What is Migraine Headache?
A migraine is a vascular-type headache characterized by a sharp pounding pain located within one side of the head. The pain of a migraine is characterized as a throbbing or pounding sharp pain. It is typically noticed on just one side of the head. Although some migraines come on without warning, many migraine sufferers have warning symptoms (“auras”) before the onset of pain. Typical auras last a few minutes and include: blurring or bright spots in the vision, anxiety, fatigue, disturbed thinking, and numbness or tingling on one side of the body.
What causes Migraine Headache?
Considerable evidence supports an association between migraine headache and instability of blood vessels. The mechanism of migraine can be described as a three-stage process: initiation, prodrome (time between initiation and appearance of headache), and headache. Although a particular stressor may be associated with the onset of a specific attack, it appears that initiation is dependent on the accumulation of several stressors over time. These stressors ultimately affect serotonin metabolism. Once a critical point of susceptibility (or threshold) is reached, a “cascade event” is initiated that sets in process a domino-like effect that ultimately produces a headache. Food allergies, histamine-releasing foods, alcohol (especially red wine), stress, hormonal changes (e.g., menstruation, ovulation, birth-control pills) and weather changes especially barometric pressure changes are examples of some common triggers of migraines.
What dietary factors are important in Migraine Headache?
Food allergy or sensitivity can play a primary role in migraine headaches. Many double-blind, placebo-controlled studies have demonstrated that the detection and removal of allergenic foods will eliminate or greatly reduce headache symptoms in the majority of patients. Food allergy/intolerance induces a migraine attack largely as a result of platelets releasing serotonin and histamine. In addition, foods such as aged cheeses, beer, canned figs, chicken liver, chocolate, food additives, pickled fish, the pods of broad beans, wine, and Brewer’s yeast contain histamine, tyramine and/or other compounds that can trigger migraines in sensitive individuals by causing blood vessels to expand. Red wine is much more likely than white wine to cause a headache because it contains higher levels of phenols and 20-to-200 times as much histamine.