Dietary changes and certain foods can trigger migraines!
Suffering from headaches or migraines every now then? Well, you’re not alone as many people complain of such problems. Leaving aside obvious reasons like sinusitis, stress and mental tension, little do people know that their diet could be a culprit too. Surprised? We tell why you should be more watchful of what you eat to avoid that throbbing pain in your head.
A headache is a discomfort or a pressure-like sensation in the head. A migraine is a common type of headache that usually occurs on one side of the head. Dietician Dr Sunita Dube agrees that one’s diet can affect headaches and says, “A family history of migraine, apart from stress, food and beverages may be responsible for up to 30 per cent of migraines. If you consider some other triggers such as hormonal changes, stress, sleeping habits, and depression, it’s possible that the percentage is actually higher.”
One of the most common reasons for headaches due to dietary changes is suddenly switching to a very low calorie diet, in other words, crash dieting. Agrees consultant nutritionist Niti Desai, “This can lead to headaches, especially if these diets cut down or eliminate carbohydrates completely. The brain can only use carbohydrates as fuel. Headaches can also set in due to low blood sugar levels. Also, if you start skipping meals or have long intervals between your meals, headache sets in. Even a very low water intake can trigger headaches.”
Tyramine, a culprit
Tyramine is an amino acid that has been thought to trigger headaches by reducing serotonin levels in the brain and affecting the dilation of blood vessels. Because of their connection to migraines, tyramine containing foods are important triggers. These include red wine, cheeses, chocolate, alcoholic beverages, and certain processed meats.
Dr Dube says that red wine contains tyramine, phytochemicals called phenols, which may be the real triggers. For some people, drinking any kind of alcohol can bring on a migraine. Other compounds in beer, whiskey, and wine that deplete levels of serotonin (the happy hormone) in the brain could also be triggering migraines.
They can act as migraine triggers because they too contain tyramine. But at the same time, the connection could be that women tend to crave chocolate during stress and hormonal changes, both of which also may trigger headaches. The amount of chocolate can be an issue too, as migraine patients with the diets highest in fat tended to have more frequent headaches.
This deserves a special mention because sudden withdrawal of coffee consumption can trigger headaches. Clinical nutritionist Dr Nupur Krishnan explains, “Coffee is mildly addictive and it temporarily enhances mental alertness and concentration. Sudden withdrawal can often cause headaches, irritability and other symptoms that vary in severity from one person to another.” For example, in some people who are sensitive to caffeine, it can trigger migraine headaches, while in others it might actually abort a migraine by relaxing the constricted blood vessels that are causing the throbbing head.
Natural sugar is important because all plants and animal store energy chemically as sugar. All form of natural sugar provide about the same energy value — four calorie per gram. Natural sugar is better than artificial sweeteners. Desai says that a very small percentage of people intolerant to the sweeteners suffer from headaches. However, this is more common with the sweetener aspartame and not with the newer sweeteners that use sucralose.
So if you suspect the reason for your frequent headaches or migraines might lie in your diet, is advisable to see a doctor.