The research is clear, food intolerance, allergies, and hypersensitivities are key triggers of headaches and migraines. Although each migraine sufferer may react to a different food or group of foods, there are a few which seem to pop up as frequent offenders: dairy (including milk, cheeses, and yogurt), wheat, eggs, soy, corn, citrus, chocolate, coffee, beef, yeast, red wine, and processed foods with additives and preservatives.
In the pursuit to identify these top offenders, scientists and physicians have enlisted the oligoantigenic diet. This is a hypoallergenic "elimination" diet, consisting of a selection of foods that are presumably well tolerated. During their studies, patients are told to eat only the "safe" foods outlined on their version of the oligonantigenic diet in an effort to eliminate any symptoms. Once the symptoms have gone into remission, the "high risk" foods are re-introduced into the diet one at a time to assess their potential trigger effect on symptoms. This type of diet should be undertaken with the assistance of a physician, in order to ensure adequate nutritional intake. In each of the 3 case studies listed below, some form of an oligoantigenic diet was used:
- 60 migraine patients followed an elimination diet after a 5-day withdrawal from their normal diet. Upon reintroduction, specific foods elicited migraine reactions in a significant percentage of patients: wheat (78%), oranges (65%), eggs (45%), tea and coffee (40% each), chocolate and milk (37% each), beef (35%), and corn, cane sugar, and yeast (33% each). When an average of ten common trigger foods were avoided, there was a dramatic decline in the number of headaches per month and 85% of patients actually became headache-free! As science would have it, an added benefit was welcomed by the 25% of these patients who also had hypertension – their blood pressure returned to normal levels.
- In a clinical trial 93% of 88 children who suffered frequent and severe migraines recovered on oligoantigentic diets. Most of the patients responded to several foods, which suggested the probability of an allergic rather than a metabolic cause. An added bonus… abdominal pain, behavior disorder, fits, asthma, and eczema also improved in several of these patients.
- A research study trialed an oligoantigenic diet on 63 children with epilepsy, 45 of which also suffered from migraines, hyperkinetic behavior, or both. The 18 children who had epilepsy alone saw no improvement on the oligoantigenic diet. However, of the 45 children with additional symptoms, 25 ceased to have seizures and 11 had fewer seizures while on this diet. Migraines, abdominal pain, and hyperkinetic behavior halted in the 25 children who stopped having seizures, and also in some of those who did not stop having seizures. Reintroduction of foods one by one confirmed that the seizures, migraines, hyperkinetic activity, and abdominal pain these children were experiencing related to 42 different "trigger" foods.
So why do so many people suffer from migraines and other headaches when they consume these foods? The medical community is getting closer to an answer. Researchers in Germany have discovered a genetic mutation responsible for the "faulty wiring" and the subsequent pain. Although clinical scientists have known for a while that migraines are hereditary, the exact "defect" being passed on was previously unknown.
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