There is no question that headaches can be bothersome, especially if they are particularly severe, prolonged, or frequent. However, migraines go beyond just a pounding headache and can be incredibly painful, nauseating, and downright debilitating. While several factors can make you more susceptible to migraines, there are also things that can trigger a serious situation or make it worse — that includes your eating habits, according to a new study.
In the study published by Nutritional Neuroscience, 1,838 of the 8,953 participants who took part in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 1999 and 2004 were found to be migraine sufferers for the first time. While taking potential variables into consideration, those behind the study analyzed the available data to find connections between diet, specifically using the prognostic nutritional index, or PNI, and cases of severe headaches and migraines.
The findings showed that mild, moderate, and severe malnutrition were linked to participants experiencing more severe headaches more frequently. Those behind the study also noted that the diets of severe headache and migraine sufferers tend to be lacking in vitamins and nutrients such as dietary fiber, total folate, riboflavin, selenium, potassium and magnesium, as well as vitamin A, vitamin B6 , b12 vitamin. , vitamin C and vitamin K. On the other hand, they drank more coffee and consumed more theobromine, something found in chocolate. The team concluded that diet (specifically PNI) was associated with the risk and severity of migraines.
“Right off the bat, I am not surprised by the finding that moderate to severe malnutrition is associated with migraines,” Sydney Greene, MS, RDHe says Eat this, not that!
“Migraines can be triggered by low blood sugar,” Greene explains. “If someone goes long gaps between meals, skips meals, or eliminates major food groups, specifically carbohydrates, this can cause blood sugar levels to drop.”
“In addition, prolonged malnutrition typically leads to vitamin and mineral deficiencies,” Greene says, noting that “deficiencies in some vitamins (mainly the B vitamins) and the mineral magnesium could contribute to more severe migraines.”
“There are many reasons why someone might not be getting adequate nutrition,” Greene explains regarding why the diets of migraine sufferers may be poor. “For starters, there could be a vicious feedback loop at play: You have a migraine, your appetite decreases, therefore food consumption decreases, and then the migraine recurs. Additionally, certain diets such as vegan, vegetarian, and ketogenic diets can lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies.”
“It’s important to find a health care provider who is experienced in treating migraines. A physician or registered dietitian will be able to help create a diet that mitigates the risk of migraines,” Greene advises. “Supplements may be needed to prevent the frequency of migraines, and a licensed practitioner will be able to help create the best protocol.”