Headaches: Foods To Avoid and Foods To Cure Your Headaches

Foods That Often Trigger Headaches:

  • Chocolate
  • Red wine
  • Caffeine
  • MSG
  • Aspartame
  • Cured meats
  • Aged cheese
  • Nuts
  • Alcohol
  • Ice cream

Foods that may relieve for prevent headaches:

  • Fish and fish oil
  • Ginger

Believe it- all your headaches, whether they are so-called sinus headaches, tension and stress headaches or the dreaded migraine, could be triggered buy food compounds you eat every day, according to new revolutionary new finding. Many people endure nearly constant headaches, never dreaming the cause could be something in their diet. Diet-induced headache in children are tragically common and unrecognized.  If you have the severe type of headache known as migraine, food triggers are a popular worry. It’s now recognized, however, that the same foods that trigger migraines can also trigger ordinary less severe vascular headaches, According to leading headache authorities.

The reason:  All these common headaches, now known as tension, stress and sinus headaches, are actually milder versions of migraines, streaming from the same brain biology, and are more accurately called “vascular” headaches.  Thus, diet must now be considered a possible culprit in all such benign headaches that regularly torture more than 50 million Americans.

NEW HEADACHE THEORIES

Whether you have frequent or severe headaches depends a great deal on your genetic susceptibility. The more genetically prone you are, the most likely certain factors are to trigger headaches. Some trigger you just can’t control, such as weather changes, bright lights, strong odors and menstrual cycles. The single easiest headache-provoking factor you can control is your diet; thus, avoiding food culprits can be critical in preventing headaches, says David W. Bachholz, M.D., Director of the Neurological Consultation Clinic at Johns Hopkins University Hospital.

It’s complicated because food rarely acts alone in participating headache. Usually two or more factors are needed to overwhelm the brains regulatory mechanism, generating a headache. It’s akin to creating a short-circuit by too much electrical input. That’s why drinking red wine might trigger a migraine one time but not another. Your chances go up if, for example, you drink red wine and eat a chunk of blue cheese at a time when you are under stress. How much of a triggering food you eat also counts. one piece of chocolate may not bring on a headache,  but it is a whole box of chocolate might, says Seymour Solomon , M.D., Director of the headache unit at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City and  author of The Headache Book.

Further, the headache may not appear until a day or so later, making detection of the food trigger even more tricky, especially if it is a food you eat frequently, says Dr. Buchholz.

“You either do or do not have a headache tendency; it is built in and it’s genetic. What you eat can then influence that susceptibility, triggering headaches.”- Joel Saper, M.D., Clinical professor of medicine, Michigan State University.

MAJOR WAYS FOOD CAN AFFECT HEADACHES

Many common foods contain chemicals, particularly tyramines and nitrite; that have a direct effect on the brains of genetically prone individuals, triggering neural and blood vessel changes culminating in headaches.  How often headache strikes and how severe it is depends on the degree of vulnerability and the cumulative impact of food and other triggers on the brain. In some cases, the food factor stimulate constriction of blood vessels leading to blood flow dysfunctions and transient neurological symptoms, such as vision disturbance .In other cases, the blood vessels outside the brain dilate and become inflamed, triggering pain.

 Under this theory, all foods containing certain known chemical headache triggers are suspect. Examples: chocolate, aged cheese, bacon and red wine.

 On the other hand, some researchers fervently believe many headaches in adults and children result from widespread and generally unrecognized food allergies or intolerances. Thus the body’s immune system may perceive a certain food as an antigen (foreign substance), setting off events leading to vascular changes and headache. Such a theory supposes that a wide variety of foods, apparently having no chemical in common, could bring on headaches depending on individuals peculiar sensitivity.

 Further, foods may have an indirect effect on pain and inflammation by working through the complex prostaglandin system. Because headaches are related to blood vessel changes and inflammatory processes, certain foods that affect these processes also have the potential to alleviate headaches. Two examples are fish oil and Ginger.

HOW COMMON IS FOOD HEADACHE?

