When you have a migraine, your day stops. If you are prone to these debilitating episodes of head pain, you may have to stop what you’re doing and lie down in a dark room.
Migraine is a neurological disease that has a number of symptoms, including moderate to severe, throbbing head pain that can stick around for anywhere from four hours to several days. While migraines can occur partly due to genetic factors, attacks may happen seemingly at random, set off by a trigger in the environment.
“Everyone’s brain works slightly differently, but we know in general triggers can cause a hyperexcitability to the cortex of the brain,” says Dr Danielle Wilhour, assistant professor in the Department of Neurology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.
In other words, environmental triggers can affect your grey matter – the part of your brain responsible for sensory and motor function, vision, taste, hearing and memory. As a result, a variety of factors – including what you eat – can increase the risk that you’ll have a migraine.
Although everyone’s food triggers are different, some foods are more likely to cause trouble than others.
Read on for the top headache foods and ways to reduce the triggers.
Although alcohol in general is a common trigger for people with chronic migraines, red wine is notorious for giving people a headache. There are a variety of compounds in alcohol that may provoke an attack, including tyramine, histamine and sulphites. That said, rather than these chemicals, it’s likely the alcohol itself triggers a migraine, according to the American Migraine Foundation (AMF). That’s because alcohol leads to vasodilation – the widening of blood vessels – and that can cause headaches.
And don’t forget that too much alcohol can lead to a hangover the next day. Research suggests people with chronic migraines are more likely to experience these hangovers –even when they drink less alcohol than people who don’t suffer from migraines.
If you’ve had one too many drinks, try these 8 ways to sober up fast.
The caffeine in coffee can alleviate migraine pain – it’s added to some over-the-counter migraine medications for that reason. But drink too much coffee, or drink it at the wrong time of day, and you might trigger an attack, Dr Wilhour says.
Caffeine withdrawal (say, if you skip your regular cup) is a frequent trigger, according to a 2020 research review published in the journal Nutrients. Try to be consistent with caffeine, consuming the same type of coffee in the same amount at the same time each day. (Notice a pattern? Consistency is key.)