Living with Migraines

Hello Friends!

Many of you know that I am a frequent sufferer of migraines. In my fight against headaches I have done acupuncture, practiced yoga, suffered through massages (haha), gotten cranial sacral therapy, and experimented with many more treatments that we don’t need to discuss on the internet. 😉

About fifteen years ago, my migraines were totally out of control, and I had a pretty much constant headache. Today, I only have headaches about once a week, and they are well treated by prescription medications. (Thank you, Maxalt!)

Getting my headaches under control was a multi-year battle that took a lot of work. I’ve learned that I need to get regular sleep, can’t watch movies in theaters because of the lighting, and definitely can’t watch fireworks. One of the most important things I learned is the value of a migraine-friendly diet. I’m always amazed when I talk to people who suffer from migraines when I learn that they don’t know how significant food triggers can be, and how much of a reduction in their headaches they might be able to achieve by eliminating certain foods.

Given that I’ve been living with this for so long, and so many fellow writers are sufferer of migraines, I thought maybe it would be worthwhile for me to share some of my food suggestions and tips, and maybe even a few recipes.

So, this will be the first of other blogs, maybe with some regularity if you all find them helpful.

I’ll start with the basics: food can trigger migraines. The trigger mechanisms vary enormously, so I’ll just summarize some of the most common triggers for migraine sufferers:

-red wine
-aged cheeses (basically anything other than cream cheese, ricotta, and fresh mozzarella)
-citrus fruits
-ripe bananas
-processed meats (particularly those containing nitrates or nitrites)

Basically, if it’s fun, it’s on the list! Ha! Seriously, if you want a comprehensive list of potential triggers, this list from the University of California at Berkeley was my Bible when I first started trying to identify my own triggers. Be aware that triggers are different for each person. My biggest triggers (that I’ve identified) are LIMES, PASSION FRUIT, AGED CHEESE, WINE, and PEANUTS. You may find that you are particularly sensitive to certain foods at certain times–triggers work in combination with each other, so peanuts may be a trigger for you on a day when you haven’t gotten enough sleep, or are at the wrong point in your monthly hormonal cycle, or also have a chocolate bar. This sucks, because it makes it harder to identify your triggers.

But if you’re a migraine sufferer, like me, you’ll probably find it’s worth eliminating ripe bananas rather than suffer a migraine.

I hope this was helpful–look for more recipes and tips in the future!


  1. This is a great list. Aged cheese and peanuts are big triggers for me. I didn’t know about bananas. Very interesting. Another huge trigger for me is hamburger. But yes, if it’s good, it’s not for your head. 🙂

  2. Thank you for your post I really needed to see this today. I have been dealing with this for years. Some people understand (most of the time) some think I am outright lying. I have migraines that last weeks, one lasted 8 weeks, one 5 weeks. I have pretty much learned to live with a migraine unless the pain is so debilitating it requires me to go to the hospital which happens a few times a year. I have just started on another new path. I am hoping to lessen the number of medications I take every day, I want to eliminate all of them but I will settle for lessening them for now. My doctors can’t find anything physical so I get less and less support from people because I can’t show them a cause. On good days I push on thinking I won’t let it get me! Now I will go attack my kitchen. 🙂

  3. You guys have my complete sympathy. I get occasional migraines that are stress-related, so it’s far easier to manage. I don’t know how you function. 🙁

    Inara, you said you’ve tried lots of things, but here are two just in case they aren’t on the list:

    Chiropractic. Regular adjustments free the nervous system, which is the communication center of the body, and can make a huge difference in frequency and intensity of migraines. It’s completely natural and non-invasive.

    Dental orthotics. There’s a device called NTI you can get from your dentist. It’s a mouthpiece that relieves the tension while you sleep. FDA-approved and 87% of migraine sufferers had a 77% reduction in pain (according to their marketing materials 🙂 ). Again, non-drug, non-invasive, so seems worth trying if you haven’t already!

  4. I used to get horrible migraines at least twice a month. incapacitating. I had allergy/sensitivity tests, and I’m hypersensitive to beans. That includes peanuts and most nuts. So best to get tested, rather than try to do it yourself, because the most unusual things can be your dietary trigger. Most perfumes and perfumed soap makes me sneeze and gives me headaches, too.
    With migraines, it’s a complex condition, so do get medical help. Someone I know had a node in her neck she didn’t know about. A minor operation later, and she was migraine-free.
    I was told not to give up gluten, because it has a beneficial effect on me. Most people need some.

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