 How many headaches owe their origins to food triggers is debatable. Some experts say very few- 5 to 20 percent, others say the majority. Dr. James Breneman, former chairman of the food allergy committee of the American College of Allergy, said “I am convinced three- fourths of migraines are food related.” although certain foods are more apt to cause headaches, the list is growing longer and some experts believe almost any food could be a trigger. One woman, for example, found her migraines triggered by cinnamon, which is not on doctors list of common migraine provocateurs. Joel Saper, M.D., clinical professor of medicine at Michigan State University and director of Michigan head pain Neurological Institute in Ann Arbor, now lists milk as a common food trigger of headaches, although the mechanism is unknown. Dr. Buchholz thinks the number-one headache danger for most people is caffeine.

Cutting down on or avoiding headache -triggering foods main well stop the headaches. In a recent review of research, Cynthia L. Radnitz, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at Fairleigh Dickinson University, noted Studies finding that 70 to 85 percent of migraine sufferers who restricted trigger- foods had fewer and less severe headaches.

 Here are foods with the worst reputations for triggering headaches. Most of the research has been done specifically on people with extreme vascular headaches known as migraines, but experts say that some foods are expected to trigger the run-of-the-mill type headaches typically suffered by most people.

BEWARE THE AWFULAMINES

Food constituents called amines may simply strike your brain all wrong. The ancient Greek philosopher Plinius proclaimed fresh dates a cause of headaches. We now know no dates contain proteins with an amine in their chemical structure. Such amines are well- recognized headache- activating agents. For example, chocolate, a legendary reputed trigger of migraines, contains phenyl ethylamine, Citrus fruit, another common headache trigger, contains octopamine. But the most notorious amine implicated in migraine is tyramine. It’s widespread in the food supply, found in varying amounts in alcoholic beverages (particularly red wine), dairy products (aged and hard cheeses, yoghurt, sour cream), certain meats and fish (cured or processed meats, herring), yeast products (certain breads and fresh cake), fruits (figs, dates, raisins), nuts and sauerkraut. Interestingly, feeding test subjects’ pure tyramine alone does not always bring on headaches, confirming that additional triggers must combine with food to precipitate pain.

RED WINE HEADACHE

Suspect red wine. If you think it triggers your headache, it probably does. Red wine has the worst reputation among alcoholic beverages as an instigator of headaches. The probable reason is that red wine is rich in many grape substances, called congeners, including tyramine. Proof that red wine can trigger headaches comes from several studies, including a recent controlled British test of nineteen migraine patients.

CHEESES THAT GIVE THE MOST PAIN ( CHEESES WITH THE MOST TYRAMINE)

cheese Milligrams of tyramine per ½ on. cheese
English Solution 17.3
Blue cheese 15.0
Old cheddar 7.5
Danish blue 5.5
Mozzarella 2.4
Swiss Gruyere 1.9
Parmesan, grated 1.1
Gorgonzola 0.8

Investigator Julia T. Littlewood, of the Princess Margaret Migraine Clinic at Charing Cross Hospital in London, had subjects drink from small brown bottles, chilled to obscure the taste of the contents. Some contained a little over a cup of Spanish red wine. Others held vodka mixed with lemonade. Both had the same alcohol content, and subjects drank the concoctions from a straw to disguise identity. Some thought it was cough medicine, others the dregs of boiled sweets. After they sucked up the mixtures, they were watched closely for reactions.

Sure enough, within three hours, nine of eleven migraine patients who got the red wine developed a full-blown migraine headache with unilateral throbbing, nausea and light sensitivity. Those who secretly got the vodka showed no signs of headache. Nor did any of a nonmigraine group who drank the red wine.

The main point, contends Dr. Littlewood, is that red wine indeed provokes migraine, and obviously not because of the alcohol. Dr. Littlewood also says the red wine she used was deliberately low in tyramines, the often- blamed culprit in red wine. She thinks the active agent is a natural phenolic compound- not present in white wine- that some migraine victims cannot metabolize properly because of an enzyme deficiency.

