Chronic Migraine, Diet, Treatment, Triggers

Rotation Diet for Migraine or Headaches

The cauliflower debacle never really resolved. Even after I stopped eating cauliflower, I began reacting to other “safe” foods I’ve restricted my diet to the last six months. Despair was knocking, so I did what I always do when I need a sense of control — I began to research. Rotation diets were my target.

Rotation diets have come up frequently in my reading on dietary histamine. The idea, as I was introduced to it, is that you don’t eat the same food more than every four days. That’s the preschool version of rotation diets. A true rotation diet involves rotating food “families” every four days. Food families are either botanical families (for fruit, vegetables, grains, oils and herbs) or animal families (fish, bovines, swine, etc.).

The quickest way to understand how this works is this four-day rotation guide (page 7 of the PDF). The belief is that it takes four days for a food to completely clear your system, so that’s why you need to wait. Also, if someone reacts to multiple foods in the same family, they should consider eliminating the whole group (no goosefoot for me). The science behind rotation diets is slim, but I know what’s working for me.

I started it 10 days ago and am thrilled with the progress so far. My migraines are far less frequent and disabling than they’ve been the last couple months (and they’re easy to abort with triptans and/or Midrin). My diet is way more varied than it has been in the last 18 months. I have’t thrown caution to the wind — I reference lists of foods that contain histamine, tyramine and benzoates (the best lists I’ve found are in Dealing with Food Allergies by Janice Joneja). Instead of avoiding those foods completely, I choose carefully which ones I test.

The rotation diet is allowing me to eat foods that were never a regular part of my diet (mangoes, dandelion greens, persimmons, pomegranates). It’s helping me identify more definite migraine triggers (nuts, cabbage, quinoa, beets). I’m also figuring out how frequently I can eat a food and in what quantity without a reaction.

Wondering why I’m so excited about this strict diet? Here’s a recap of the past 18 months: Failsafe; chicken, white rice and oatmeal; feeding tube formula; six to 10 fruit and veg that I ate every single day. I don’t know how many different foods I’m able to eat now — that’s major progress!

Some people are on rotation diets indefinitely. I’m hopeful I’ll be able to figure out what my thresholds are for certain foods and not have to follow the diet rigidly for long. It doesn’t feel like a permanent change to me, more like another part of the diagnostic process. I’m more optimistic about this diet than I have been since I started my current migraine diet journey in January 2012.

Want to learn more? Here are the resources I’ve found most helpful:

I included migraine and headaches in the title because I’m using it for migraine, but I’ve read that it can help with chronic non-migraine headaches as well.

7/17/14: If you have true food allergies, please seek the guidance of a health professional before reintroducing foods in a rotation diet! I only have food intolerances/sensitivities (not allergies) and am not at risk of a life-threatening food reaction.

3 thoughts on “Rotation Diet for Migraine or Headaches”

  1. Glad to hear you are having success. I an also following a rotation diet. Have you taken the ALCAT blood test to identify trigger foods? The test was invaluable for me.

  2. I am amazed that you have been doing food diets continuously since Jan 2012! Good on you for sticking with it and trying everything possible! I’ve done 3 different diets at various times in the last 2 years, but never for the length of time you have. Generally, after 6 weeks if I’m not having any success, I just can’t keep going. I feel like food is one of the few enjoyments migraines hasn’t taken from me. Maybe I’d feel differently if I had had some success and felt better, but being sick all the time AND not getting to enjoy my favorite foods is just too much to bear.

    1. Thanks for recognizing how tough this has been, Mindy. It was clear to me that eating always triggered or worsened my migraines, so I couldn’t rest until I explored it fully. I, too, love food and it’s been hard to give up many things. The start of the diets and thinking about what I’m about to give up is hard, though I’ve been through such an ordeal that I appreciate everything I can eat now. I look forward to the day when my daily diet doesn’t trigger migraine attacks so I can eat what I want occasionally and treat the resulting migraine with a triptan!


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