The Food Migraine Connection


I’m not kidding or exaggerating. This diet has changed my life. Check out the blog post on my author blog for the details, but seriously, if you suffer migraines, DO THIS.

The below article, written a couple of years ago, ties into the miracle I found, so still worth reading. Food is absolutely the problem, but not exactly the way I used to think. Dr. Turknett’s miracle referenced above absolutely works, but you have to commit 100%.

Now onto the article you clicked on…

February 19, 2013 – Okay. So I’m not much of a scientific kinda gal, so I’ll try to keep this as simple and interesting as possible. Keep in mind, this is my interpretation from what doctors have told me over the years combined with my own research, and again, I’m not an expert. Hopefully it makes sense, doesn’t put you to sleep, and gives you a better insight into the food/migraine connection.

Here we go.

I recently had a friend say he didn’t think food additives were the source of my migraines, and I know he’s not the only one who believes this. I swear, I can sometimes feel people rolling their eyes when I say I can’t eat something. But I know better. Since I was a kid, certain foods have given me a near instant reaction in the form of a violent migraine and throwing up. The drug Treximet makes it possible for me to function when the migraine comes on, but I hate being dependent on a drug, and truly believe the drug contributes to rebound headaches. My goal is to get off of it.


Anyway… his question got me thinking about the why behind food sensitivities and migraine. Frankly, the whole thing embarrasses me, you know, not being able to just put food in my face without thinking about it, or having a drink with a friend, or an ice cream.

I get really, really sick of saying, “I can’t eat that.”

It’s weird. People don’t question a diabetic’s need to restrict foods, yet they almost always question a migraine sufferer’s need to do the same, because migraines, for the most part, aren’t taken seriously. They think, what’s the big deal? It’s a headache. If you’ve ever had a migraine, you’d understand what the big deal is. It’s near impossible to function with a full-blown migraine, and if untreated–for me at least–goes into a black-out mode with light flashes and a loss of the ability to even form words.


For years, doctors have been telling me about food connections, and my mom even wrote a cookbook on the topic. But I didn’t understand the reason behind it, and I like to know that kind of stuff, so I went on a little internet discovery tour and learned some really interesting stuff.

Essentially, it all comes down to brain chemistry and what does, and does not trigger the migraine.

First, and most interesting, a 2010 study that linked those who suffer migraines to a genetic defect, and how things like MSG can actually make it worse. Woo hoo! Never thought I’d be so excited to be labeled defective! I read a bunch of different articles to try and fully wrap my head around this and make sure I got it right. The gene is called the KCNK18 gene (otherwise know as the potassium channel gene)…


And its purpose is this:

  • Potassium channels play a role in many cellular processes including maintenance of the action potential, muscle contraction, hormone secretion, osmotic regulation, and ion flow. This gene encodes a member of the superfamily of potassium channel proteins containing two pore-forming P domains and the encoded protein functions as an outward rectifying potassium channel. A mutation in this gene has been found to be associated with migraine with aura.

Huh?? Okay, so basically in the study, they found that in those who suffer migraines, the gene has mutated, thereby interrupting “Tresk” functionality, a protein which regulates nerve communication. What does that mean? Well.. it has to do with the sensitivity of the nerves in the brain, and the way it handles pain.


Okay, fine, but what does MSG have to do with this genetic mutation?


The gene is activated, or excited, in part, by glutamate, which by nature, is an “excitotoxin” because it is thought to have the ability to overstimulate cells. Glutamate not only causes vascular constriction, it also induces histamine, which causes inflammation, one of the primary causes of migraines, and because of the defective gene’s inability to cope with pain, this inflammation of the vessels turns into a migraine. The gene is also believed to control hormonal secretions, which explains why hormones play a role in migraines as well, and why my doctor has been so focused on regulating my estrogen.

It was quite an aha moment when I read all this. I wasn’t nuts. There truly was an actual cause for my food sensitivity! Granted, I can’t fix the mutated gene, but at least I can do my best to not activate it, in part by keeping my hormones balanced through what I eat, and also by avoiding glutamate, like MSG–which is easier said than done. Keep reading.

But, you say, MSG is rarely used anymore, right?

People know it’s bad. Look at all the “No MSG” signs at Chinese restaurants.


MSG being a thing of the past is simply NOT TRUE. MSG is labeled as a zillion different things now, like maltodextrin or hydrolyzed vegetable protein, and yes, those nasty gums I’m always preaching about, and, of course, Carrageenan. The alias list for MSG is ridiculously long.