 THE CHOCOLATE HEADACHE

Chocolate is an infamous trigger of migraine headaches. In a recent survey of 490 migraine sufferers 19 percent named chocolate their greatest dietary threat, next to alcohol.

That the threat is very real was shown by a double-blind British study of twenty patients with classical migraine. All were sure that chocolate triggered their headaches. As a test, the researchers gave twelve patients a 1.4-ounces chocolate bar. The other eight got placebo or “phony chocolate” bar.  Within an average twenty-two hours, five of the patients (40 percent) who got the real chocolate felt the oncoming signs of a migraine. None of the patients who got the phony chocolate bar had a migraine.

 Note:  White chocolate, which contains cocoa butter but not chocolate liquor (a source of tyramine), does not stimulate headaches.

HOT-DOG HEADACHE: THE NITRATE NEMESIS

If you’re headache-prone, beware of hot dogs, bacon, salami, ham, and other meats cured with sodium nitrite or nitrate, well-known headache triggers. Neurologists William R. Henderson and Neil H. Raskin, of the University of California at San Francisco, pinned it down with the help of a “hot-dogs headache” sufferer. He was fifty-eight years old and complained of headache attacks, and sometimes facial flushing, about thirty minutes after eating hot dogs, bacon or other nitrite-cured meats. The head pain lasted several hours.

 As a test, he agreed to drink odorless, tasteless solutions containing 10 milligrams or less of sodium nitrate or look-alike solution lacking the nitrite. He did not know which he was drinking yet, eight out of thirteen times when he drank the nitrite solution, he developed a headache. He never got a headache from drinking the look-alike placebo drink. After the man gave up eating nitrite cured meats his headaches disappeared.

FOOD MOST LIKELY TO TRIGGER HEADACHES

  • Caffeine (  coffee, tea, iced tea , cola )
  • Chocolate  
  • Cheese (Except cream cheese, cottage cheese and American cheese)
  • Yogurt and sour cream.
  • Nuts (including peanut butter)
  • Processed curd and aged meat (including hot dogs sausage bacon Salami  and bologna)
  • Alcoholic drinks (especially red wine, champion and dark or heavy drinks; vodka is least likely to provoke headaches)
  • MSG (monosodium glutamate)
  • Citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruit, lemons, limes) and Pineapples and their juices.
  • Other fruits (banana, raisins, red plums, canned figs, avocados)
  • Certain vegetables (board, lima, fava and navy beans, peapods, sauerkraut and onions)
  • Certain bread products (homemade yeast breads, sourdough breads and other yest-risen baked goods)
  • Aspartame(NutraSweets)

THE ASPARTAME HEADACHE

 Can aspartame (NutraSweet) trigger headaches? Its makers say the artificial sweetener is blameless. But enough complaints received by the federal government and by headache experts make many conclude that aspartame can cause headaches in susceptible persons. “Aspartame may be an important dietary trigger in a significant proportion of headache sufferers, particularly migraineurs,” Insists Dr. R. B. Lipton, a neurologist with the Headache Unit of Montefiore Medical Centre in New York City, who studied aspartame’s impact on headaches in 117 patients.

Another study, by Shirley M. Koehler at the University of Florida showed that aspartame boosted migraine frequency in more than half of a group of subjects.  In fact, there all number of migraines more than doubled (from an average 1.55 to 3.55) after they took four doses daily of 300 milligram of aspartame for four weeks compared to taking a placebo. Also, there headaches lasted longer, and some subjects experienced an increase in “unusual symptoms” during aspartame-inspired headache, such as dizziness, shakiness and diminished vision. Why aspartame triggers migraines is unknown. But, like other headache food triggers, it apparently strike those with an inborn vulnerability

 MSG HEADACHE

Some say there is no such thing as MSG (monosodium glutamate) inspired headache, which may also be accompanied by other signs of so-called “Chinese restaurant syndrome,” such as burning and tingling in the face and chest, perspiration, excessive abdominal cramps and dizziness. Yet many headache experts include MSG among the most common food triggers of vascular headaches. Dr. Saper says some people don’t metabolize MSG well, so it may build up in the bloodstream, resulting in a chemical overreaction and headache.

