A plant-based diet, rich in dark green leafy vegetables, may be beneficial for relieving symptoms of chronic migraines, according to a study published in BMJ Case Reports.
The recommendation comes after doctors treated a man who had suffered from severe migraines for more than 12 years, tried prescription medications (zolmitriptan and topiramate), cut out potential “stimulant” foods, including chocolate, cheese, nuts, caffeine, and dried fruit, and practiced yoga and meditation in an effort to To ease the severity and frequency of his headaches, none of them ever worked.
More than one billion people worldwide suffer from migraine, which is characterized as a one-sided, throbbing headache that lasts from 4 to 72 hours, and is often accompanied by sensitivity to noise and light.
Migraines are either episodic (less than 15 days per month) or chronic (15 or more migraine days per month plus features migraines on at least 8 days of the month).
Successful treatment of a migraine is defined as halving the frequency and length of attacks, or as an improvement in symptoms.
While medications can help prevent and treat this condition, a growing body of evidence suggests that diet may also provide an effective alternative without any of the side effects associated with some medications, study authors say.
Six months before he was referred to the clinic, the man’s migraine became chronic, occurring on 18-24 days of each month.
He described the pain as starting suddenly and intensely in the forehead and temple on the left side of his head. The pain was pulsating in nature, and usually lasted 72 hours.
The headache was accompanied by sensitivity to light and sound, nausea and vomiting. On a 0-10 scale, score the severity of the pain as 10-12 out of 10.
Blood tests revealed that he did not have high levels of systemic inflammation and had a normal level of beta-carotene (53 mcg/dL).
This likely derives from his daily consumption of sweet potatoes, which, although high in beta-carotene, are relatively low in nutrients responsible for the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of carotenoids, the researchers note.
It is noteworthy that systemic inflammation and oxidative stress are implicated in migraine headaches. Doctors advised the man to adopt the daily Low-Inflammatory Foods (LIFE) diet, which is an entirely plant-based diet, and includes a diet rich in fruits and dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale and watercress.
The LIFE diet also states that you limit your intake of whole grains, starchy vegetables, oils, and animal protein, especially dairy products and red meat.
After two months on the LIFE diet, the man said the frequency of his migraine attacks was reduced to just one day a month, and the length and severity of attacks decreased.
Blood tests showed a significant rise in beta-carotene levels, from 53 mcg/dL to 92 mcg/dL.
He stopped taking all migraine medications. Even when he tried some “hard” foods, such as egg whites, salmon or iced tea, which usually trigger headaches, these foods were less painful and lasted much shorter than before.
After 3 months, the migraine stopped completely and hadn’t returned for 7.5 years.
The man was allergic, and previously published research suggests that better control of allergies may lead to fewer migraines.
In this case, the man’s allergy symptoms improved to the point that he no longer needed to use seasonal medications.
He also had HIV, and HIV was associated with an increased risk of migraines, so it’s certainly possible that the man’s HIV status and antiretroviral medication contributed to his symptoms, the study authors say.
But they acknowledged that this could not have been studied further without stopping ART, which is a limitation of the study.
But they concluded: “This report indicates that a whole plant-based diet may provide a safe, effective, and lasting treatment for reversing chronic migraine.”
Source: Medical Express