You may recall that I moan about my migraines from time to time. In March, I finally decided that I’d had enough–I had more than 20 days with migraines, and though they weren’t all off the knock-me-off-my-feet variety, they were enough to slow me down . . . and on deadline, I don’t like being slowed down.

So I went to the neurologist, who gave me two approaches: drugs and diet. Of the drugs, basically two avenues were open: the beta blocker (possible side effects: sleepiness, weight gain) or the anti-convulsant (possible side effects: weight loss and mental fog resulting in “word loss.” Oh, and hair loss.)

Obviously, I went with the drug that could make me gain weight. The weight loss possibility was appealing, but not at the cost of my words. I lose enough words through age attrition.

Next: diet. The doc advised me to cut out the following, because all have been proven to be migraine triggers in some people:

foods high in sugar content (Ack! I have a sweet tooth!)
chocolate (Ack! I’m female!)
nuts (Ack! I LOVE pecans!)
pizza (Eeek! I’m married to a youth pastor!)
cheeses (Eeek! the pizza!)
citrus fruits (Egads! I live in Florida!)
Cola beverages (Groan! I’m a Diet Coke addict)
Caffeine (Man! My diet coke!)
Artificial sweeteners (Ack again! My Diet Coke!)
onions (well, who eats those?)
herring (right, like those are a staple)
avacado (the mere sight of one makes me queasy)
and any foods with MSG (which I think is everything in the packaged foods section of the grocery store.)

I can’t say I’ve been 100 percent faithful, but I have carefully weaned myself down to one diet coke per day. I drink it at breakfast, since I’ve never liked coffee.

And the headaches? None yet in April, but my brain may be on vacation. Stay tuned . . .

Do you have migraines? Do you eat any of those above foods (and get away with it?)



  1. Rachel

    I have a migraine that took up residence in 1997 (I was a freshman in high school) and has never left. I’ve done the whole gambit of medicine and diet and have finally settled into simply living with it. Naproxen is the only thing that touches it. It stinks, but I know God must have it here for some reason. I hope you never have another migraine again, I really do! 🙂

  2. Melissa

    my hubby has migraines and at one point were bad enough that they would be the trigger that he’d “black out” (as well as cause enough that he was kicked out of military,but that’s a whole different story). Anyways, he can’t go near Starbucks products and crab (king or snow)…AAACK!!! we live in the NORTHWEST. high salt content (which he loves his chips) and my friend who’s allergic to gluten has to be careful lest that triggers migraines.

  3. lisa s.

    Oh Rachel that’s awful! I don’t know how you do it.

    Ange, Gwynnie’s migraine sufferer and has been since she was 4 or 5 (she’s ten now). That list looks right on. Huge triggers for her are citrus (she’ll always get one if she has citrus. She hasn’t had citrus in two years now) and too much tomato. She’s fine with cheeses like cottage cheese, ricotta and mozzerella, but when there’s any kind of “age” to the cheese, that can be a trigger. I’ve heard that aged foods really can trigger. So the fresher and newer the better. And when we we mix triggers it’s almost always going to result in a headache.

    Another thing we’ve noticed with Gwynnie is that a disruption in her sleep patterns will trigger a migraine as well.

    I really admire you for taking the medication that doesn’t affect your words. I mean, I know we’re writers and all, but being able to take a pill and lose weight? Man, I don’t know if I could overcome that sort of temptation!

    I hope this all continues to work. I know how much you’ve suffered over the years.

  4. Gin H

    I am distressed just looking at that list! I get 3 or 4 migranes a year (my mother gets them 3 or 4 times a month for days at a time – I hope that’s not my future), but as my husband is also a youth minister and I am also a woman, pizza, chocolate and diet coke on the list kills me!
    Aren’t those necessities for life?

  5. hunthaven

    So sorry to hear that so many of you suffer, too. Rachel–an omnipresent migraine? Talk about a thorn in the flesh!

    For years I’ve thought mine were purely hormonal because they were relatively dependable–twice a month, three days on one side of the head. But then they started moving to the other side of the head for three more days, then they started coming at exactly 4:20 a.m. –talk about weird!

    But stress, sleep, and diet apparently make a huge difference, so here’s to being careful.


  6. Christy Lockstein

    I’ve suffered with migraines since I was eight, and they got worse last year. I also suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, but last year I weaned myself from all meds including my birth control pill, and the migraines went away. I’ve only had one in the last six months, as opposed to one a week. I do drink caffeine (too much), and I know that’s a trigger, but going off of the pill had a huge impact for me.

  7. Susanne

    Just de-lurking to say years back my doc told me to cut any cheeses with that orange coloring out. If I ate cheddar make sure it was the white variety. Maybe that will help you too! Can’t have you losing words. My reading would be cut in half! :v)

  8. margie

    I’m on day 22 of a migraine that sounds like the one you had last month, Angie. I haven’t seen the neurologist yet, but I will. Had a CT scan done yesterday. The really annoying part is that my migraines (which I’ve suffered since I was a teen) have now started settling in my right eye. Makes getting any writing/editing done very hard! I’ve been off caffeine for a long time. Tried to go off chocolate cold turkey—ACK! Didn’t work. . .and I really didn’t notice a difference with or without it. Maybe I don’t have enough each day to matter. Cheese on a pizza over the weekend certainly triggered a severe migraine Sunday, though. Guess I’ll have to cut back on that, too! Rats!! Chocolate and cheese are going to be the hard ones for me to cut back on, I’m afraid. Sigh. I’m glad to hear that the meds and diet are working for you so far.

  9. Angie

    I’ve had migraines since my college days. They used to be frequent and really knocked me out of commission. Now they are usually only once a month. Yeah, you know the time of the month I’m referring to. 🙂 Honestly, I think a lot of my relief had to do with major answered prayer, but here’s what I do about the trigger food list you gave: try to avoid lots of sweets; drink very little caffeine (unless I can’t resist a yummy mocha, but I usually end up paying for it later); nuts are fine; pizza my hubby can’t live without so I don’t even attempt to omit; fruits are fine; no sodas–sigh; no artificial sweetners–don’t like them anyway; onions, cheese and avacado I love and eat w/o a problem (though I’ve heard cheddar cheese is not a good idea); wouldn’t touch herring with a ten foot pole lol; I try to avoid msg. I think as you pay attention for a few months, you will just start to “know” what to avoid. But best of luck avoiding some of your favorites! You might want to try taking 800 mgs of Advil at the very, very first sign of pain and repeat every 8 hours until the migraine is completely gone. (If your doc.’s okay with that.) Sometimes it will help me stay off the heavy pain meds which can interrupt my productive writing time. Or cause me to write very loopy things I just have to delete later. 🙂

  10. Christina Berry

    The Oregonian had an article in today’s (4-25) paper about migraines. I’d find you the link, but I’ve got to go pick up my Kindergartener. It says that long-time migraine suffers show “less cognitive decline and memory loss over a period of 12 years” than the control group.

    So headaches might be good for you in the long run! 🙂


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