Migraine and Diet: Tips From A Nutrition Coach
Migraine Buddy’s Certified Nutrition Coach Shares Tips On Managing Migraine Through Diet
Food is one of the most common triggers recorded by the Migraine Buddy community. In the U.S. alone, more than 570,000 users have reported nutrition-related triggers for their attacks. Foods such as aged cheese, chocolate, and processed food are often the culprits behind such triggers.
But what exactly are in those foods that are triggering the attacks?
All the foods we consume daily contain many chemicals – such as nitrates/nitrites, phenylethylamine, sulfites, tannins, tyramine, salicylates, aspartate, added sugar, alcohol, caffeine, gluten, glutamate, and capsaicin. We know those sound like big names; you can simply imagine them as little Lego blocks (chemical) that join together to form your one huge Lego structure (the food itself). Some chemicals like tyramine are naturally present in foods, while others like MSG are added in artificially.
When consumed, these chemicals stimulate processes in your body which give off the symptoms of your migraine. By understanding how food chemicals affect your body and which chemicals you are more sensitive to, you can work out a diet plan to eliminate those foods/chemicals and eventually reduce your migraine days!
To understand more about decreasing migraine frequency through diet changes, we spoke to Isabelle O’Carroll, Migraine Buddy’s certified nutrition coach. She shares with us below how she helps Migraine Buddy users manage their migraine journey through lifestyle and diet coaching.
Q: Please introduce yourself.
Hello, my name is Isabelle O’Carroll. I am a certified nutritionist and I specialize in managing diet and migraine through the Good Days Program.
Q: How did you become a nutritionist?
I personally suffer from an autoimmune disease and noticed that my food intake had an impact on my disease; hence I started to do some research and decided to take a course to become a nutrition coach.
Q: What motivates you to help people with migraine?
I had been interacting with people in the migraine community for a while now and I’ve noticed how debilitating migraine can be for these people. Some of them shared with me that they suspected food was worsening their attacks – which is something that I could relate to based on my own experience with autoimmune disease. With that in mind, I spent about a year conducting my own research using literature from the last 20 years on this subject and finally developed a methodology to help the community.
Q: What do you do as a Good Days Program coach?
The Good Days Program (GDP) is a migraine-specific food and lifestyle coaching program designed to help people achieve more Good Days (migraine-free days). As a GDP coach, I help clients initiate lifestyle and diet changes to positively impact their migraine frequencies. I coach clients on a daily basis on what they should or should not eat, when to eat, and how to eat. I also provide advice on how to best store and cook food to avoid bad practices that can result in developing chemicals that could trigger a migraine attack. We speak to each other daily through emails and calls when needed.
In addition, I develop actionable programs aimed at identifying food chemical sensitivities for Migraine Buddy users who want to take control of their migraine through diet management. These programs are a part of MBplus, the premium Migraine Buddy.
Q: What are some of the motivations of people who engage your coaching services?
Most of my clients go through more than 10 migraine attacks a month; some have fewer attacks but the pain intensity is much higher. They want to reduce these attacks without taking medications that can have strong side effects.
Q: Would you say it is difficult to implement diet and lifestyle changes, especially for people who experience migraine?
It really depends on each individual. I have seen some who are very motivated and they were able to improve their conditions with that mindset. It also boils down to how open you are to making changes in your life! For many people, after a few weeks of trying out the changes, they start to feel better and see the difference which gives them more confidence to follow through the program.
Q: Will you recommend diet changes for everyone who has migraine?
I would recommend that they do a 30-day elimination diet where the idea is to avoid any food containing chemicals that can trigger migraine attacks. If they feel better after those 30 days, then they can start investigating which specific chemical they are sensitive to.
Alternatively, you can also explore other diet programs that I’ve written in Migraine Buddy such as the 12-Step Fiber Diet Program or my 10 Tips and 5 Recipes for a Migraine-Friendly Diet Program!
Q: Going on a diet is not an easy process. What about those who are facing difficulties with managing their food cravings? Do you have any tips for them?
Yes, you are absolutely right. It is not easy to follow through a diet completely and for some people, it is more challenging because their desires for snacking could be fueled by factors like boredom, stress, etc.
First of all, you need to understand the reasons for your cravings – are you simply hungry, stressed, or just bored? Once you have spotted them, then you can move on to the next step of reducing those cravings.
For those who are seeking a more disciplined approach, I would suggest trying out Migraine Buddy’s 21-day step-by-step program which aims to curb food cravings by identifying your food intake patterns and modifying lifestyle habits. This program was recently just developed by myself and it will take you through the process of understanding the science behind food cravings, alongside actionable steps for each day of the program so that you can successfully control those cravings!
Q: Share with us a success story of someone you’ve helped that has left a deep impression on you.
One of my clients was experiencing 2 to 3 migraine attacks a week and she couldn’t have any social life. She was a very shy person and felt extremely guilty for having migraine because she couldn’t socialize as well. After she had joined the GDP, she felt better and started to open up to the world: taking on yoga classes (which she would never do previously), reconnecting with old friends, and even planning holidays that wouldn’t have been imaginable a year before! The best part was when she told me: “I can finally start planning my life again”. She is now migraine-free for 2 years! What an amazing feat!
Thank you Isabelle for sharing your thoughts and tips through this short interview! We hope you have learned something new about your migraine through this article. If you want to find out more about the Good Days Program, click on the button below!