Chronic headache migraine is just no fun at all. If you suffer from migraines, there is bad news and good news.
The bad news is that there is no cure for migraines. Despite what you may have seen on TV or heard on some radio infomercial, migraines just cannot be cured.
The good news is that in some cases you can head them off (preventative treatments) or at least modify their severity (abortive treatments).
Foods that can trigger migraines
The first form of preventative treatment is to cut out foods that can trigger headaches such as those that contain tyramines, nitrites or monosodium glutamate.
In fact, one fourth of headache sufferers say that certain foods trigger their head pain. This is because many foods contain substances that can provoke the release of the neurotransmitters implicated in causing headaches.
Food with tyramines
Headaches can be triggered by foods containing the substance tyramine, which is a member of the amines group of organic chemical compounds. As such, it may influence the release of the neurotransmitter serotonin – which, in turn, can trigger a headache. Common foods that contain tyramine include:
Vinegar (relish, salad dressings, sauces, catsup)
Organ meats (kidney liver)
Alcohol (especially red wine)
Food with nitrites
Headaches can also be triggered by foods containing nitrates as preservatives. It is estimated that in the United States there are 12,000,000,000 pounds of nitrite currently used to give meats a pink color and enhance their taste. Foods containing nitrite include:
That old devil, monosodium glutamate
Monosodium glutamate (commonly called MSG) may also cause headache pain. It is a flavor enhancer that is often sold under the trade name Accent. An estimated 20,000 tons of monosodium glutamate are used yearly to add flavoring to foods.
NSAIDs. NSAIDS are most often used in preventative treatment of those who suffer from chronic migraine. Typical nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin and others) or aspirin can help relieve mild migraines. There are also drugs in this family marketed specifically for migraine headaches. These are typically a combination of acetaminophen, aspirin and caffeine. One example of a combination drug sold over-the-counter is Excedrin Migraine.
The Food and Drug Administration have approved a number of prescription drugs for use in preventing migraines. This includes cardiovascular drugs, antidepressants and alpha blockers.
The most popular of the cardiovascular drugs used to prevent migraine headaches are Inderal, Depakote and Sansert. Some migraine sufferers have also found they can prevent the onset of headaches with calcium channel blockers such a Verapamil, Wellbutrin and Nimotop.
Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) do have an anti-migraine effect, but are not usually considered to be the first choice in preventing migraines. However, they may be of help to some migraine sufferers, especially those who have both migraine and tension-type headaches. The antidepressants used most often in the treatment of migraines are Elavil, Sinequan, Vivactil. Norpramin and such SSRIs (Serotonin Update Inhibitors) as Prozak, Xoloft and Paxil.
Clonidine is an alpha blocker whose efficiency in migraine prevention is not as good as that of the beta blockers. A second alpha blocker that has been used successfully in treatment of childhood migraines is Cyproheptadine.