Reduce Fat to Prevent Migraines?
Q. Is it true that cutting back on fat might help my migraines?
Certain foods can influence migraine headaches, but evidence that dietary fat plays a role is pretty skimpy. You've probably heard of one study that linked fat to the frequency and severity of migraines. Participants who cut their fat consumption to 20 grams per day found that they experienced far fewer headaches, the headaches were less acute, and less medication was needed to control the pain.
Researcher Zuzana Bic recently published a book, "No More Headaches, No More Migraines," popularizing the study. However, I would like to see the results duplicated before considering them valid.
Regardless, a low-fat diet can protect against heart disease and cancer. I encourage you to reduce your fat consumption to between 25 and 30 percent of daily calories. And for migraines, these time-tested dietary measures should help:
Eliminate coffee and decaf (and other sources of caffeine). Once you're off caffeine, you can use coffee as a treatment for headaches. Drink one or two cups at the first sign of an attack, and lie down in a dark room.
Eliminate chocolate, red wine (sometimes white wine, too), strong-flavored cheeses, fermented foods (like soy sauce and miso), sardines, anchovies, and pickled herring -- all have been associated with migraines.
Take a standardized extract of the herb feverfew (Tanacetun parthenium) as a preventive. You'll find it at any health food store. Taking one or two tablets (or capsules) a day can reduce the frequency of migraines -- and it's safe to take feverfew indefinitely.
Learn to raise the temperature of your hands via biofeedback. Believe it or not, this can help abort a headache at the start of an attack.
Consider taking a preventive dose of vitamin B-2 (riboflavin). A recent Belgian study found that 400 milligrams of B-2 daily -- you'll need a prescription for that amount, though it appears to be quite safe -- reduced the frequency and duration of migraines.
If you have had migraines for years and haven't tried any of the new migraine medications (the triptans), ask your doctor about them. While expensive, the triptans are remarkably effective for migraine relief. They are thought to work by imitating the beneficial effects of the brain chemical serotonin, while at the same time blocking serotonin-induced inflammation in the nerve endings surrounding cerebral blood vessels.