The use of MSG as a flavor enhancer is wide spread in processed foods. If you are MSG- sensitive, beware of such ingredients as hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVB), hydrolyzed plant protein (HPP), and Kombu extract, all of which contain MSG. warns Alferd L Scopp, M.D., of the Northern California Headache Clinic.

CAFFEINE GOOD GUY, BAD GUY

Don’t be innocent about caffeine. It is a paradox, able to relieve or cause headaches. A single cup of strong coffee may zap a mild headache, and caffeine alone is a painkiller equal to acetaminophen, according to test by Nicholas ward MD, psychiatrist at the University of Washington.

 But there is a dark side to caffeine that makes a widespread headache threat, says Dr. Buchholz. He finds that caffeine feeds headaches in many unsuspecting persons and, infects, is probably the nation’s number-one headache investigator. “If you have headaches, one of the first thing to do is eliminate caffeine.” he urges. He contends that while it is true that caffeine can temporarily relieve headaches by constructing dilated and swollen blood vessels, the cure backfires in the long run. “When the caffeine wears of, the ones- constricted blood vessel swells up with a vengeance and dilates in a rebound action, causing even worse headache.” Thus, in the long-term run, regular use of caffeine promotes headache in many people even though they think they are getting a quick fix, he says. He cautions against using caffeine to cure headaches.

How much caffeine is a headache hazard? It depends because tolerance to caffeine varies enormously. A single cup of coffee from most headaches in susceptible individuals, whereas others can down many cups without getting headache, says Dr. Buchholz. “I m not saying everyone needs to give up caffeine.”    He adds, “but for those who are headache prone and susceptible to caffeine, eliminating it is probably the most important thing you can do to stop headaches. Caution: To avoid caffeine-withdrawal headaches be sure to taper of caffeine over couple of weeks instead of quitting suddenly.

CAFFEINE WITHDRAWAL HEADACHES

If you are used to caffeine and don’t get it, you can feel awful. In fact, millions of Americans suffers debilitating caffeine withdrawal headaches and other symptoms, never suspecting the cause, say experts. They used to drink caffeine withdrawal headaches was fairly rare and trivial, sticking only heavy caffeine indulgers (more than five cup of coffee a day) who were abruptly severed from their usual caffeine. Not true. Although heavy- caffeine consumers do suffer the most when they abstain, withdrawal headaches commonly strike those who average only one or two cup of coffee a day.

Most people who kick caffeine or who otherwise don’t get their daily dose, experience headaches, often severe ones. Subjects deprive of caffeine in research projects often term their headaches “as serve as any” they have ever had. Some cannot function normally and are temporarily incapacitated. So disturbing and severe is caffeine withdrawal for many people that experts, recently writing in the American Journal of Psychiatry, said it should official be declared a form of mental disorder.

Tests at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine by Roland R. Griffiths, M.D., show that caffeine withdrawal can strike people who drink a single cup of strongly brewed coffee or three caffeinated soft drinks a day. Further, Dr. Griffiths discovered that caffeine-withdrawal symptoms include not only headache, but also fatigue, mild depression, muscle pain and stiffness, flulike feeling, nausea and vomiting. In a major study Dr. Griffiths and colleagues had 62 coffee drinkers go “cold turkey” for two separate two-day periods, during which they got either a caffeine pill (equal to a little or two cup of coffee) or a dummy pill. When deprived of caffeine an astounding 52 percent complained of headaches; 11 percent were depressed; 11 percent felt fatigued; some exhibited severe flu-like symptoms and 13 percent were in such pain they broke the rules of the study by taking aspirin or other such painkillers.

Symptoms, including headache, typically start about twelve to twenty-four hours after you stop caffeine, peak at twenty to forty-eight hours and usually last about a week .

