Can a food intolerance cause migraines?
It is estimated that 1 in every 7 people around the globe suffer from migraines†, making it the third most common disease in the world.
Research has also revealed that migraines affect twice as many women as men and they affect adults and children of all ages.
The World Health Organisation classifies headache as a major health disorder and has rated migraine amongst the top 20 most disabling lifetime conditions. A migraine attack can last for between 4 and 72 hours and sufferers experience an average of 13 attacks each year.†
So what is the link between migraine and food intolerance and how could this link lead to answers and a resolution for your clients?
Known causes of a migraine include disturbed sleep patterns, stress, and reactions to certain foods and it is the latter that is regarded as one of the easiest to control.
There are many foods which may act as a trigger and could cause migraines.
The case for a food intolerance causing migraines
A survey of a 1,000 people suffering with migraine by the charity Migraine Action revealed that over two thirds of Migraine Action members affected by frequent migraine attacks believe that certain foods could be the cause.
The gold standard method for confirming food reactions is the elimination diet and challenge. This involves eating a restricted diet over a period of time. If there is no improvement in the frequency or severity of your migraines during this time, it is assumed that the food type that has been restricted is not contributing to the symptoms (migraines), and the process is repeated with another food type.
This method can be very time consuming, and it is very difficult to test all the different combinations of food types that may be contributing to the problem. A food intolerance* test can highlight a person’s trigger foods without the need for eliminating individual foods one by one and can form the basis of a fast-track elimination diet. The potential that food intolerance* testing offers migraine sufferers has been demonstrated in several studies (see references below).
The most recent of these, published in the Headache Journal, concluded that the number and severity of migraine attacks was significantly reduced when the subject followed an IgG guided elimination diet.4
The Migraine Action survey 2011 meanwhile found that 85 percent of people affected by debilitating migraines had their symptoms reduced, and quality of life improved, once their food triggers were discovered and avoided.
Additional research from the University of York, the largest clinical trial of its kind in migraine-like headaches, published in the Nutrition Journal, has further supported the Migraine Action findings. It uncovered that the frequency of migraine attacks was slashed by almost a quarter (23%) over 4 weeks when the Lorisian food-specific antibodies test was carried out to identify a sufferer’s food triggers. For additional references please see below.
How can I test my clients for food intolerances*?
Do you have a question about food intolerance? Are you interested in offering tests to your clients? To find out more about Lorisian and our food intolerance* testing, please contact our friendly team.
1. Further analysis of data published originally as Hardman G and Hart G (2007) Dietary advice based on food-specific IgG results. Nutrition and Food Science 37: 16-23.
2. Mitchell N et al (2011) Randomised controlled trial of food elimination diet based on IgG antibodies for the prevention of migraine like headaches. Nutrition Journal 10: 85.
3. Alpay K et al (2010) Diet restriction in migraine, based on IgG against foods: a clinical double-blind, randomised, cross-over trial. Cephalagia 30:829-37. Link.
4. Aydinlar E et al (2013) IgG-based elimination diet in migraine plus IBS. Headache 53:514-25. Link.
5. Rees T et al (2005) A prospective audit of food intolerance among migraine consumers in primary care clinical practice. Headache Care 2, 11-14. Link.
*Lorisian define food intolerance as a food-specific IgG antibody reaction. Our information is intended to provide nutritional advice for dietary optimisation. Lorisian do not claim to treat or cure your client’s symptoms and recommend that they discuss any medical concerns they may have with a GP before taking one of our tests.
† The Migraine Trust