Chronic Migraine, Diet, Treatment, Triggers

Revamped Migraine Elimination Diet: Avoiding Histamine & Salicylates

“Immensely frustrating” sums up my experience with the migraine diet I began in January. It seemed to make no difference, but I haven’t known for sure because the high dose of magnesium I started a few weeks later did help. Reintroducing foods is nearly impossible as I can’t tell if any particular one is a migraine trigger or not since I still have a migraine nearly every day. About three weeks ago, a reader’s comment got me thinking and researching: Maybe I do have food triggers, but they aren’t the ones that are usually implicated in migraine.

It all started with this comment from reader Bibi on A Gluten Connection?:

My migraines get worse with wheat as well, but a gluten test at the doctor’s was negative. Genny Masterman (What HIT me?) writes, that there is histamine in yeast so that might cause migraines. I feel a lot better eating less histamine rich and histamine releasing foods.

This caught my eye because the only prescription migraine preventive that’s ever helped me is cyproheptadine, an antihistamine. And physicians don’t know exactly why it helps with migraine. Furthermore, my head often hurts worse after I eat, no matter the food — a phenomenon no doctor of any specialty has been able to explain to me. This pieces came together when I learned that that some foods contain histamine, that others cause histamine to be released in the body, and that the body releases histamine as part of digestion?

Researching histamine intolerance led me to discover that some people have a sensitivity to salicylate, a naturally occurring food chemical. More light bulbs turned on when I discovered that corn and olive oil, both of which have triggered migraines for me, are high in salicylates, as are some of my favorite vegetables. Vegetables that I have been consuming in mass quantities since starting the migraine diet.

There is so much to tell you and so much I have yet to learn and assimilate. Most of the information on histamine and salicylates is anecdotal and unscientific. The health ailments that people claim can be treated by eliminating these (and other) food chemicals from one’s diet range from rashes to ADD and ADHD to migraine to anxiety and depression. It is precisely the kind of topic I would normally dismiss as pseudo-scientific babble. Except that it makes logical sense given the years of unsuccessful treatments and medications I have tried and that I seem to feel worse the more healthful my diet is.

I started the elimination diet last week and felt better than I have in literally a decade, even though the weather was stormy. I’m not doing so well this week, whether it is because I’m in the “withdrawal symptom” phase of the diet, still eating forbidden foods while trying to sort out the details of the diet, or being worn out by Saturday’s party, I’m not sure. Possibly all of the above — or that my good spell last week was a blip completely unrelated to the diet. There’s always that infuriating explanation.

I honestly believe I’m onto something here. I’m looking forward to telling you all about it, but I’ve reached my limit of ability with this current migraine. Here are a few links to get you started:

16 thoughts on “Revamped Migraine Elimination Diet: Avoiding Histamine & Salicylates”

  1. I react with 1.5 hours of a trigger, gluten, Candy with high salycilates or hot sauce, my shoulders get achy and neck gets tight with dairy, alcohol 2 hours. It’s a fast reaction.

  2. I also cured myself of a decade of severe daily migraines with food.

    Feingold Diet Stage 1 is what I followed to help.
    I’m dairy free, gluten free and minimize salicylates.

    My worst trigger is concentrated fruit flavors in candy like life savers gummies, jelly beans, lollipops. Next to that wine, alcohol, high histamine fruits, spices, hot sauce.

    I have to eat a bland diet with little variety. But it’s worth it. I have a life again.

  3. Heay. This is me to a T. How quickly do you react? I can have a tiny bit of an amine food and get my warning headache . Which tells me not to continue to eat that said food. Other times the amines completely take me out and I get a full blown migraine. According to neurology I shouldn’t react within 5-10 mins. I am also taking the same antihistamine. Only thing that gets me out of an attack. In all, my migraines come directly from eating.

  4. Wow! You sound exactly like me. I also get migraines both from amine rich foods and also salicylates like olive oil. Another trigger for me I just discovered after a few really bad migraines is sodium benzoate or hydroxybenzoates found in lots of things such as sunscreen, lotions, shampoos and sweet foods such as soft drinks. Often salicylate people react to benzoates as well so worth investigating. I discovered this the hard way after being seriously unwell after wearing sunscreen on holiday for a few days.

