There are many obvious advantages to maintaining healthy body weight, but did you know that some weight loss efforts can have an adverse effect on your Migraine attacks?
Research suggests that there is an association between Body Mass Index (BMI) and Migraine prevalence, frequency, and severity ().
Maintaining healthy body weight is not easy, especially when dealing with a disease that robs us of time and energy. However, it is especially important for those with episodic Migraine to keep their BMI in the healthy range, because obesity is one of the risk factors for Chronic Migraine.
Losing weight can be even more difficult for people who have Migraine because certain weight loss efforts — like some diets, supplements, and exercises — can actually trigger Migraine attacks, compelling us to toss our efforts out of the window.
Luckily, there are many healthy weight loss methods available that will produce results and maintain health without triggering an attack.
Migraine triggers are internal and external stimuli that can trigger a Migraine attack or a severe headache. Common Migraine triggers include skipping meals, strenuous exercise, hormones, weather, and stress. Just as each person experiences Migraine differently, different people respond to different triggers.
Let’s take a look at some of the common triggers that can interfere with Migraine relief and ruin weight loss plans. Learning about triggers is the first step to identifying your own. Avoiding your Migraine triggers and maintaining a healthy body weight will help keep the pain at bay.
If you have experienced Migraine symptoms after consuming foods and drinks that are artificially sweetened with aspartame, you are not alone. While it might seem like a good idea to replace natural sugar in your diet with aspartame-containing sweeteners to cut your calorie intake, they can potentially induce Migraine.
More and more foods today — like sodas, chewing gums, sugar-free cookies, and iced teas — contain these artificial sweeteners. Reading food labels carefully and avoiding food triggers can help you understand and manage your Migraine.
Try Instead: Look for other natural, aspartame-free options like stevia for better overall health and fewer Migraine attacks. Natural sugars like honey and maple syrup are also good choices, but should only be consumed in small quantities.
Low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, is a common Migraine trigger. Skipping meals to lose weight is not a healthy or Migraine-friendly tactic. The brain can react to rapid changes in blood sugar or to blood sugar that is too low with a Migraine attack or headache.
Avoid restricting your calories by too much too soon. If you are restricting carbohydrates, do so slowly or replace simple carbohydrates with whole-grain options.
Try instead – Eating several small, protein-rich meals a day will keep your blood sugar steady. Steady blood sugar means fewer attacks and less temptation to over-indulge. Try to avoid eating large amounts of carbohydrates and sugars, as they can cause your blood sugar to rapidly spike and then decline.
Carrying healthy snacks like almonds or pumpkin seeds is a good way to prevent your blood sugar from getting too low and potentially triggering an attack.
Too much caffeine can cause dependence, and sudden unavailability causes a “withdrawal headache” in some people. Some people are sensitive to it and can suffer from caffeine-induced Migraine, and yet there are others who use caffeine to abort an attack when it is beginning.
Try instead: Take note of your response to caffeine, and avoid it if it gives you a Migraine attack. If you do drink caffeine regularly, try to stick to the same amount per serving. Always discuss with your doctor if you suspect the quantity and frequency you are taking in caffeine is affecting you negatively. Try to be aware of alternative caffiene sources outside of your cup of Joe.
From the cabbage soup diet to intermittent fasting, most fad diets involve cutting calories by A LOT (). This rapid reduction often triggers Migraine attacks.
Some fad diets eliminate whole groups of foods that provide essential nutrients, and low carbohydrate diets can cause headaches and constipation. Some weight loss supplements like forskolin and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) have also been known to cause headaches.
Try instead: Eat a well-rounded diet. Exercise regularly if you can, but begin slowly. Weight loss will happen when you take in fewer calories than your body burns.
If you are restricting calories, do so slowly and try to make smart substitutions rather than cutting food groups or meals completely.
If you notice that your attacks increase after you start a new exercise program, chances are that you are experiencing exercise-induced Migraine. Introducing a proper warm-up before exercise can help with exercise-induced Migraine attacks (.).
The good news is that once your body and brain get used to exercising, it is less likely to trigger an exertion attack.
Dr. Andrew Charles, Director of the Goldberg Migraine Program at UCLA, told Migraine Again, “For those who have Migraine exacerbated or triggered by exercise, keep in mind that exercise is good, in general, for reducing Migraine frequency and severity over time. The triggering of a Migraine attack by exercise becomes this big hump or obstacle that people have to overcome to get back into a routine of exercise. Healthcare providers usually encourage people with Migraine to continue to try to exercise. An optimized preventive treatment for Migraine may raise your threshold and reduce the risk of having a Migraine attack to allow for more exercise without triggering an attack.”
Try Instead: Talk to a doctor before beginning a new exercise program, and start slowly. Low-intensity exercises like yoga, walking, Tai Chi, swimming, and biking can help you move your body and lose weight without triggering an attack. And don’t forget to warm-up.
Adopt a healthy lifestyle with smart food choices and a healthy exercise routine to prevent Migraine attacks. Eat foods that are rich in magnesium and riboflavin. Always keep yourself well hydrated.
Prevention is the best treatment and maintaining a healthy BMI will set you on the track to fewer Migraine attacks. Fewer Migraine attacks means more motivation to achieve your weight loss goals and stay well.
Updated December 2020 with a medical review and quote from Dr. Charles
This Post was originally published on migraineagain.com