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Reviewed by the Faculty of Harvard Medical School

The Migraine-Prevention "Detox" Plan

Migraines can be triggered by a variety of food ingredients and medications. One potential way to prevent migraine headaches is to eliminate all potential offenders at once, rather than trying to eliminate them one item at a time.

Even a modest use of caffeine can trigger migraines. However, keep in mind that you may experience a temporary increase in headaches for a few weeks after you eliminate caffeine.

In the same way, overusing certain pain relievers can cause "rebound" headaches. This happens when someone takes pain relievers every day to keep headaches from coming back. Many chronic headache sufferers can achieve drug-free migraine treatment by eliminating these headache remedies, and cutting out certain other medications and dietary triggers. The list below includes some suggestions. However, never stop taking a prescription medication without first talking to your doctor.

Foods To Avoid

Reduce your consumption of coffee, tea, iced tea, cola and chocolate over a two-week period until they are eliminated from your diet. Decaffeinated versions are generally OK, though they may be a problem for some people.

Avoid all cheeses except American, cream and cottage cheese. Avoid foods that contain cheese, such as pizza.

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
This chemical "flavor enhancer" is often found in Chinese restaurant food, many snack foods and prepared foods, as well as in seasoning products such as Accent. Note that MSG may be labeled as hydrolyzed vegetable/soy/plant protein, natural flavorings, yeast extract and Kombu. MSG can also be hidden in broth and stock products.

Processed Meats
Hot dogs, sausage, bacon, salami and bologna and other meats that are aged, canned, cured, marinated, tenderized or contain nitrates or nitrites.

Alcohol and Vinegar
Especially red wine, champagne, and dark or heavy drinks; vodka is usually best tolerated; white vinegar is OK.

Citrus Fruits and Juices
Oranges, grapefruits, lemons, limes and pineapples, and their juices, supplemental vitamin C and citric acid are OK.

Certain Other Fruits
Bananas, raisins, red plums, canned figs and avocados

Certain Vegetables
Broad beans, Lima beans, fava beans and navy beans; pea pods, sauerkraut and onions

Certain Bread Products
Fresh-baked, yeast-risen bread products, such as from a bakery, doughnut shop or home

Aspartame (NutraSweet)

Yogurt and Sour Cream

Nuts and Peanut Butter

Medications to (Possibly) Avoid

NOTE: Always check with your doctor before you stop taking any medication.

Pain Relievers
Prescription pain relievers that contain codeine, hydrocodone or oxycodone, and barbiturates (such as butalbital), as well as many over-the-counter pain relievers, including acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)

Adrenaline-Like Medications
Certain asthma medications (bronchodilators), over-the-counter stimulants, Ritalin, Dexedrine, over-the-counter diet pills and prescription diet pills

Birth control pills, menopausal hormone therapy and other products containing estrogen

Nitrates for heart disease, certain blood pressure medications

Related Article:
Drug-Free Migraine Treatment

Last updated March 10, 2008