Do sudden food cravings trigger the body's warning system for an oncoming migraine? Jaime Sanders explores the possibilities behind "caving in to" what she wants while maintaining a healthy diet.
Let’s admit it. We all get food cravings! But food cravings can also be a sign that you’re about to get a migraine, according to the American Migraine Foundation.
People often crave certain foods during the pre-headache phase of a migraine attack. For me, this typically occurs a few hours to a few days before a headache hits.
Resisting sugary, salty, fatty, or fried foods can be difficult. The problem is that we hardly ever feel good about ourselves after eating unhealthy foods.
And choosing the wrong foods may even trigger migraine symptoms. That’s why it’s a good idea to understand and manage your migraine food cravings.
Recognizing cravings as a migraine symptom
I didn’t always recognize that a desire for a particular food was a migraine symptom. At first, I assumed I was just having random cravings. I usually gave in.
A headache diary documents your symptoms and helps you to notice patterns. It's especially beneficial if you're just starting your migraine journey. As I jotted down how I was feeling day by day, I eventually saw a pattern emerge.
Just before a migraine
attack, I started longing for rich, calorie-laden foods that would give me a massive surge of dopamine and serotonin. Unfortunately, they'd also make my oncoming migraine worse!
Once I saw a pattern in my cravings, I could figure out how to better manage them.
My sole craving for years was a juicy cheeseburger. Something about the bun, the meat, and the toppings sends me into food oblivion. I often hanker after the three specific foods: hamburgers, roast beef sandwiches, and sushi.
My migraine food cravings can be hard to ignore and overcome sometimes. I also know the foods I crave aren't always the healthiest.
So I’ve come up with strategies to distract myself. Sometimes I give in, but I try to indulge healthily.
Here are my top tried-and-true tips for managing migraine food cravings.
Drink more water
I first ask myself if I’m drinking enough water. Water may help people lose or maintain a healthy weight, possibly because we eat less when we’re well-hydrated.
I always keep a bottle of water near me. I find that flavored water often quashes a craving. But be careful about artificial flavorings because they can trigger a migraine.
Infuse your water with fresh or frozen fruit to give it a flavor boost! My favorite add-ins are lime, lemon, strawberry, and pineapple.
Get in some steps
Working out is an excellent diversion whenever I feel overwhelmed by food. If I'm up for it, I take my two dogs for a 10-minute walk.
Walking clears my mind and gives me energy. Most of the time, I also forget about my food craving. I often come back home wanting something healthier.
Find a healthier option
Sometimes I really do need to eat right away. I try to divert myself to another food because I know I’ll feel better about myself.
My go-to is avocado toast. Avocado is a very healthy fat, and healthy fats may help to manage your appetite. I spread it on sprouted multigrain bread to satisfy my fat and carb cravings.
I also prepare a dozen hard-boiled eggs when I have the energy. I keep them in the refrigerator as a toast topping or a quick and filling snack.
I also enjoy a cup of bullet coffee made with almond milk creamer, coconut oil, grass-fed butter, or ghee. It’s yummy and gives me pep. Again, pay attention to your own triggers. Milk substitutes, like soy milk, can trigger migraines for some people.
Sometimes, I just can't seem to get a craving to go away. I indulge once in a while if I’m at a restaurant or ordering takeout with my family. I just try to make healthy adjustments.
For example, I order my burger with no cheese and bun and have it wrapped in lettuce. It’s still delicious. And more importantly, it still satisfies my craving!
Cook at home
When I’m craving a roast beef sub, I buy my own healthy ingredients and make one at home instead of ordering from a sandwich shop.
It’s easier to make healthier choices when you cook. I use sprouted multigrain bread instead of a sub roll. I top it with wasabi-avocado oil-based mayo instead of regular mayonnaise. Then, I add lots of spring greens, tomatoes, a drizzle of olive oil, and red wine vinegar for the finishing flourishes.
It’s so delicious! Tastes better than store-bought! And it’s better for me.
Give in—in moderation
As for my sushi cravings, I don’t always feel so bad about giving in. My favorites are spicy tuna and salmon rolls with a good dose of wasabi. I don't like a lot of fillers, sauces, or it being fried in breadcrumbs. Give me fresh seafood, fish roe, rice, nori, avocado, jalapenos, and wasabi, and I’m good to go.
Sushi can be expensive. So I don’t indulge in it often. When I do, it’s a treat to myself.
Managing migraine food cravings isn’t easy. But it is doable.
The first step is to recognize your cravings and your migraine triggers. Then experiment with healthier ways to manage them.
You can do it!
The information presented is solely for educational purposes, not as specific advice for managing migraine symptoms or general health. Please consult a professional who can apply best practices and appropriate resources to your situation.
NPS-ALL-NP-00618 JUNE 2022