How can I eat to avoid migraine attacks and triggers?


Foods are common migraine triggers, but not everyone has the same triggers. Focus on eating a healthy diet, including avoiding MSG and processed foods.


“So, eating regular healthy meals. That also includes hydration and drinking lots of water. With hydration, of course we know that dehydration can be a common migraine trigger. With the eating the healthy regular meals, I think a very common question from my patients is, ‘What should I eat? What is my diet? What is the migraine diet?’ Interestingly, based on the studies, there's not been a lot of solidified evidence as to these are the things that migraine patients should eat and that's how you're going to prevent your migraine. There have been some common triggers that have been identified. Things like caffeine and chocolate because it does contain caffeine. Things that are processed foods, red wines, processed cheeses and meats. Those things have been identified ... MSG ... as common triggers, but at the same time every person is different. I've heard it all. I've heard ‘kiwis can trigger my migraine,’ to ‘bananas trigger my migraine,’ to ‘white rice triggers my migraine but brown rice does not.’ So I tend not to give individuals a specific migraine diet. I do like to empower my patients to at least recognize patterns. If there are certain foods that they recognize may be common triggers for them, I encourage them to see if they can avoid some of those more common triggers. I also let them know every patient is different, so yes you have migraine and kiwis can trigger your migraine but your friend who also has migraine, you don't necessarily need to tell them, ‘Don't eat any kiwis because that's gonna trigger your migraine,’ ‘cause it might not be their migraine trigger.

“So again, one of those common triggers are MSG and just all those different preservatives. So that's why it is better for a lot of migraine patients to stay to the basics. So rather than having processed foods, having more whole grains, having more fresh fruits and vegetables. All those things actually fit in the sense that they typically will have a lower glycemic index.”


Eating to prevent migraine headaches includes hydration, drinking lots of water, and eating a healthy diet. Everyone has their own set of migraine triggers. Avoid foods that seem to be triggers for you and also common triggers such as foods with MSG or caffeine, processed foods, and red wines.

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Amaal J. Starling, MD, FAHS, FAAN

Mayo Clinic, Arizona

Dr. Amaal J. Starling is an associate professor of neurology at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine. She joined Mayo in 2012 and is currently a consultant within the department of neurology. Dr. Starling received her MD from the Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia. She completed a transitional year residency, a neurology residency, and a headache fellowship at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Dr. Starling is an active member of numerous migraine advocacy organizations, including the American Headache Society (AHS), the American Migraine Foundation, the American Pain Society, and the American Academy of Neurology. Annually, she is involved in events supporting migraine, including Headache on the Hill, Miles for Migraine, and the Alliance for Headache Disorders Advocacy. Dr. Starling is currently serving as chair of the advocacy committee of the AHS; Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Taskforce member of the AHS; and she is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the International Concussion Society. Dr. Starling has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the AHS Above and Beyond Award for Service, Manfred D. Muenter Award for Excellence in Clinical Neurology, the American Academy of Neurology Annual Meeting Residency Scholarship, the 2012 Spirit of Mayo Clinic Award, and the Mayo Brothers Distinguished Fellowship Award.

Dr. Starling has several peer-reviewed publications and abstracts related to her fields of interest, which include migraine, concussion, post-traumatic headache, trigeminal autonomic cephalalgias, secondary headaches, telemedicine and teleconcussion, neurology resident education, and professionalism and clinical ethics. Dr. Starling’s hope is that her research and advocacy will advance care for people with migraine, post-traumatic headache, and other headache disorders. She envisions a future in which all people with headache disorders receive personalized, effective, and well-tolerated treatment options to improve their quality of life.

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