A few possible causes of Migraines and Headaches including foods.

75% of migraine sufferers report a possible connection between food intake and headaches but Foods is rarely the sole cause.

90% of Headaches and Migraines involve a constriction and/or dilation of blood vessels in the head and neck area affecting the blood flow and circulation to the brain. The remaining 10% can be disorders of the spine (just below neck), sinuses, jaw, dental structure or as a result of a trauma.  A migraine can last 4 to 72 hours and involve moderate or severe throbbing pain, aggravated by movement with increased sensitivity to light and sound and possibly vomiting or nausea. There is a release of inflammatory vasodilators by nerve endings in the scalp and a release of serotonin by platelets in the blood.

Be aware of Triggers

If you suffer from headaches or migraines it is a worthwhile exercise to be aware of all possible triggers and explore your living environment in order to identify,   eliminate or reduce the triggers.

1. Eyesight – Get your eyes tested. Straining your eyes for computer work, reading, TV, driving etc can cause headaches. Take a break from computer work frequently throughout the day.

2. Dehydration – too much heat, alcohol and caffeine leaches water out of our body and if this is combined with little fresh water intake, we can experience a headache or hangover. The brain is 60% water and two thirds of that water in inside our cells (intracellular). Water also moves into our blood vessels and plays an important role in maintaining blood pressure in our blood vessels.

3. Reactive hypoglycaemia can accur by missing a meal, dieting or leaving long gaps between meals and this can trigger a migraine or headache. Eating a balanced meal every 3.5 hrs helps to regulate blood sugar levels reducing hormonal responses (adrenaline triggers vasodilation and noradrenaline triggers vasoconstriction)

4. Physical stress – The following factors can all trigger a headache and need to be ruled out – Air quality, Light levels, Gases, Loud Noise, Over-tiredness, too much/too little sleep, Teeth grinding, High blood pressure, Nasal/sinus congestion, Muscle tension in shoulder/neck, Over-exertion, change in routine (e.g. new job), Change in sleep pattern, Postural change and  Head injury.

Speak with the Health & Safety person in your workplace if your headaches have recently occurred and you moved offices or work area. Is the lighting sufficiently bright? Is there a flow of fresh air coming into your work area (ventilator or window)? Are you inhaling strong perfumes, paint fumes, car fumes, or gases from insulation, building materials, carpets, drapes, or glues and adhesives. You also need to check these factors in your home.

5. Emotional / Head Stress – When you are stressed, your body produces hormones – cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline. These hormones impact on the levels of other hormones such as serotonin and melatonin thereby directly or indirectly affecting blood vessel size and sleep. Moderate exercise is a great stress buster as it brings down stress hormone levels whereas intensive exercise raises cortisol levels.  Meditation is likely to be beneficial in relaxing muscles and bringing hormones back into balance.

6. Medications –   Medications may trigger a headache? Is there excessive use of aspirin and paracetamol? Sleeping tablets and the contraceptive pill have been linked with migraines

7. Hormones – puberty, menstrual cycle, menopause, can all trigger a headache or migraine as hormone levels shift.

8. Foods are rarely a sole cause of a migraine but certain foods can overload specific enzymes that are needed to detoxify or metabolise the food. Keeping a food diary and a migraine diary can help to identify foods that need to be eliminated. 75% of migraine sufferers report a possible connection between food intake and headaches. Cut out the common food migraine triggers- cheese, chocolate, bananas, red wine, beer, artificial sweeteners, preservatives and be aware of the other foods (amines, phenols, salicylates) limiting their intake.

9. Nutritional Deficiencies and Supplements – During a migraine attack, brain magnesium levels are low and glutamate levels are high. Excessive intake of alcohol, soda drinks, fat, salt and coffee can deplete magnesium along with excessive exercise, diuretics and diabetes.

Some migraine sufferers appear to have a slow down in energy production (mitochondrial dysfuntion). B2 (riboflavin)  has been shown to significantly reduce the frequency and duration of attacks by increasing mitochondrial efficiency. For people with histamine intolerances there is often a B6 deficiency.  Coenzyme Q10 helps to enhance energy production.

