The Mighty Migraine

By: Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, CSO, LDN; Reboot Nutritionist

Migraine headaches affect approximately 17% of women and 5.6% of men in the United States.  These men and women experience an average of 1 to 4 attacks per month.  Migraines can be hereditary and manifest in a variety of ways including intense, painful headache, nausea, vomiting, light or sound sensitivity and aura – a visual disturbance, like seeing colors, that tends to occur as a warning before the headache hits.

Migraine triggers that can set off these painful headaches vary from person to person but can include:

  • Fasting
  • Caffeine withdrawal
  • Hormonal changes
  • Sleep disturbances or changes to usual patterns
  • Stress
  • Intense exercise
  • Smoking or second hand smoke
  • Certain foods and beverages
    • Fermented, pickled or processed foods with MSG (mono sodium glutamate)
    • Red wine or dried fruits with sulfites
    • Nitrate rich foods like bacon, salami, hot dogs
    • Fruits like citrus, banana, avocado, figs
    • Chocolate
    • Certain nuts and peanut butter
    • Onions
    • Beans (navy, lima, fava)
    • Aged Cheese
    • Artificial sweeteners , flavors or other ingredients
    • Energy drinks, sodas, cocoa, coffee, teas due to caffeine content

Many items on this trigger list are not healthy, such as soda, energy drinks, nitrate or MSG rich foods, so it’s best to limit your intake of them regardless of whether you suffer from migraines.  Elimination diets are often suggested for migraine suffers to help identify potential dietary triggers.  The Reboot is a perfect time to test this out since it is a natural elimination diet, being free of processed and artificial ingredients, dairy, wheat, nuts and rich in fruits and vegetables.

Since fasting and caffeine withdrawal are both frequent, potential triggers for migraines, it’s important to ease into your Reboot gradually and plan wisely.  Begin by adding in fresh juice once or twice a day and eating a well rounded, balanced plant-based diet.  If you consume caffeine, slowly reduce your intake over the period of at least a week and increase the amount of water you drink.

Rather than a strict juice-only Reboot you may find that including raw and lightly cooked fruits and vegetables, along with fresh juice, turns out to be better for migraine prevention.  Check out our Plus Dinner and Quick Start plans for ideas. If you choose to do a juice-only Reboot be extra mindful to drink juice often throughout the day, aiming for the upper end of our recommend range of 4-6 juices per day and plenty of water and electrolyte rich fluids. Whether you are eating + juicing or just juicing, it’s important to follow a frequent schedule of eating/drinking to help reduce the risk of triggering a migraine.

If you are prone to migraines, here is a list of healthy foods with Reboot-friendly recipes that can help to prevent an attack.

Foods rich in Vitamin B2 (riboflavin):
Roasted Acorn Squash Stuffed with Mushrooms and Sage
Inside Out Portabella Mushroom Burgers

Bountiful Brassica Juice

Morning Green Glory Juice
Spinach Fennel Cucumber Juice
Island Green Smoothie
Great Green Fruit Blend
Grape & Green Smoothie

Brussels Sprouts
Mustard Braised Brussels Sprouts
Caramelized Maple Brussels Sprouts and Mushrooms

Fluid rich fruits like watermelon:
Red Rush Juice
Red, White, Blue & Green Juice

Calcium Rich foods like kale:
Mean Green Juice
Honey Mustard Kale Chips

Spicy peppers which have analgesic or pain relieving properties:
Kickin’ Cucumber Melon Juice
Spicy Tart Juice
Mango Salsa Juice

Looking for more migraine preventing healthy foods perfect for after your reboot?
– Almonds
– Brewer’s Yeast
– Baked potato with skin for potassium – other potassium rich fruits and veggies include avocado, banana, coconut water, and winter squash.
– Whole grains like quinoa, teff, brown rice
– Sesame seeds
– Organic Greek yogurt
– Organic eggs

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Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, CSO, LDN; Reboot Nutritionist

Stacy is a Board Certified Specialist in Oncology Nutrition and an Integrative Nutritionist. She consults for various companies, focusing on health, wellness and innovative strategies to help increase individual’s fruit and vegetable intake. Stacy is an American College of Sports Medicine Certified Health Fitness Specialist; she holds a BS degree in Dietetics from Indiana University, completed her dietetic internship at Massachusetts General Hospital, and earned a Masters in Public Health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is a Senior Clinical Nutritionist at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute/Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School teaching affiliates, in Boston, MA, with more than 20 years of experience. Stacy created and now serves as project manager and lead writer for nutrition services content on the Dana Farber website and the affiliated, nationally recognized nutrition app. Stacy is regularly featured on TV, radio, print and social media on behalf of Dana Farber and other organizations. Together with her husband, Dr. Russell Kennedy PsyD, they have a private practice, Wellness Guides, LLC. Stacy is an adjunct professor in Wellness and Health Coaching at William James College, currently teaching a graduate course in Health Coaching. Stacy is featured in the award winning documentary films, “Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead” and “Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead 2,” and serves on the Reboot with Joe Medical Advisory Board. Stacy lives in Wellesley with her husband, two sons and three dogs. She enjoys cooking, yoga, hiking and spending time with friends and family. Stacy is also one of the nutritionists who runs our Guided Reboot programs.

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