  5. Hello from New Zealand. I have Coeliac Disease and after taking out gluten I felt better but was not as well as I’d hoped. I subsequently found out I was also intolerant to salicylates, amines, glutamates and sulfates. I have eliminated those foods and I now only have a migraine when I go over the amount of salicylates that I can tolerate. Initially a dietitian helped me to source my intolerance’s but subsequently it has been my own research, trial and error that has helped me to find the safe foods for me. If you would like to know more I’d be delighted to share. My husband has difficulty understanding this and I know it can be a lonely journey. It is however very worthwhile and it has made a tremendous difference. I feel extremely lucky to have found the cause of my migraines. Kind regards, best of luck to all of you, Lee

    1. Lee, I’m glad you’ve found some relief. It’s frustrating to have so many food triggers, but it’s great you’ve found the culprit. And I agree that a dietician can he helpful, but there’s a ton of individual trial and error to fine tune it.

      Take care,

  6. Now I know why sometimes after I eat I feel like I am swelling up and an antihistimine seems to help! The only one that helps though is Actifed or the generic of it. It also has a decongestant in it. It is getting very hard to get this medicine though as it has been taken off the shelves and cannot be purchased from behind the pharmacy desk either. I did find some on line so I am set for a while, but don’t know what will happen after that!

  7. There are Spanish studies, that suggest low DAO concentrations in migraineurs might cause the migraines. Taking DAOsin daily helped me for a while reducing the M attacks, but longterm it was not very effective – only the no gluten low histamine diet helps. (Alex Mauskop suggests a link between gluten and migraines).
    On the German Amazon there are more than 10 cookbooks for low histamine diets. The ones by Isabella Lübbe and Anne Kamp come with lots of photos, so you might be able to use these.
    For breakfast I eat oat porridge with fruit. Small meals: Omelettes and rice/corn crackers or buckwheat bread with allowed cheeses. I have eaten as Lucullus this Christmas with the diet. In a big binder with 12 ‘chapters’ I organize cut out recipes from books and magazines. Having many cookbooks on a shelf doesn’t work – good recipes get lost for me that way.

  8. Good luck! I started an elimination diet last August based on the Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook and assisted with the additional recipes and information provided on the authors’ blog ( It seemed like the most thorough elimination diet I could find, plus I avoided high tyramine foods (e.g., avocado) and eventually ended up cutting out all alliums (onions, garlic, leeks, etc.) because those seemed to be a problem. They have lots of hypo-allergenic recipes on the blog, so maybe some will be of use on your new diet.

    Good luck!

  9. Really interesting. Look forward to hearing more of your experiences with this. I’m starting the failsafe diet to see if it helps with frequent prolonged migraines.

  10. We’re on the same path I believe. Research is difficult and thank you for the links. I read a blog called the Low Histamine Chef and stopped taking my daily Zyrtec. Fall out lasted two weeks ending in a 72 hour banger but I’m doing very well now and on the elimination diet, which is difficult, but I am trying. I got a supplement called DAOsin and have taken it the couple times I messed up on the diet. So far four days without waking up with a headache, which I seem to do rather frequently. I am hopeful. With the headache book I was not hopeful at all. And no way could I handle replacing migraine need with asprin – it could never last. I ordered a $30. Book about it from Amazon so I am hoping to get more complete information. It is a yellow book. I don’t remember the name. Anyway, wouldn’t it be great if low histamine is the solution??? Happy Holidays! I will be keeping up the elimination diet and the DAOsin and hope it is not a fluke. Good luck!

  11. I’m curious to learn more about this, too – it’s really difficult to pin down food triggers when there’s always a headache and migraines are frequent. I hope it does prove helpful to you in the long run.

    Do you know of any studies comparing diets in people with chronic migraine or chronic daily headache?

  12. Wow this is eye-opening! I also tried the migraine food trigger elimination diet with no luck. I haven’t heard of this but I may give it a try. Good luck because this looks like a tough diet, but if it helps it will be worth it. I look forward to reading your updates. Thank you for sharing your research!

  13. That’s fascinating – I hope you’re able to sort the diet into something workable and most of all that it keeps on helping!

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