|reproduced from Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine - URL: www.pcrm.org/health/Preventive_Medicine/migraine.html|
(articolo in italiano)
A Natural Approach to Migraines
Research has shown surprising links between migraines and food. Certain foods can cause migraines, while others can prevent or even treat them. Coffee, for example, can sometimes knock out a migraine and foods rich in magnesium, calcium, complex carbohydrates, and fiber have been used to cure migraines. Some reports suggest that gingerthe ordinary kitchen spicemay help prevent and treat migraines with none of the side-effects of drugs. The herb feverfew also effectively prevented migraines in placebo-controlled research studies.
A migraine is not just a bad headache. It has a characteristic pattern, usually involving just one side of your head. It is a throbbing pain rather than a dull, constant ache, often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sounds.
See your doctor to evaluate your headache, especially if headaches are new for you, are unusually severe or persistent, or are accompanied by any of these characteristics:
Find Your Migraine Triggers
In 1983, researchers at the Hospital for Sick Children in London reported their results for 88 children with severe, frequent migraines who began an elimination diet. Of this group, 78 recovered completely, and 4 improved greatly. In addition, some children who also had seizures found that their seizures stopped. The researchers then reintroduced various foods and found that they sparked migraine recurrences in all but eight. In subsequent tests using disguised foods, the vast majority of children again became symptom-free when trigger foods were avoided. Migraines returned when trigger foods were added to the diet.1
In adults, anywhere between 20 and 50 percent have a reduction or elimination of their headaches when common trigger foods are avoided.
Pain-safe foods virtually never contribute to headaches or other painful conditions. These include:
Common triggers often cause headaches in susceptible people. Just as some food sensitivities manifest as a rash on your skin, migraine sufferers have a reaction in the blood vessels and nerves. Here are the common food triggers, also known as the "Dirty Dozen," in order of importance:
* Includes skim or whole cows milk, goats milk, cheese, yogurt, etc.
Certain beverages and additives are also among the worst triggers, including alcoholic beverages (especially red wine), caffeinated drinks (coffee, tea, and colas), monosodium glutamate, aspartame (NutraSweet), and nitrites.
Foods that are neither on the pain-safe list nor the common trigger list should be considered possible, but unlikely, triggers. Almost any common food, other than the pain-safe list, has triggered migraines in an isolated individual in a research study, so they cannot be considered completely above suspicion, but they are far from the most likely culprits.
The Two-Week Test
The first step in tackling your migraines is to check whether any of the common triggers are causing them. To do this, you simply avoid these foods. At the same time, include generous amounts of pain-safe foods in your routine and see whether migraines occur, and, if so, how often.
Here is how to start with anti-migraine foods. For two weeks:
The key is to be very careful in avoiding the common triggers. See Foods That Fight Pain by PCRM president Neal Barnard, M.D., for trigger-free recipes.
Confirm Your Food Triggers
If your diet change makes your headaches disappear or become much less frequent, the next step is to confirm which foods are your triggers. To do this, simply reintroduce the eliminated foods one at a time, every two days, to see whether any symptoms result. Start at the bottom of the list (bananas), and work your way up to the riskier foods, skipping any that you do not care for. If you wish, you can then check the beverages and additives on the common triggers list.
As you do this, have a generous amount of each new food, so you will know whether or not it causes symptoms. If it causes no problem, you can keep it in your diet. Anything that causes a headache should be eliminated again. Then, after a week or two, try the suspect food once again for confirmation. Keep your diet simple so you can detect the effect of each newly added food.
Meats, dairy products, and eggs are best left off your plate permanently. Aside from being among the worst migraine triggers, they also tend to disturb your natural hormone balance, which contributes to migraines, as we will see shortly. Their cholesterol, fat, and animal proteins are linked to serious health concerns including heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and cancers of the breast, prostate, and colon, so there is no need to welcome these problem foods back onto your plate.
Looking for Other Food Triggers
If two weeks on the basic anti-migraine diet does not reduce your headaches, the next step is to check whether a food that is not on the list of common migraine triggers may be causing your symptoms. This occasionally happens and, in fact, some people are sensitive to several different foods. An elimination diet will help you sort this out.
A Simple Elimination Diet
The elimination diet is designed to track down any unusual pain triggers. It is used for many other conditions, as well, particularly arthritis and digestive problems. Start by building your menu entirely from the pain-safe foods, avoiding all others for the moment.
Once your symptoms have gone or diminished, which may take a week or so, you can add other foods one at a time, every other day, to see which ones cause symptoms. Again, have a generous amount of each new food so you can see whether it causes symptoms. If not, you can keep it in your diet. Hold off adding any foods on the "Dirty Dozen" list and any of the beverage and additive triggers until last.
Here are some tips to help you identify triggers:
Feverfew: The Anti-Migraine Herb
Feverfew is an herb whose name comes from the fact that the ancient Greeks and many later societies used it as a treatment for fever. Researchers at the City of London Migraine Clinic found that feverfew eliminated about two-thirds of migraines in a selected group of headache patients, which is similar to the effectiveness of most migraine drugs.2 However, while some people get a pronounced effect, others get none at all. Averaging everyone together, it eliminates about one-fourth of all headaches.3 This does not mean that it will eliminate precisely one-fourth of your headaches. It will more likely either have a much more noticeable effect or no effect at all.
Feverfew is sold at all health food stores. The amount that has been shown to prevent migraines in research studies ranges from 50 to 114 milligrams per day. However, most practitioners use capsules containing about 250 milligrams of a standardized-potency feverfew, recommending one capsule per day taken on an empty stomach. If you find fresh leaves, the usual dose is two to three leaves per day.
Thousands of people have used feverfew over long periods with no apparent ill effects, and research studies have shown no serious risks. However, there has been little effort to systematically look for side-effects over prolonged periods. I would encourage you to avoid it if you are (or might be) pregnant; there is no indication that it causes birth defects, but not enough data are in to be sure. Also, people with clotting disorders or who are taking anticoagulant medicines should consult with their doctors about taking feverfew. Otherwise, our best information suggests that you can stay on it indefinitely.
Using Foods to Fight Migraines
If a Migraine Hits
If a migraine occurs, try the following:
Click here for a downloadable version of this fact sheet.