Food Triggers

Please note that the diet is only one part of the migraine prevention plan in Dr Buchholz’s “Heal Your Headache.” Here’s a list of foods to eat and avoid on the prevention program.

Foods to Eat

Eat Caffeine-free
- herbal teas with nothing added: mint, chamomile
- mineral water, root beer, ginger ale
Eat Chocolate-free desserts
- homemade vanilla pudding, flan, crème brulee
- pies, cookies, and cakes with no nuts or chocolate
- cinnamon toast
- white chocolate (check ingredients, cocoa butter is fine)
Eat MSG-free* (see note at end on MSG)
- ALL SPICES AND HERBS!!, including salt and pepper. No need for bland food.
- Plain corn chips, potato chips, and popcorn
- Homemade sauces and gravies
Eat Fresh meat and fish
- fresh or frozen meat and sea food (no broth or flavors added)
- canned white tuna in water (check ingredients)
- gravy and broth with no additives (homemade works well)
- homemade marinade (see “vinegar” and “condiments”), marinate 20 min to several hours, no longer
Eat Dairy and Eggs
- fresh cheeses: cream cheese, mascarpone, ricotta, fresh mozzarella log, deli American cheese, cottage cheese
-milk, cream, butter
Eat Seeds
- any seeds: sunflower seeds; pine nuts and coconut (these are seeds)
- water chestnuts (these are bulbs of a grass-like plant)
Eat Alcohol and Vinegar
- distilled white vinegar
- best to avoid alcoholic drinks; small amounts of vodka or white wine (not champagne) are best tolerated
Eat Sauces, Condiments, and Oils
- vegetable oils (including soy bean oil)
- small amounts of ketchup, mustard (no limit on mustard powder), and mayonnaise; check ingredients,  organic is often better
-hot sauces (check ingredients, Tabasco is fine)
-homemade barbeque and other sauces
-homemade salad dressing
Eat Fruit
- fresh, frozen and canned (check ingredients)
- citric acid is fine
- apples and apple butter (check ingredients), pears, peaches, nectarines
- strawberries, blueberries , black berries, cherries
- melons, grapes, Kiwi, mango, rhubarb, persimmons
- juices of allowed fruit: apple, grape, pear, blueberry (check ingredients)
Eat Vegetables
- shallots, green onions and spring onions, leeks, garlic
- pinto beans, kidney beans, chick peas/garbanzo beans, black beans
- tomatoes (see note on right)
- green/red leafy vegetables (spinach, lettuce, kale, bokchoy, etc)
- broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts
- carrots, parsnips, turnips, rutabagas, radishes, beets, potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams
- asparagus, celery, cucumber, all squash, pumpkin, mushrooms, peas, green beans, okra, artichokes, sprouts (bean sprouts, broccoli sprouts, etc), bell peppers, hot peppers, olives (check ingredients), fennel, corn
- all other vegetables not listed in "Avoid Some Vegetables" below!
Eat Yeast-Free Rising Agents, Grains
-baking soda, baking powder
-wheat (gluten’s not a problem), tortillas, homemade biscuits and scones, pancakes, soda bread, all grains
- yeast bread that’s at least a day old
Eat Sweeteners
- honey, maple syrup, sugar, corn syrup
- perhaps sucralose (Splenda) and stevia

Migraine Trigger Foods to Avoid
Listed in order of migraine threat

Avoid Caffeine
- coffee (even decaffeinated is problematic), tea, sodas, all caffiene
Avoid Chocolate
- Chocolate
Avoid MSG* (see note at end on MSG)
- MSG: monosodium glutamate or monopotassium glutamate (in the UK)
- Check ingredients: MSG can be present in many ingredients not explicitly labeled “MSG”
Avoid Processed meats and fish
- nitrates and nitrites and/or MSG*: most deli meats, ham, hotdogs, bacon, pate, jerky
- smoked, aged, cured, marinated, pickled, and tenderized meats
- most canned meats (tuna listed on left is fine, though), caviar
- liver, wild game (due to tyramine)
- bottled gravy
Avoid Some Dairy
- aged cheese: all cheeses not listed on left
- sour cream, butter milk, yogurt
Avoid Nuts
-All nuts and peanuts
Avoid Alcohol and Most Vinegar
- all vinegars except white distilled
- beer, wine, liquor (see note on left)
Avoid Bottled Sauces and Salad Dressings
- premade sauces and salad dressings (typically contain MSG and other non-allowed ingredients)
- fermented soy products (soy sauce, teriyaki sauce)
Avoid Some fruits
- raisins, dates, dried fruit with sulfites
- citrus (oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit) and pineapple
- bananas, red plums
- raspberries, figs
- avocado, papayas, passion fruit
Avoid Some Vegetables
- onions (see acceptable items above)
- snow peas, sugar snap peas
- some beans: fava beans, lentils, lima beans, navy beans, and broad Italian beans
- might want to avoid soy; some soy products may be fine (soybean oil)
- some people have problems with tomatoes, but don’t avoid unless you need to.  (try cooked if raw is intolerable)
- some people have problems with peas and mushrooms (high amounts of naturally free glutamate), but don’t avoid unless you need to.
Avoid Fresh Yeast-Risen Products
- freshly-risen yeast (fresh breads and bagels)
Avoid Some Artificial Sweeteners
- aspartame (Nutrasweet), saccharin (Sweet ’n Low)
Avoid Anything else you know is a trigger
You know your body better than anyone else. If you are certain something is a trigger for you, avoid it.

Reference: Heal Your Headache: The 1-2-3 Program for Taking Charge of Your Pain. David Buchholz, MD. Workman; 2002.

MSG (monosodium glutamate) is much too prevalent and continues to appear in new, creative ways in ingredient lists.  Paraphrasing from Dr Buchholz’s book (2002, Buchholz), MSG is the unbound salt form of glutamic acid. Glutamic acid is one of the building blocks of proteins. It’s present in our brains in “free” form, unbound to protein, as an excitatory neurotransmitter. It’s also present elsewhere, throughout our body.

Glutamic acid and free glutamate are present in many foods and drinks naturally. However, for some reason it’s processed free glutamate in commercial food preparation, made from vegetable protein breakdown, that’s a problem for migraine, unlike natural free glutamate.

This is a cursory explanation of the differences in natural and processed free glutamate, but should help explain what’s showing up in ingredients lists for processed foods. The point is, for whatever reason, processed MSG “behaves badly” when it comes to migraines, so should be avoided. (Buchholz, 2002)

MSG (monosodium glutamate) is frequently in the following foods:
- spice mixes
- cake and baking mixes (also have anti-caking agents to avoid)
- margarine, low fat and fat free dairy
- many commercially prepared foods, especially savory ones:
   breaded foods, croutons, cheap buffets, commercial sauces and dressings, frozen dinners

Ingredients that may contain MSG:
- glutamic acid
- enzyme modified items, fermented items
- natural flavors or flavorings
- broth, stock, or bullion
- spice extract
- yeast extract
- malt extract, maltodextrin, malted barley
- **hydrolyzed protein, textured protein, protein fortified items, soy protein concentrate/isolate
- ultra-pasteurized items, carrageenan, whey protein, sodium or calcium caseinate, cultured items
- kombu (seaweed extract),
- gelatin

**A different term, ”hydrogenated”, has nothing to do with MSG.  Avoid hydrogenated oils due to findings related to cardiovascular diseases, though.