IF YOU HAVE MORNING HEADACHES, CHECK OUT CAFFEINE

Amazingly, you can have caffeine-withdrawal headache without ever knowing it, and without deliberately giving up caffeine. In fact, this headache can be an almost constant and unacknowledged companion to some frequent caffeine consumers. If you commonly wake up in the morning with a headache, it could be due to caffeine withdrawal during the night. That morning cup of coffee then provides the caffeine fix that obliterates the headache. But it is a vicious circle, requiring more fixes.

If you suffer from headaches on weekends and holidays, they may well be due to a cut back in your regular workday dose of caffeine. A new study even shows that postoperative headaches, long thought to be sparked by the  anesthesia, in many people are simply caused by the absence of their customary caffeine while under the knife and in the hours preceding their surgery!

HOW TO KICK CAFFEINE WITHOUT THE HEADACHES

 To keep your body from expressing its displeasure at suddenly being deprived of caffeine, cut down gradually. Here is advice from experts at Tufts University.  Try cutting back by one cup every few days until you feel comfortable. Or mix regular and decaf coffee to dilute the amount of caffeine, gradually increasing the amount of decaf over the caffeinated coffee.  Of course, cut back on other sources of caffeine, such as colas, opting for “caffeine-free” soft drinks, noted on labels. The biggest jolts are found in colas and Mountain Dew.

If you’re a smoker, you need more caffeine to get a caffeine “buzz,” the Tufts authorities point out, because smokers metabolize or use up caffeine in the blood more quickly than nonsmokers. This means that if you quit smoking, you should cut back on Caffeine, too. Otherwise, you may get caffeine jitters from having so much more caffeine in your bloodstream.

ICE CREAM HEADACHE: SURPRISINGLY COMMON

Drink something ice-cold or bite off a chunk of ice cream or frozen yogurt, and zowee-the shock of cold in the mouth suddenly turns into a sharp pain in the forehead! It’s a phenomenon known as ice-cream headache. It usually doesn’t last long, twenty to thirty seconds, and sometimes strikes deep in the nose, in the temples or behind the cheeks. What happens, says Dr. Saper, is that the cold contacts the roof of the mouth, stimulating a reaction in the fifth cranial nerve via branch stretching from the mouth’s surface to the head. This cranial nerve is the main carrier of headache pain.

Why some people experience “ice cream headache” and others do not is unknown. However, it is extremely common. A recent British study found that applying ice cream to the palates of fifty student volunteers produced headaches in 46 percent of them.

The solution says Dr. Saper, is to eat and drink cold things slowly. Keep them momentarily in the front of the mouth, giving the mouth’s roof a chance to cool gradually. That lessens the cold shock that triggers the pain.

THE HANGOVER HEADACHE

Watch not only how much you drink, but what you drink. It’s not only the alcohol that can give you a hangover headache, says Dr. Solomon, but also the other constituents, ingredients or flavorings called congeners that help distinguish different tastes among varying alcoholic beverages. Some congeners are natural to the source, such as phenols in grapes or aldehydes from the distilling or aging process. Others are additives, such as sulfites.

Drinks with a lot of congeners are red wine, champagne and bourbon, which may account for why they are commonly mentioned as headache triggers. Vodka has the lowest concentrations of congeners, and is less likely to cause hangover symptoms. That doesn’t mean you can get away with swilling vodka with no expectation of consequences. Drink enough alcohol and, of course, you can get a headache.

Exactly how the hangover headache happens is unclear, but it appears to result from metabolic disturbances in the brain as a result of too much alcohol and may cause a type of “brain hypoglycemia,” or low sugar. Thus, some experts advise eating a snack before going to bed that is high in fructose sugar, such as fruit juice. “Fructose may help metabolize the chemical products of alcohol that tend to cause headaches and other hangover symptoms,” says Dr. Solomon. It’s also important to drink lots of fluids, since alcohol causes dehydration. As with other types of headaches your susceptibility to a hangover headache also is inherited.

FOOD MIGRAINES IN CHILDREN: THE FAMOUS EGGER STUDY

 Your child may suffer from migraines brought on by food without your ever suspecting it, according to recent revelation by British pediatric neurologist Joseph Egger, of the hospital for Sick Children in London. Dr. Egger studied the effects of food intolerances on eighty-eight children with severe migraines. The landmark findings of this first carefully controlled double-blind study of its type were a shocker, jolting the medical community into a new realization of the vast potential of foods in provoking childhood migraines.

