While most of us are aware of how the food we eat affects our appearance and temperament, not many realise hidden problems that can be caused like migraines. Migraine headaches are usually characterised by severe pain on one or both sides of the head and are often accompanied by increased sensitivity to light, sound and nausea.
Most people who suffer from migraines learn to predict another oncoming attack over a period of time. However, if dealt with a correct diet and lifestyle, one can reduce the frequency of migraines and even get rid of them over time.
Here are some factors that lead to migraines —
Eating infrequently/skipping meals
Skipping meals causes the blood sugar levels to plunge. If you stay hungry for several hours and then compensate by eating large amounts of food, it can cause acidity and severe gas production which can trigger an attack. Eat small but frequent meals 4-5 times a day.
Eat meals at approximately the same time every day. This helps your body develop a rhythm and digest the food well, providing a regular supply of energy to the brain. This will also prevent blood sugar levels from plummeting and keep gas and heartburn at bay.
Water, water, water
Drinking sufficient amounts of water through the day keeps you hydrated. Most of us drink water only when we are thirsty but the body gives out the thirst signal only once we are partially dehydrated. Studies have shown that dehydration too can cause migraines. Drink at least 1.5-2litres of water daily.
Chinese food containing MSG, aged cheeses with sharp flavours, coffee, processed meats, citrus fruits, vegetables like onions and red wine are cause for concern. The roof of the mouth is very sensitive and direct contact with extremely hot or extremely cold foods can irritate, causing migraines.
Give up all the above mentioned foods for a while and slowly reintroduce them, one by one, in small amounts to find out which of these do not cause you migraines.
Eating a carbohydrate-rich meal can spike your blood glucose levels and then bring them crashing down, causing a migraine. Avoid meals containing concentrated carbohydrates like white flour. Eat smaller, frequent meals.
Lack of sufficient rest can cause headaches that develop into migraines. Try to get a minimum of 6 hours and maximum 8-9 hours of sleep every day. Also try to sleep and wake up at the same time to establish a routine for the body.
Studies have shown that exercising at least 3-4 times a week can help rid migraines permanently. Exercise improves blood circulation and makes your body more efficient in releasing the stored energy gradually.
While stress itself does not cause a migraine, the period after an episode of stress can set off an attack. Tense muscles in the neck caused by stress are also to blame. Go for a relaxing swim, massage or just unwind with music.
Samreedhi Goel is a nutritionist and personal trainer. She runs her fitness studio Size Wise and specialises in Zig Zag diets. She also does online consultations.