Coping, Diet, Treatment, Triggers

Drastic Migraine Elimination Diet: It’s Time

Update: I didn’t even start this diet before I realized how absurd it is. I’d be starving myself of nutrition even though elimination diets have never helped me find food triggers. Read the post linked to in the last sentence for details.

I’ve been on elimination diets that avoid the major and minor food triggers of migraine on and off with little success. There’s much debate on the role of foods in triggering migraine, and I’ve always fallen on the skeptical side. The general acceptance now is that about 25% of people have food triggers.

I’ve revised my position drastically: I’m nearly convinced that all foods are migraine triggers for me! No matter what I eat, a migraine comes on 30-60 minutes after eating. Not always, of course, but the vast majority of the time. I know my conclusion isn’t realistic, but it so often feels this way.

This is a slippery slope to mistrusting all food and not wanting to eat. A friend with celiac disease and other unknown gastrointestinal problems restricted foods so much that she couldn’t eat anything without obsessing over the ingredients. It got to where she felt like she had an eating disorder.

To avoid following the same trajectory, I’m trying a dramatic diet. I’m going to go extreme up front to quell my suspicions more easily. For three days, I’ll be down to chicken, oatmeal, or rice and a green vegetable. I’ll slowly add foods back in to see if they are problematic.

Even this diet isn’t foolproof. Because triggers seem to add up to reach a threshold, something that’s a trigger this week may be benign next week. It’s worth a shot.

I’m tired and I hurt. I can barely think. The diet is extreme, but I’m sick of screwing around. I’ve got to find some way to reduce the severity of my migraines and headaches. I still love my life, but there’s so much more I want to do. I hate sitting on the sidelines and I miss being able to think.

Now I have to decide when to start. . . .

18 thoughts on “Drastic Migraine Elimination Diet: It’s Time”

  1. I have suffered migraines since the age of 8, I am now 46. I have been hospitalized 2 different times with migraines. I suffer from 3-4 per week and have headaches daily. Of course, I am on a medication regimen, however I feel I need to regain my life. I am considering the Migraine elimination diet as I feel what do I have to lose??? Possibly my migraines. I appreciate reading everyone’s experience here. Will let you all know how it goes.

  2. I am researching elimination diets for migraines for my son (15). I used an elimination diet several years ago for fibromyalgia with very satisfying results. I was able to learn which foods triggered which symptoms (and then decide if that food was worth it!). Through this experience I became more in tune with foods and symptoms so that when I began having chronic headaches the last year my first thoughts were “what have I been eating differently?” I was able to easily pinpoint the bananas I had been eating for breakfast my roommate’s bananas ripening in the apartment for bread. Eliminated those and no more headaches!

    The book Heal Your Headache is a good resource for a basic migraine elimination diet. The author’s tone is condescending, but the book has all the information you’ll need.


  3. Vicki,
    I was getting 3-5 migraines a week. Since I started graduate school, I have been getting at least 1 migraine a day, sometimes 2. Mind you, I take 3 topamax a day. So I started with a nasal spray a while back, and that has lessened my migraines to about 3 or 4 a week. This past week I began acupuncture. I am going 2x a week now, and he started me on some special herbal concoction he created for my various ailments. I have only just begun, but I will keep you posted. I am trying not to get my hopes up too much. But everyone I have known that has overcome their migraines has told me that it was through acupuncture. Only one woman told me it was through steaming her sinuses multiple times a day for about a year until the pattern was completely broken.

  4. Oh man did I resonate with this post. Found your blog today. I have done the Buchholz diet and was free of migraines for three weeks. Then the came on full force at three to five a week. Two years on, I realized that raw onions were a trigger and eliminated these while still drinking tea. This was five months ago and I lasted a whole month. Then wham! again. Now I can’t eat anything it seems without feeling one coming. They started when I was 43 and have become more and more frequent.

  5. I have been having three day migraines about once a week and a milder headache every day but not all day. or the same time of day.

