Physicians Recommend Plant-Based Diet to Ease Chronic Migraine Symptoms

Study results show that an individual received little or no relief from doing yoga, eliminating certain foods, practicing medication, or taking prescribed medications.

Adopting a plant-based diet that is rich in dark, green, leafy vegetables can help ease symptoms of chronic migraines, physicians recommended in BMJ Case Reports.

Medications can help prevent and treat migraines, but there is evidence to suggest that diet could also offer an effective alternative without any adverse events associated with these drugs, according to the physicians.

The recommendation comes after the physicians treated a man who had endured severe migraine headaches without aura for more than 12 years.

He tried meditation, topiramate and zolmitriptan, yoga, and cutting out potential trigger foods, including caffeine, cheese, chocolate, dried fruit, and nuts, to reduce the frequency and severity of the headaches. The man found that none of these things helped his migraine frequency and severity.

About 6 months before his clinic referral, his migraines became chronic, occurring on about 18 to 24 days each month. Migraines are either episodic, which is fewer than 15 days a month, or chronic, which is 15 or more migraine days a month, plus migraine features on at least 8 days of the month.

The throbbing pain started intensely and suddenly in the forehead and temple on the left side of the man’s head and lasted around 72 hours.

He said that the headaches were accompanied by sensitivity to light and sound, nausea, and vomiting and described the pain severity as a 10 to 12 out of 10.

Blood tests showed that the man did not have high levels of systemic inflammation but had normal levels of beta-carotene.

The physicians said this could be the result of his daily consumption of sweet potatoes, which contain high levels of beta-carotene but are low in nutrients for anti-inflammation and antioxidant properties of carotenoids.

Nutrients responsible for anti-inflammation and antioxidant properties of carotenoids are found in dark, green, leafy vegetables, such as kale, spinach, and watercress. Systemic inflammation and oxidative stress are associated with migraines.

The physicians advised the man to adopt the Low Inflammatory Foods Everyday (LIFE) diet, which is a nutrient-dense, plant-based, whole-food diet.

The LIFE diet includes drinking 1 32-ounce daily green LIFE smoothie every day, eating at least 5 ounces by weight of cooked or raw dark, green, leafy vegetables, and limiting the intake of oils, starchy vegetables, whole grains, and animal protein, specifically dairy and red meat.

After 2 months of the LIFE diet, the individual said that the frequency of his migraine attacks had fallen to about 1 day a month, and the length of severity of the attacks had also lessened. The results of blood tests also showed a substantial rise in beta-carotene.

The man also stopped taking migraine medication. When he tried certain so-called challenge foods, such as egg whites, iced tea, or salmon, which can all trigger headaches, he found that the headaches were much less painful and shorter in duration than previously.

After 3 months, his migraines stopped completely and have not returned in 7 and a half years.

The man was HIV positive, which has been linked to a heightened risk of migraines, so his HIV status and antiretroviral drugs could have contributed to his symptoms, the physicians said.

However, it was not possible to study this assumption further without stopping antiretroviral treatment, which is a limitation of the study.

Reference

May be worth adopting plant based diet to ease chronic migraine severity, say doctors. EurekAlert. News release. November 18, 2021. Accessed April 8, 2022. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/935079

Related Content