Headaches: “Migraines Retreat With Diet Modifications”


The research is clear, food intolerance, allergies, and hypersensitivities are key triggers of headaches and migraines. Although each migraine sufferer may react to a different food or group of foods, there are a few which seem to pop up as frequent offenders: dairy (including milk, cheeses, and yogurt), wheat, eggs, soy, corn, citrus, chocolate, coffee, beef, yeast, red wine, and processed foods with additives and preservatives.

In the pursuit to identify these top offenders, scientists and physicians have enlisted the oligoantigenic diet. This is a hypoallergenic “elimination” diet, consisting of a selection of foods that are presumably well tolerated. During their studies, patients are told to eat only the “safe” foods outlined on their version of the oligonantigenic diet in an effort to eliminate any symptoms. Once the symptoms have gone into remission, the “high risk” foods are re-introduced into the diet one at a time to assess their potential trigger effect on symptoms. This type of diet should be undertaken with the assistance of a physician, in order to ensure adequate nutritional intake. In each of the 3 case studies listed below, some form of an oligoantigenic diet was used:

  • 60 migraine patients followed an elimination diet after a 5-day withdrawal from their normal diet. Upon reintroduction, specific foods elicited migraine reactions in a significant percentage of patients: wheat (78%), oranges (65%), eggs (45%), tea and coffee (40% each), chocolate and milk (37% each), beef (35%), and corn, cane sugar, and yeast (33% each). When an average of ten common trigger foods were avoided, there was a dramatic decline in the number of headaches per month and 85% of patients actually became headache-free! As science would have it, an added benefit was welcomed by the 25% of these patients who also had hypertension – their blood pressure returned to normal levels.
  • In a clinical trial 93% of 88 children who suffered frequent and severe migraines recovered on oligoantigentic diets. Most of the patients responded to several foods, which suggested the probability of an allergic rather than a metabolic cause. An added bonus… abdominal pain, behavior disorder, fits, asthma, and eczema also improved in several of these patients.
  • A research study trialed an oligoantigenic diet on 63 children with epilepsy, 45 of which also suffered from migraines, hyperkinetic behavior, or both. The 18 children who had epilepsy alone saw no improvement on the oligoantigenic diet. However, of the 45 children with additional symptoms, 25 ceased to have seizures and 11 had fewer seizures while on this diet. Migraines, abdominal pain, and hyperkinetic behavior halted in the 25 children who stopped having seizures, and also in some of those who did not stop having seizures. Reintroduction of foods one by one confirmed that the seizures, migraines, hyperkinetic activity, and abdominal pain these children were experiencing related to 42 different “trigger” foods.

So why do so many people suffer from migraines and other headaches when they consume these foods? The medical community is getting closer to an answer. Researchers in Germany have discovered a genetic mutation responsible for the “faulty wiring” and the subsequent pain. Although clinical scientists have known for a while that migraines are hereditary, the exact “defect” being passed on was previously unknown.

Regardless of the actual cause, the best way to find relief from headaches and migraines is to identify your triggers, and eliminate them. If you suffer from severe headaches, you may be one of the millions succumbing to milk sensitivities. Sign up now for our FREE Diet and Health Journal not only to track your reactions to dairy, but also to see if any other foods may spark headaches, migraines, or other unwanted symptoms.


  1. “Methods of Diet Revision- The Allergy Model”
  2. “Is migraine food allergy? A double-blind controlled trial of oligoantigenic diet treatment.” By authors Egger J, Carter CM, Wilson J, Turner MW, and Soothill JF; Lancet, 1983 Oct 15, 2:8355, 865-9
  3. “Oligoantigenic diet treatment of children with epilepsy and migraine.” By Egger J, Carter CM, Soothill JF, and Wilson J of the Department of Neurology, Hospital for Sick Children, London; Journal of Pediatrics, 1989 Jan;114(1):51-8.
  4. “Food allergies and migraine.” By Grant EC; Lancet. 1979 May 5;1(8123):966-9.
  5. “Scientists Identify Migraine Chromosome”, September 10, 2005.
  6. “Diet & Migraine” by Leira R, Rodriguez R, Servicio de Neurologia, Hospital General de Galicia Clinico Universitario, Santiago de Compostela; Rev Neurol. 1996 May;24(129):534-8.

About Author

Alisa is the founder of GoDairyFree.org, Food Editor for Allergic Living magazine, and author of the best-selling dairy-free book, Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living, and the new cookbook, Eat Dairy Free: Your Essential Cookbook for Everyday Meals, Snacks, and Sweets. Alisa is also a professional recipe creator and product ambassador for the natural food industry.


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