Monday, June 20, 2011

Hope for Migraine Headache Sufferers

It has been over four years since I changed to a whole foods plant-based eating style.  My motivation was to prevent heart disease as I aged.  My father died at age 53 after his fourth heart attack.  I did not want to follow in his footsteps.

For many years, I have been interested in the role of nutrition in our health.  My reading convinced me that heart disease could indeed be prevented with good nutrition, but what has continually amazed me is the mounting evidence that a whole host of chronic illnesses can be prevented and reversed with an excellent diet.

My latest revelation is that the migraine headaches that affect millions of Americans, can be either reduced in frequency and intensity, and, in many cases, eliminated by switching to a whole foods plant-based eating style.  Studies show that roughly 45 million Americans suffer from chronic headaches each year—that’s one of out six people in the U.S.  Women suffer with greater frequency than men. 

Although most migraine headache sufferers are treated with medications, there is growing evidence that a healthy plant-based diet might be a better solution.  Drugs, while they may offer temporary solution, are rarely the long-term solution because they don't attack the root cause of the problem, which is the build-up of toxicity in the body.  According to Joel Fuhrman, M.D., toxicity results from the accumulation of waste products from external sources (exogenous wastes) such as noxious fumes, food additives, or natural toxins within food.  Toxins also accumulate in our tissues from  internal bodily functions (endogenous wastes), which come from cellular metabolism.  Dr. Fuhrman states that "headaches are most often a reaction to a combination of exogenous and endogenous wastes." (1)  Medications and even so-called natural remedies can contribute to the build up of toxins in the body, even as they may offer temporary relief.

The key to solving the headache problem is to permanently rid the body of toxic wastes by consuming a diet high in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals, and low in foods that produce toxic waste substances such as meat, dairy, processed foods with additives and foods that have been contaminated with artificial chemicals.  Caffeine and alcohol seem to be especially potent triggers of headaches.  

According to Dr. John McDougall obesity is also associated with the frequency and severity of migraines. (2)

Both Dr. McDougall and Dr. Fuhrman have had good results by switching their patients to a whole foods plant-based diet.   Many have totally eliminated their migraines, and others have seen the symptoms greatly reduced.  Recently, I have provided nutrition advice to two friends who are migraine headache sufferers.  Both have switched to a whole foods plant-based diet, one switched last summer, and the other made the change over a month ago.  Here is what they recently reported to me:

Friend #1 -- “Migraines.  As you know, I used to have them 2 or 3 times a week...and I'd lose a whole day and sometimes more because of them.   I had one while in FL a couple weeks ago...  However, I have only had 3 or 4 since September!  That is a record for my whole life!!

Friend #2 -- "I haven't kept you up to date recently with my progress, but I'm doing VERY WELL!!!   
Come this Thursday, it will be a month without a migraine or even a slight headache!!!!  That is HUGE for me, as I would get them every 1-2 weeks for 3-4 days.  I have not gone a month without a migraine in at last 1 1/2 years.  So I'm feeling very confident with my diet.  For the past 3-4 weeks I've been drinking a spinach, kale and banana smoothie every morning, so I start my day with spinach and kale. 
Point being, I'm eating more dark green vegetables than I have in my entire life!!!  This is definitely the key factor for me.  I'm gonna stick with this diet for a while."

It is very gratifying to see the progress that my friends have made.  Some references on the subject of migraine headaches and whole foods plant-based diets are:

1. Dr. Fuhrman's Healthy Times Newsletter, Newsletter no. 29, January 2007

3. Spierings EL; Ranke AH; Honkoop PC. Precipitating and aggravating factors of migraine versus tension-type headache. Headache. 2001; 41(6):554-8. Martin PR; Seneviratne HM. Effects of food deprivation and a stressor on head pain. Health Psychol. 1997; 16(4):310-8.


Sydney Everhart said...

Hello from Athens, GA! My boyfriend and I discovered Dr. Fuhrman's Eat to Live diet last January. My boyfriend suffers from chronic, severe migraines and since switching to this diet has only had mild headaches, usually after eating out in a non-nutritarian manner.

I agree that the high nutrient diet is the way to go! :)


Howard Veit said...

I am amazed at the number of health conditions that are affected positively by a whole foods plant based diet. Looks like I can now add migraine headaches to the list. Glad your boyfriend is doing well.

Hashmi Dawakhana said...

Thanks for sharing very useful post. You find magnesium mineral in dark-green veggies, whole grains, and nuts. It won't help while you're having a migraine, but some studies show it could prevent one. For natural treatment visit

Neha Gupta said...

Exercises help release the natural toxins out of your body and keep it stay healthy.

Cures for a Migraine Headache