And then I discovered something else I found really interesting! A common defense of guar gum and carrageenan is that, “It’s all natural! It’s made from seaweed!” I’ve read it on packaging, on websites, heard it from health food stores…

But guess what?



It was discovered by a Japanese scientist as a fifth sense (like sweet, savory, etc), and he was the one who first patented its manufacture.


From Wikipedia’s page on the origin of MSG:

“Professor Kikunae Ikeda from the Tokyo Imperial University isolated glutamic acid as a new taste substance in 1908 from the seaweed Laminaria japonica, kombu, by aqueous extraction and crystallization, and named its taste “umami”.”

So really, these additives that show up in almost EVERYTHING are basically just MSG, renamed. Which explains why my body reacts exactly the same to them, and why millions of people suffer from chronic migraine and don’t know why.


There’s also the issue of acute toxicity. Studies say there’s no indication that MSG in normal dosage will cause acute toxicity, but if you’re eating it in every meal (which you are if you’re eating out or eating processed foods), think of the build up in your system. This explains why, when I eat “dirty” several consecutive days, I get a doozy of a migraine, and also why, if I’ve been eating super clean, I can occasionally get away with something bad. Go into your fridge or cupboard and pull out just about any processed product or dairy product and you will find some form of MSG in them. Even in your toothpaste.

To quote a woman from this NPR Report: “Suppose there are 100 things that trigger headaches. And somebody tells you to avoid two or three of them, but you eat the other 97. You’re still going to get a headache.”

Exactly. So for those who insist food doesn’t make a difference in their number of headaches,  are you truly eating clean? I know the number and frequency of my migraines changes depending on how clean I eat. And if you’re wondering if it works to limit the number of migraines? For me at least… HELL YES. And I have nothing to gain here, no program or product to sell. I simply want to help.


Because it helps me too. I hit my wit’s end this past November after suffering a three-week relentless migraine, and guess what? I was eating at least two meals a day out, popping Treximet like candy, and I’m sure landing in a wicked rebound cycle. I don’t want to go back to that. Ever. No matter what it takes.


I did learn something very disappointing in my research. It’s not just chemical additives that contribute to migraines in the food realm. There’s also Tyramine, a known migraine inducer occurring naturally in a lot of things, including produce and some nuts (which explains why Peanuts seriously knock me for a loop).


From what I can gather, for those who have issues with brain chemicals because of the defective gene, having higher levels of tyramine in your system can cause changes in the brain that lead to headaches. Sadly, bananas, coconut, yogurt, and raspberries are on the list–basically all my favorite foods, things I eat nearly every day–but luckily they’re on the “use with caution” list, which means limiting to less than 4 ounces a day (and I’m unclear if the banana itself is bad or just the peel). I’ve known for a long time to avoid any aged meats or any lunchmeats, hot dogs, sausages… stuff like that. And I have. But also on the list are sourdough bread,  concentrated yeast, soy sauce, miso, aged cheese, and *gasp* avocado, things  that should be avoided altogether since they’re high in tyramine. Bye bye Sushi. 🙁

I’ve been eating MSG free (or doing my best to) for a long, long time, but frankly, the thought of eliminating those tyramine foods depresses the hell out of me. The belief is that once the body is clean, small amounts of the low list things can be added back in. I hope that’s the case. I can’t imagine life without avocado, even if it is on the super high list.

One more note. Not all migraines are connected to food. There are also environmental factors, and hormones, and barometric pressure… but if we can control at least one of the elemental triggers, why not do it?


Does it suck having to monitor every single thing I put in my mouth? Yes. I hate it. But I hate migraines even more. If you’re suffering, just try it. I’m not going to lie to you, it’s hard to completely control your food. I mean… really hard, especially to keep it up long term. Over the years, I slip and when I do I suffer. Keep in mind it will probably take a while to get all that crap purged from your system, and you’ll think its pointless and a pain in the ass, but it WILL make a difference. How do I know? I started this hard-core quest to take my purification to the next level in January and guess what? I had just four migraines that month compared to my average of over fifteen, and the severity was much, much less. That, to me, is worth it.


THIS IS THE WEB ARTICLE THAT GOT ME GOING ON MY HUNT (There are other links from that page as well)




No Responses to “The Food Migraine Connection

  • Great info Lori…it is so true that people who have never suffered a migraine do not understand it and think we are hypochrondriacs (sp?). Thank you so much for doing the research that gives a reason for why we have this disorder and makes us feel less like “freaks”!

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