To his surprise, Dr. Egger Found that an astounding 93 percent of the boys and girls, aged three to sixteen, became headache-free when they stopped eating certain foods. Some recovered almost immediately when the offending foods were stricken from their diets; in others, their headaches lingered for three weeks after they stopped eating the “allergic” foods.

 

 Particularly surprising was that  fifty-five different foods produced the headaches, as well as other symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, asthma, eczema and hyperactivity. The number one villain was cow’s milk; it triggered migraine in 30 percent of the children. Next in order were eggs ( 27 percent), chocolate ( 25 percent),  oranges ( 24 percent),  wheat  ( 24 percent),  cheese ( 15 percent);  and tomatoes ( 15 percent). Further down the list were pork, beef, corn, soy, tea, oats, coffee, peanuts, bacon, potatoes, apples, peaches, grapes, chicken, bananas, strawberries, melon and carrots.

 

Most children reacted to several foods, although about 20 percent reacted to only one. Some of the migraines struck within minutes of eating an offending food; in other cases there was an interval of more than a week before the onset of pain. The average was two to three days. Another eerie note: The children were usually very fond of the foods that brought on their pain, “sometimes craving them, and often ate them in very large amounts.” Reported Dr.Egger. He speculates that unlike typical food allergies that strike instantly and require only minute amounts to do harm, food allergies that spark migraines develop slowly over time from chronic exposure to antigen in foods, and require larger amounts of food to provoke reactions.

 

NO MORE “HEADACHE EPILEPSY”

In another groundbreaking study, Dr. Egger discovered that children who had migraines often had epileptic seizures, and that the seizures, too, could be controlled by avoiding certain foods. Dr. Egger studied sixty-three children, eighteen with epilepsy alone and forty-five who regularly had epileptic seizures as well as migraine headaches. For four weeks the youngsters ate a so-called “oligoantigenic diet.” consisting of foods not known to provoke an allergic reaction.

The diet worked wonders in the youngsters with both epilepsy and migraine: 55 percent ceased to have any seizures at all, and 25 percent had fewer seizures. The diet had no effect on children with epilepsy alone.

As additional proof, Dr. Egger did a double-blind, placebo controlled study, in which suspected foods were secretly slipped back into the diet one by one. In thirty-two youngsters-89 percent -the seizures came back! Here are the foods that most often triggered seizures: cow’s milk (37 percent of youngsters), cow’s cheese (36 percent), citrus fruits and wheat (29 percent), eggs (19 percent), tomatoes (15 percent), pork (13 percent), chocolate (11 percent) and com (10 percent). All the children reacted to at least two foods.

After seven months to three years of avoiding such foods, more than half the youngsters had their seizures under complete control; others had fewer than half as many seizures. And, in most, their migraines were gone or diminished. Diet can be a powerful treatment for epilepsy-migraine syndrome, insists Dr. Egger.

The connection between epilepsy and migraine has long puzzled neurologists, says Dr. Egger. He speculates that both are somehow linked to brain chemistry changes in neurotransmitters that in turn are influenced by food components. For example, opioid peptides have been implicated in epileptic seizures and immunological changes, he says, and a number of foods, especially milk and wheat, contain opiate-like peptides. Perhaps there is a connection, he theorizes.

Note: Dr. Egger and other researchers do not find that such diets work in children with epilepsy alone, only in those who also have migraines.

CURE MIGRAINE WITH GINGER

Try ginger. The old fashioned spice may be just as effective at aborting and preventing migraines as powerful prescription drugs with potentially serious adverse effects. Used for centuries in some cultures to treat headaches, nausea and nervous disorders, ginger makes physiological sense, according to Dr. Krishna C. Srivastava, at Odense University in Denmark. Ginger, like asprin and some other sophisticated anti-migraine drugs, affects prostaglandins, the body’s hormone like substances that help control inflammatory responses, involving histamine, and pain, he says. Ginger, indeed, operates much like aspirin in blocking prostaglandin synthesis, leading to reduction in inflammation and pain.