Carriers of the genotype MTHF RC677T have a reduced ability to produce the active form of folate from folic acid and in these cases supplemental 5MTHF may help.

If you struggle to fall asleep and wake through the night, it may be worth testing midnight melatonin levels (saliva test) and considering supplemention (but under doctors advice as contraindicated in diabetes, auto-immune disease, pregnancy, lactation, asthma, depression, schizophrenia).

Note: Butterbur and Feverfew are the 2 herbal products used for migraine treatment

10. Genetic mutation

The most notable genetic mutations occur in enzymes. Enzymes are proteins made by the body using your genetic code. We need sufficient protein in our diet to ensure we have the raw material to constantly build these enzymes. (0.8g protein per kg body weight) We are factories on the inside of our bodies, constantly building and breaking down things through biochemical processes. Enzymes are the catalysts. A lack of enzymes is like an assembly line faltering allowing products to build up or not complete fully and thereby failing to work.

One example is two enzymes called sulphotransferases (PST): P-PST  and M-PST. They work with compounds in the body called phenols and amines. Some of our neurotransmitters are amines such as serotonin, melatonin, adrenaline, noradrenaline and dopamine.  If enzymes do not work properly, or are deficient, levels of amines and phenols can build up and trigger migraine amongst other symptoms. Aside from the amines that we produce ourselves inside our body, foods are a source of amines and phenols. Therefore nutrition needs to be considered with some genetic conditions to reduce the burden on the deficient or defective enzyme.

 Foods  – 3 types to be aware of

A) Amines

Amines occur naturally in foods and if you suffer from migraines, it may help to reduce or avoid amine-rich foods. There are a few types of amines: Tyramine may bring about the release of noradrenaline a vasoconstrictor; Serotonin produces intracranial vasoconstriction and skeletal muscle vasodilation; Histamine plays a major role in food and alcohol intolerance which may be due to a deficiency in another enzyme diaminooxidase (DAO). Avoid cheese, chocolate, wines, beer, yeast extracts, fish products. and certain fruits and vegetables, e.g. bananas, avocados, tomatoes and broad beans.

B)Plant Flavonoids

Flavonoids are chemical compounds containing phenols that are found in the skin, seeds and leaves of red, blue and dark fruits and vegetables. They inhibit the PST enzymes. They are healthy foods to most people, protectors (antioxidants) of the cardiovascular system but unfortunately can trigger migraines in susceptible people who have PST enzyme mutations.

C) Preservatives, Flavourings & Sweeteners

MSG – Monosodium Glutamate (E621) found in Chinese foods, some soups and salad dressings, instant snacks such pot noodles, shop-bought sauces and some tinned foods raises acetylcholine levels and possible glutamate levels in the synaptic space. Glutamate is naturally present in all food –  tomatoes, cheeses, mushrooms, stock cubes, sauces, meat extracts and yeast extracts

Aspartame – (artificial sweetener) is found in ‘Canderel’, ‘nutrasweet’, ‘Diet’, ‘Lite’, ‘sugar free’, ‘no added sugar’ food products. The intake of aspartame has been linked to severe headaches.

 Caffeine – (methylxanthine) is a CNS stimulant helping to relieve headache in some sufferers and triggering headache in others. Caffeine is found in tea, coffee, cola drinks, cocoa, chocolate, painkillers, cold medicines and appetite suppressants

 Nitrates & nitrites – found in pork cured ham, bacon, luncheon meat, processed meat (frankfurters, salami, pepperoni), smoked fish and meats, deli meats, aged cheeses

 Sulphites – preservatives found in wines and dried fruit – listed on ingredient labels as sulfur dioxide, sodium sulfite, sodium bisulfite, potassium bisulfite, sodium metabisulfite and potassium metabisulfite

I did this research when a client of mine was suffering from recurring headaches which were affecting her weight-loss success.

If you need help losing weight. contact me.

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