Navigating Migraine Food Triggers

Ever felt overwhelmed by the sheer number of foods you’ve been told to avoid for your migraine? You’re not alone.

Recently, I met someone who claimed to have an UNREAL amount of food triggers, to the point it was impossible to navigate their diet and was causing huge amounts of unnecessary stress.

In this article, I’ll…

  • unravel how food triggers impact migraine
  • break down the diet mistakes people often make
  • and offer a more accessible solution

So, if you’re tired of feeling restricted and stressed about what you eat, keep reading for a different perspective!

150 food triggers?!

I work part-time as a clinical RDN consultant – visiting hospitals & other buildings.

Recently, I was referred to a patient for a long list of diet restrictions. They said they had taken a food sensitivity test and now can’t eat over 150 foods.

Their diet was a major source of stress, but they didn’t see a clear way out.

First, I unpacked what brought my patient to this point. Then, I provided support and education to guide them to a more attainable diet. This article will bring you along the same journey.

What are migraine food triggers?

Food triggers are also known as food sensitivities.

When we consume a food we are sensitive to, our bodies have inflammatory reactions which can trigger a migraine attack.

Our food sensitivities are completely individualized, making them difficult to identify on our own. Many people, like the patient in today’s story, will use a blood test as a tool to learn which foods may be triggers.

Mistakes when navigating food triggers

Choice of sensitivity test

My patient with 150+ triggers wasn’t sure which test they had taken, which is potentially a major issue!

There are several options for testing that measure food reactions in a variety of ways – and they are not all created equal.

Personally, I put trust in the Mediator Release Test (MRT) from Oxford Biomedical Technologies. As a RDN, I am a practitioner licensed with Oxford, meaning I order this test for patients and guide them through a personalized diet plan.

Learn more about this by reading about my services.

Incomplete elimination diet

My patient, like so many others, made one major diet error.

Once they got their list of foods to avoid… that was it. The end. They cut the offending foods out, no further steps. Makes sense in theory, I know, but it completely sets you up for failure.

An essential phase of any elimination diet is the reintroduction stage. If you eliminate a suspected trigger food, even with the most reliable testing method, I always recommend testing it to confirm.

Otherwise you’re (possibly) avoiding it for no reason.

My patient was able to relate some foods to their symptoms, but without the confirmation of an “oral challenge”, overall it was all a guessing game.

Ignoring the bigger picture

Migraine is complicated, and completely narrowing in on food triggers is not the way to go.

A migraine attack only occurs once a “threshold” is reached.

One way to think of how our threshold works is that our triggers “stack”, so it’s typically never just one thing that sets off an attack. (Kind of a “straw that broke the camel’s back” situation.)

Fixating on diet could be counterproductive, when there are so many other potential areas to consider. Feel free to explore food triggers, but just know that it isn’t everything.

Summary

Migraine attacks may be triggered by foods, but fixating on this area of your health can potentially do more harm than good.

Common mistakes people make when facing food triggers are: using unreliable tests, never attempting to reintroduce foods back into their diet, and ignoring the other aspects of migraine management.

By following me on social media platforms (@migraine.nutritionist), you can get more insights and tips for migraine management.

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