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Home / Wellness

Changes you can make to your diet and lifestyle to ease those painful migraines

 Experts believe changes to diet and lifestyle can create a significant improvement in symptoms (Image: Getty)

As many as a quarter of women and up to 10 per cent of men report suffering attacks, and the effects can have a huge impact.

But many experts believe changes to diet and lifestyle can create a significant improvement in symptoms, so what should you try?

Know your triggers

“It’s believed that migraines are caused by chemical changes in the nerve cells of the brain,” says Jane Clarke, dietician and founder of Nourish Drinks (nourishbyjaneclarke.com).

“For some of us, certain chemicals or compounds in our food can be the culprit. You may be sensitive to MSG, the flavour enhancer found in many processed foods.

“Or keeping a food and migraine diary may reveal that tyramine, an amino acid found in mature cheese, peanuts, chocolate, broad beans and fermented foods such as sauerkraut, could be your migraine weak spot.”

Stop the slouch

“Sitting at a screen all day in a forward hunching position – the dreaded ‘tech-neck’ posture – will cause aches and pains in your back, neck and shoulders which can lead to headaches and even migraines,” says Cristina Chan, personal trainer at F45 Recovery (f45training.co.uk).

“If you’re working long hours, particularly from home where the set-up might not be great, it’s important to get up regularly, take a walk, roll your shoulders back and open up through the chest.

“Regular movement and exercise can offer you a multitude of benefits, both mentally and physically.

“Slow and controlled, low intensity workouts can help to improve flexibility, range of motion and posture by focussing on mobility through the jaw, back, neck and shoulders,” Cristina adds.

Boost your gut health

“Migraines are often accompanied by digestive symptoms and there is a clear association between their prevalence and digestive disorders,” says nutritional therapist Hannah Braye.

“Newly emerging research indicates that live bacteria supplements may be of benefit.

A recent clinical trial found that the 14 strains of live bacteria in Bio-Kult Migré (£16; Boots), significantly reduced both episodic and chronic migraine frequency and severity, and reliance on medication in as little as eight weeks.”

Inflammation could be the root of the issue.

“Whilst there is evidence of a genetic predisposition to migraines in some cases and they are also linked to low-grade inflammation originating from poor gut health, which is thought to contribute to inflamemation of major pain pathways in the brain, triggering migraine attacks.

“Consider following an anti-inflammatory diet, high in omega-3 fatty acids from oily fish, antioxidants from colourful fruit and vegetables and spices such as turmeric and ginger,” says Hannah.

Keep your blood sugars balanced

“Sweet foods cause energy highs and lows that seem to trigger migraines in some people, so keeping your blood sugars balanced can make the difference between a migraine and a pain-free day,” advises Jane.

“Skip the biscuits, cakes, chocolate and fizzy drinks and if you do crave something sweet, try pears, dried apricots, plums, grapes, dates and kiwi fruit, which all seem to be well tolerated.

“Making sure snacks come with a hit of protein – a sticky Medjool date with a walnut, or some cheese with slices of fresh apple – will help slow down the absorption of sugar into your bloodstream, meaning it’s less likely to trigger an attack.”

Mineral marvel

“Magnesium deficiency may contribute to attacks, particularly of menstrual migraine,” says Hannah. “To increase magnesium levels, eat more leafy green vegetables (at least two portions a day), avocados, nuts, seeds and legumes.”

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