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Avoid foods that cause migraines

By Victoria Advocate
Aug. 2, 2010 at 3:02 a.m.
Updated Aug. 3, 2010 at 3:03 a.m.

Phylis Canion

By Phylis Canion

I have suffered with migraines for years, but it seems like they are becoming more frequent and some are more severe than others. I have read that foods can be a cause but I can never find a list of what is in a food product that may trigger a migraine. All of us migraine suffers thank you for your help.

A host of foods contain chemicals that can cause headaches, including that one-sided, throbbing headache known as a migraine.

Here is a list of food additives that should be avoided to reduce the risk of developing migraines:

1. MSG, monosodium glutamate, is a flavor enhancer used in restaurants and in prepared foods such as soups, salad dressings and lunchmeats that can provoke severe headaches, as well as causing flushing and tingling of the head and should be avoided by a headache prone individual.

2. Nitrites, which are preservatives, are commonly found in hot dogs, bacon, salami and other cured meats.

3. Caffeine, which can act as a vasoconstrictor, and as a result, limit blood flow through the blood vessels in your head and should be avoided in you suffer from migraines. While the experts are divided regarding caffeine, I always recommend avoiding any products that contain caffeine.

4. Aspartame, an artificial sweetener, should be avoided at all extremes. One of the most frequent complaints of food products to the FDA is aspartame.

5. Tyramine, an amino acid, is found in aged cheeses, pickled herring, chicken livers, canned figs, fresh-baked goods made with yeast, lima beans, Italian beans, lentils, snow peas, navy beans, pinto beans, peanuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds. An astounding 30 percent of migraine sufferers seem to have a sensitivity to tyramine according to Dr. Seymour Diamond of the National Headache Foundation.

6. Phenylethylamine, a chemical found in chocolates, can also cause headaches.

7. Congeners, are chemicals found in hard liquor, and should also be avoided.

My 27 year-old daughter has had surgery twice for kidney stones. She was advised by her physician to eliminate high-calcium foods from her diet. My concern is that a low-calcium diet will put her at high risk for osteoporosis. Would you comment?

A low calcium diet can increase the risk of developing osteoporosis, an abnormal loss of bone that can lead to fractures in later years. Your daughter's chances of avoiding osteoporosis will improve if she exercises regularly, doesn't smoke, avoids heavy intake of alcohol and eliminates caffeine.

There is evidence that low calcium diets can increase the frequency of kidney stones whereas high calcium diets can do the opposite. This seeming paradox may have to do with the effect of dietary calcium in preventing the absorption of oxalates from the intestine.

Note: Call today to sign up for the next Nutrition Class, Aug. 9 at The Crossing, 404 N. Bridge St. Call 361-580-1400.

Phylis B. Canion is a doctor of naturopathic medicine and is a certified nutritional consultant. E-mail her at doc.phyl@yahoo.com. This column is for nutritional information only and is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure.

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