Find out if you’re allergic to anything. A number of WDDTY panelists recommend that every migraine sufferer try a food elimination diet to discover whether or not certain foods trigger the symptoms. This involves cutting out foodstuffs such as wheat, dairy products, meat, tea, coffee and alcohol and then gradually reintroducing them into the diet one at a time, monitoring for any adverse reaction. This (and the following programme should be only done under the guidance of a experienced nutritional therapist or doctor (see Alternatives, WDDTY vol 6 no 9 for a full guide).
Consider a high carbohydrate diet. Tryptophan is a dietary amino acid that is transformed in the body into the neurotransmitter serotonin. In the brain, serotonin appears to reduce pain. Brain serotonin levels can be increased by eating a high carbohydrate diet. Carbohydrates increase brain tryptophan by stimulating the pancreas to secrete insulin. Insulin, in turn, increases the relative concentration of tryptophan in the bloodstream by causing the body tissues to soak up competing amino acids from the blood, so that tryptophan then has less competition transferring from the blood into the brain.A high carbohydrate diet may also reduce migraines caused by hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Unrefined carbohydrates and strict avoidance of sugars minimize up and down swings in blood sugar and, according to one study, appear to be strikingly effective in reducing migraine. People with diabetes and those whose headaches tend to occur when they haven’t eaten for a few hours should ask their doctor to test them for hypoglycemia.
If this doesn’t work, try the opposite: a low tryptophan diet. Increasing levels of serotonin in the bloodstream can provoke migraine in some people, and these people may benefit from a low tryptophan diet. According to Dr Werbach, those who do well on this diet tend to suffer from flushing and severe itchiness when they have a migraine, or have classic migraine symptoms. Once again, because tryptophan is an essential amino acid found in protein, anyone considering embarking on a low protein diet should consult a nutritional professional first.
Which ever diet you choose, eat regularly. Irregular eating habits can bring on migraine.
Supplement your diet with B6, magnesium, essential fatty acids, and get your copper levels sorted out. Get off the birth control pill if you’re on it, as it can increase both copper levels and migraines.
Try alternative medicine. Reflexology, herbalism, acupuncture and homeopathy all have solid histories (and evidence) of alleviating migraine.
If you can’t simply cut out what you’re allergic to, consider desensitization.
If you discover you are allergic to a number of different categories of foods, it may be difficult to permanently eliminate them from the diet. Recognizing this, Dr Mansfield recommends a system of food desensitization discovered by Dr H. Carlton Lee from Kansas City, Missouri. He found that whereas injecting certain concentrations of food between the layers of the skin induced an allergic reaction in some individuals, administrating a different concentration of the same foodstuff could relieve the symptoms, as well as protecting the patient from further adverse reactions for the following two to three days. The allergens can be administered as drops placed below the tongue, or by injection below the skin. Eventually, if this desensitization technique is continued for a couple of years or so, the patient will become totally desensitized and will no longer need the drops or injections. One caveat: although the technique has been used for many years by many WDDTY panel members without side effects, nobody knows the long term effects of desensitization.