 

As a test, Dr. Srivastava and colleagues suggested to a forty-two-year-old patient that she take ginger at the first sign of visual disturbances (the aura) that often signal an oncoming migraine. She did so, downing 500 to 600 milligrams (about one-third of a teaspoon) of powdered ginger mixed with plain water. It was a dramatic success, according to Dr. Srivastava. Within thirty minutes the “abortive effect on the headache was perceivable,” he notes. For the next three to four days the woman also took another one third of a teaspoon of powdered ginger four times a day.

The experiment was so successful the woman took to eating uncooked fresh ginger root regularly as part of her diet, and both the frequency and intensity of her migraines decreased markedly. Prior to the ginger regimen, she used to have two or three severe headaches a month. During thirteen months of using ginger, she suffered only a fairly mild headache every other month.

The doctors speculate that ginger aborts or prevents migraines through one mechanism or a combination of various mechanisms, much the same way modern drugs do. Since no side effects of ginger have been documented, Dr. Srivastava suggests adults and children could safely try ginger to thwart migraines.

FISH OIL VS. MIGRAINES

Eat fish as a headache preventive. Experiments at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine by Dr. Timothy McCarren have shown that taking fish oil capsules for six weeks blocked migraines in about 60 percent of subjects with severe migraines, cutting the number of attacks in half-from two a week to two every two weeks. The pain and severity of the headaches also lessened. Men were more apt than women to get relief from fish oil, for unknown reasons. Dr. McCarren also suggests that eating less saturated animal fat can sometimes prevent migraines because saturated fat stimulates formation of a particular hormone-like substance, triggering events that can lead to migraines.

This does not mean you can take a bite of fish like a pill when you feel a headache coming on. The research, however, suggests that regularly eating fish, especially fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines may have long-term effects on brain chemistry, helping lessen migraine attacks over a period of time.

ODD FOOD PAINKILLERS

Oysters, lobster, liver, nuts, seeds, green olives and wheat bran as painkillers? Maybe, according to new studies at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  All these foods are rich in copper, a mineral that seems to help ward off common aches and pains ordinarily relieved by over-the-counter painkillers. That is a surprising finding by James G. Penland, Ph.D., a psychologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Dr. Penland made the discovery by analyzing several studies of both men and women who were on low-mineral diets in a special hospital unit. He noted that when the subjects were on low-copper diets, they asked for painkillers twice as often as when they were on copper-adequate diets. They requested over-the-counter analgesics like aspirin and Tylenol for run-off-the mill pain, including headaches.

Dr. Penland theorizes that deficiency of copper, which is quite common among Americans, might affect brain chemicals and/ or constriction of blood vessel walls, precipitating more general pain and headaches.

DIET PRESCRIPTION TO COMBAT HEADACHES

 First, try to prevent headaches by identifying and avoiding food triggers. Here’s advice Dr. David Bachholz of Johns Hopkins gives his patients.

  • For one month avoid all foods on the foods most likely to trigger headaches. Also avoid caffeine- containing medications such as Anacin, Excedrin and Actifed.
  • If you regularly drink caffeine, be sure to taper off over a two-week period. You can drink decaf coffee and tea and carbonated soft drinks that do not contain caffeine.
  • If your headaches subside or disappear, you can then” experiment” by adding back a food item  one at a time every three days or once a week. If a headache occurs, you will then know that this food is a headache trigger and should be avoided. Dr. Bachholz cautions that it will take twenty-four hours after consuming a food for a headache to show up. After you determine which foods Trigger headaches you can avoid them. However, he recommends not adding caffeine back into the diet if you have frequent headaches. “Avoid it completely,” he says.
  • Additionally, as other experts suggest, you may want to try eating more fish as well as little ginger, which help block headaches in some people.
  • If a child has severe headaches and/or epileptic seizures, check out a food allergy. The number-one suspect is milk.