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How Migraine Affects My Appetite

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My migraine often affects my appetite. Sometimes, I don’t want to eat at all. It’s not just a lack of hunger, but almost an aversion to food — as if each bite that I take will make me feel worse and even more nauseated. My weight has fluctuated as a result — at one particularly difficult time, I lost 15 pounds in one month because nausea and extreme pain made eating seem impossible.  

Other times, migraine makes me feel ravenous, as if nothing can satiate my hunger.

In an effort to understand these shifts, I dug into my migraine experiences to see how they have affected my appetite. Here’s a look at what I found.

Before a migraine hits

This is rare, but sometimes just before a migraine hits, I will experience extreme hunger, like I need to consume as much food as possible. There isn’t a specific food that I crave during this time — anything will do.  

These moments of hunger occur during the prodrome phase of my migraine (i.e., just before the migraine pain sets in). Even after all these years, I rarely recognize that my migraine is causing my hunger — only when the pain hits do I realize that my cravings were a warning sign. It tricks me every time!

During migraine-induced nausea

Like many others living with chronic migraine, my attacks cause nausea — and as you might expect, my desire to eat is non-existent.

In moments like these, I tend to lean on ginger tea and ginger chews to combat the nausea, which helps, but only slightly.

During extreme pain

During my hardest migraine moments, I am confined to a dark room in excruciating pain. On days like this, I can barely lift my head off the pillow — food is the last thing on my mind.

That said, when this happens, I force myself to eat — an empty stomach and low blood sugar can intensify my migraine pain. It’s not enjoyable, but I do it anyways.

Appetite shifts are common

While reflecting on this experience, I checked in with a few of my friends with migraine on social media to understand how their migraine affects their eating habits.

Many shared that they experience an increase in appetite. They shared that their cravings start before the migraine hits and that they crave all sorts of healthy and unhealthy foods: carbs, pizza, chips, fries, and fountain soda.

I also heard from a lot of people who experience a serious decrease in appetite due to nausea, just like me. In these instances, my friends shared that they often force themselves to eat something so as not to trigger any more pain. They mentioned ginger ale, crackers, chicken noodle soup, and ginger tea as the only things they could tolerate during these times.

A few people shared that they can often feel extreme hunger and nausea at the same time, something that I do not envy.

The takeaway

Needless to say, migraine can have a big impact on your appetite. Just like tracking your triggers, it’s important to recognize significant appetite shifts as a potential warning sign of migraine. You may want to record them as mental notes or in a migraine journal to try and find patterns — that way you can take proactive steps to treat your symptoms when they arise.

For more information on how to manage migraine, reach out to your doctor or healthcare team. 

MIG-US-NP-00130 MAY 2019