    I have done an allergy elimination diet several times in the past. I am currently reactive to wheat (not gluten), peanuts, spinich, whey, artificial sweeteners, sulfites, and formaldehyde. I am currently trying to find a migraine trigger. I know flickering lights and stress set it off. I have had one migraine in the last six weeks when I added back chicken. I will retest after I go through the rest of the foods. My son gets a headache from southern grown chicken but not Washington grown chicken so I will have to test that too. Food reactions are very difficult to figure out because they can depend on what other foods you are eating.

    I hope you find an easy to deal with trigger.

  6. I tried a serious elimination diet a few year ago to see if food contributed to my chronic pain condition. Ironically, I found that everything and nothing had a direct impact, and I was making myself even more stressed by the process of trying to connect the diet dots. I now just eat a basic healthy diet and am no worse and maybe a bit better. Good luck with your experience. I hope it delivers relief.

    btw – I just found your blog and am really impressed! In fact I referenced one of your postings on my blog, which focuses on couples and illness.

  7. Glad for this forum. I’ve tried elimination diets twice in the past. I swear the first one started out with spring water, rice cakes, and sea salt. Then I slowly added things back in. Yuck! But I never stuck with it for months. I have to admit that I’m impatient and “throw temper tantrums” (rebel against the migraines by eating anything I want!).

    But I’m at the point I’m ready to try again. Thanks, everyone, for sharing your experiences.

    Right now I’m trying acupuncture. I’ve done it for a number of years, but my husband and PT pushed me to see a Chinese acupuncturist rather than an American-trained acupuncturist. Preliminary results are hopeful.

    If any of you have had success with this, please let me know. Migraine frequency: every day, every other day, every few days. In past year, only went without a migraine for 5 days, and that only happened 3 times. I’m very careful not to do rebound headache meds/timing.

  8. As well as staying away from MSG, stay away from Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil and Artificial Sweeteners: Aspartame, Sucralose, Acesulfame K etc. They are triggers for pretty much everyone. I reduced my 2/3 a year migraine to 1 every two years by cutting them out…

  9. best of luck – i know how trying it can be. i wanted to pull my hair out half the time i was on my food elimination diet. it has to be done, though.

  10. I just started an elimination diet myself last week. My reasons were similar to yours – I just couldn’t stand it anymore. I’m doing the Buchholz version. I’ll check in in a couple of months and let you know if it’s helping.

    Good luck.

  11. I agree with Candy – the diet from the Buchholz book, Heal Your Headache, seems to be helping me. In the book he stresses sticking to the diet until you’re “migraine-free” for 4 months, and then reintroducing things one at a time, for a week each, to see if they are triggers. Even if it’s unrealistic to be “migraine-free” for you for 4 months, I would encourage you to use a longer time frame. It will, however, mean you have to give up caffeine, which I know you love like I do….Good luck!

  12. I use the elimination diet in Buchholz book, Heal Your Headache. Last summer I elimanted all foods on his list for about 6 or 7 months. It made a big difference but it took that long for my body to respond. I think your time frame is way too short. It would be nice if we could figure these things out quickly, but most people who work with food allergies and clearing your system of reactions talk about weeks or months not days. Just a thought. In any case I hope your efforts are helpful. One other little note, oatmeal is a no no for most people on gluten free diets so you might want to leave that out too. Good luck.


    Many crops, esp. leafy greens, are sprayed with MSG because it’s a “natural” anti -fungal, -bacterial pesticide.

  14. I have a new student who swears that her migraines have decreased in severity and frequency since she had a blood test done. Fed up with allopathic “care”, she went to a naturopath who tested for food allergies/triggers (hence the blood test). She learned that some of the strongest triggers for her appeared to be dairy, eggs, and something else which escapes me at the moment.

    Anyway, she went on an elimination diet, under the supervision of the naturopath. To “test” foods, she would introduce just a little, and give it a *full week* to see if there were any indications of it being a trigger. Apparently some foods can take up to a week to produce “results”…

    I know that it seems straightforward to do a self-directed elimination diet, but have you considered doing it under the supervision of a health care provider with experience in food allergies/triggers? Perhaps it would help *this* time be different…

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