Plant-based Diet can Relieve Migraine (New Study) ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

Key Highlights

  • Over 1 billion people worldwide suffer from migraine.
  • Several studies suggest that certain foods may trigger migraine symptoms.
  • A recent study has shown that a plant-based diet can relieve migraine pain.

Migraine is the 3rd most common and 6th most disabling illness in the world. [1]

Migraine is characterized by recurrent, throbbing headaches that can last up to three days.

The exact cause of migraine is still unknown. ๐Ÿ˜ฎ [2]

However, several studies showed that certain foods can trigger migraine. [3] [4]

A recent study has shown that a plant-based diet can relieve migraine pain.

Letโ€™s dig deep into it. ๐Ÿง

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Table of Contents


The Study Process

This study was published online in the ‘BMJ Case Reports Journal’. [5]

Researchers in New York have published this case study when they treated a man who had suffered severe migraine headaches without aura for more than 12 years. ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

The patient tried prescribed medicines (Zolmitriptan and Topiramate); cutting out potential ‘trigger’ foods, including chocolate, cheese, nuts, caffeine, and dried fruit; and practiced yoga and meditation to reduce the severity and frequency of his headaches. 

But nothing had worked.

He described the pain as starting suddenly and intensely in the forehead and temple on the left side of his head. 

The pain was throbbing in nature and usually lasted 72 hours.

His headaches increased with the sensitivity to light and sound, causing nausea and vomiting in extreme cases.

On a scale of 0-10, he scored the pain severity as 10-12 out of 10. ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

Blood tests revealed that he didn’t have high levels of systemic inflammation and that he had a normal level of beta-carotene (53 ug/dl).

This was likely derived from his daily consumption of sweet potatoes, which, although high in beta-carotene, are relatively low in the nutrients responsible for the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of carotenoids, pointed out by the report authors.

These nutrients are instead found in dark green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, and watercress. 

Systemic inflammation and oxidative stress are implicated in migraine.

The report authors advised the man to adopt the Low Inflammatory Foods Everyday (LIFE) diet, a nutrient-dense, whole-food, plant-based diet.

The LIFE diet included eating at least five ounces by weight of raw or cooked dark green leafy vegetables every day, drinking one 32-ounce daily green LIFE smoothie. 

Doctors also recommend limiting the intake of whole grains, starchy vegetables, oils, and animal protein, particularly dairy and red meat.

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Green Leafy Vegetables
Green leafy vegetables have many health benefits.

The Result of this Study

After two months on the LIFE diet, the man said that the frequency of his migraine attacks had fallen to just one day a month; the length and severity of the attacks had also lessened. ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

Blood tests showed a substantial rise in beta-carotene levels, from 53 ug/dl to 92 ug/dl.

He had stopped taking all his migraine medicines.

Even when he tried certain ‘challenge’ foods, such as egg whites, salmon, or iced tea, which triggered headache attacks, these were much less painful and much shorter than before.

After three months, his migraines stopped completely, and they haven’t returned in 7.5 years. ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

The man was allergic, and previously published research suggests that better control of allergies may lead to fewer migraine headaches. 

In this case, the man’s allergy symptoms improved to the point that he no longer needed to use seasonal medication.

He was also HIV positive, and HIV has been linked to a heightened risk of migraines, so it is certainly possible that the man’s HIV status and antiretroviral drugs had contributed to his symptoms, said the authors of the report.

But it wasn’t possible to study this further without stopping the antiretroviral treatment, which is a limitation of the study, report authors acknowledged. ๐Ÿค”

However, they concluded, โ€œThis report suggests that a whole food plant-based diet may offer a safe, effective and permanent treatment for reversing chronic migraine.โ€ 

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How Plant-based Diet Can Relieve Migraine?

Prof Gunter Kuhnle, a professor of nutrition and food science at the University of Reading, who was not involved in the case, said: 

โ€œBioactive compounds found in dark-green leafy vegetables and other foods might have an important role in the management of many diseases, but in order to make definitive statements and recommendations, considerably more research is needed.โ€

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Eating Vegetable Salad
Our meal should contain mostly leafy vegetables.

The Final Word

Migraine is a common disabling illness. [1]

More than a billion people worldwide experience migraines. ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

While drugs can help prevent and treat them, a growing amount of evidence suggests that diet may also offer an effective alternative remedy without any of the side effects associated with some drugs.

So, my recommendation is to eat a plant-heavy balanced diet. ๐Ÿฅ—

You don’t necessarily need to go vegan, just make sure your every meal contains mostly leafy vegetables.

Also, you should exercise at least 30 mins daily to be healthy. ๐Ÿƒ

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Freequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can migraines be related to diet?

Yes. Migraine may be related to diet. For example, if you start a new diet or stop eating certain foods which you’ve been eating for a long time, may trigger migraine pain.

Can going vegan stop migraines?

Yes. Several studies have shown that a plant-based diet reduces migraine pain.

Why do I get a migraine when I start a diet?

Migraine may be related to diet. For example, if you start a new diet or stop eating certain foods which you’ve been eating for a long time, may trigger migraine pain.

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This article is written by a certified nutritionist and verified by scientific evidence. โ˜‘๏ธ

We rely on reputed and specialized media sites, academic research institutions, peer-reviewed studies, government agencies, and medical associations to source information. ๐Ÿ“ฐ

We avoid using tertiary references. Know more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy. ๐Ÿง

Following are the references of this article.

  1. Migraine Research Foundation: Migraine Facts. Accessed 22 November 2021.[][]
  2. NHS: Migraine – Causes. Accessed 22 November 2021.[]
  3. PubMed: The triggers or precipitants of the acute migraine attack. Accessed 22 November 2021.[]
  4. Nutrients: Migraine and Diet. Accessed 22 November 2021.[]
  5. BMJ Case reports: Chronic migraine reversal and prevention with the LIFE diet: a nutrient dense whole food plant-based diet (WFPBD). Accessed 22 November 2021.[]

About the Author

A. R. Choudhury, ARChoudhuryMSc,

A. R. Choudhury is a IGNOU certified nutritionist in India with a Bachelorโ€™s and Masterโ€™s degree in Biochemistry.

He also has considerable research experience and additional certificates in nutrition. ๐Ÿ‘

Abdur started NutritionCrown in 2020 to organize nutrition information under one umbrella. โ˜‚๏ธ

He is passionate about empowering people to make well-informed food choices to support their health.

Abdur currently lives in India and keeps fit by weight training and eating mainly home-cooked meals. ๐Ÿ’ช ๐Ÿฅ—

Category: Nutrition News
Tag: Diet