NEW YORK – Switching to a vegan diet may help people with chronic migraines relieve their debilitating headaches, according to a new study. Researchers report that a man with relentless migraines got rid of the condition after going vegan for just three months.
In the case report, the study authors note that the patient was able to stop taking migraine medication after switching to a herbal diet. In the eight years since the diet change, he hasn’t had a migraine since.
Studies have shown that dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, and watercress provide powerful antioxidants that can provide relief from extreme headaches. Researchers are now advising people with chronic migraine to consider trying a “safe, effective, and permanent” herbal diet.
Many migraine sufferers are aware of their dietary triggers, be it chocolate, caffeine, cheese, and nuts. In some cases, eating such foods immediately results in another debilitating headache that can last between four and 72 hours.
Migraine pain can be a “12” on a scale of 0 to 10
Migraines, which affect a billion people worldwide, occur either as episodic incidents (less than 15 attacks per month) or chronic (more than 15 headache days per month).
The researchers examined a man who suffered from severe migraines without aura for more than 12 years. For people with migraine, an aura can make them see strange things, like colored spots or flashing lights during their headaches. This happens is about one in three migraine patients.
The patient in this study tried prescription drugs, cut out trigger foods, and practiced yoga and meditation with the goal of stopping the severity and frequency of the headaches. Six months before changing his diet, the man’s migraines became chronic and occurred 18 to 24 days per 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 stabbing in nature and usually lasted 72 hours. His headaches were also accompanied by sensitivity to light and sound, nausea and vomiting. On a scale of zero to 10, he rated the severity of the pain from 10 to 12.
What’s in the vegan diet?
The study authors report that the patient then began a vegan diet and ate at least five ounces of raw or cooked dark green leafy vegetables each day. He drank a 32-ounce green smoothie and a limited intake of whole grains, starchy vegetables, oils, and animal protein.
After two months of the LIFE (Low Inflammatory Foods Everyday) diet, the patient reported that the frequency of his migraine attacks had fallen to only one day per month; the duration and severity of the attacks had also decreased.
Even when he tried certain “challenge” foods, such as egg whites, salmon, or iced tea – which triggered his headache attacks – the migraines became much less painful and much shorter. After three months, her migraines completely stopped and they did not come back.
Pre-existing conditions can make migraines worse
As for the cause of human migraines, the researchers note that the patient’s HIV status likely played a role in the severity of the headaches. The authors of the study say that HIV can increase the risk of suffering from migraines and contribute to more severe symptoms.
“This report suggests that a complete plant-based diet may offer a safe, effective, and permanent treatment for reversing chronic migraine,” the corresponding author, Dr. Joshua Dunaief and his team write in a press release.
“Although this report describes a very adherent patient who had a remarkable response, the LIFE regimen reduced the frequency of migraines within 3 months in several other patients. “
The results are published in the journal BMJ Case Reports.
South West News Service writer Joe Morgan contributed to this report.