptoms and associated handicaps in everyday life can be documented in great detail. Important: The complaint diary is only useful if it is kept carefully and continuously over a long period of time. Also write down all therapeutic treatments next to it. Surely you will quickly notice one or the other yourself. However, leave the evaluation to your doctor and bring your calendar with you to every consultation.

Since the migraine attacks express themselves individually in each person, there is also no uniform treatment method that is suitable for each patient. "Migraines have to be viewed multicausally," says Dr. Spot. This means that in most cases it is not just a single factor that is responsible. The individual causes must be identified so that a migraine attack can be counteracted preventively (14). But it can be said that changing your own lifestyle paired with the right diet can have a relieving effect on severe headaches in the case of migraines.

Sufficient fluid intake, a structured daily routine, plenty of fresh air, reduced use of electronic media, avoidance of physical overload, adequate sleep and periods of rest also keep migraines at bay. Relaxation methods such as progressive muscle relaxation or autogenic training effectively break down stress hormones and can thus prevent migraines. Regular endurance exercise has the same positive effect. Acupuncture or biofeedback is also helpful for some sufferers.

8 everyday tips against migraines

In addition to a smart diet for migraines, lifestyle also plays an important role. These tips and tricks will show you how to do it properly:

  1. Yes to the routine
    Unexpected, sudden changes can lead to disturbances in brain activity. You should therefore rely on a daily routine that is as regular as possible in order to reduce the body's energy consumption and thus the susceptibility to failure.
  2. Set limits
    Don't let yourself be rushed into things that would throw your rhythm out of step. In this way, unnecessary stress and overload can be avoided. So have the courage to point out boundaries before the pressure gets too great - that can be learned.
  3. Breathe
    Bring calm into your everyday life and consciously treat yourself to phases of relaxation. Autogenic training, progressive muscle relaxation, yoga and music are all helpful. Protect yourself from exposure to strong light and sunlight when you are outdoors.
  4. Fixed sleep times
    It is important to have a steady sleep-wake rhythm, which you also maintain on the weekend. Set the alarm clock to the usual alarm time and have breakfast as usual. Then you are welcome to lie down again.
  5. Move
    Exercise regularly. Experts recommend endurance sports such as jogging, swimming or cycling. Beware of overloading! Muscle relaxation procedures also lower the stress hormone level.
  6. Switch off
    For the sake of your own health, limit the use of electronic devices such as smartphones, PCs or televisions. Because generally luminous displays and shrill ringing tones can trigger or intensify a migraine attack.
  7. Networks
    You are not alone with the disease. There are various self-help groups that you can join. Here you will be understood - and the exchange of experiences with others will give you support. You can find addresses here.
  8. Exercise patience
    Make yourself aware that treatment success cannot be forced overnight. Unfulfilled expectations of yourself ultimately lead to disappointment. Our tip: exercise a little patience.