Using Sugar Cravings to Prevent Migraines

There is a strong correlation between diet and migraine and sugar cravings are just one such example. While craving for chocolate and other sugars is a prodromal (early warning) symptom citrus fruits, aged cheese, cultured products and even chocolate may trigger a migraine attack. Migraines are not just any other headaches. These can be extremely debilitating and can occur once a year or three to four times a week. Migraines are associated with an aura, nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light and sound. It is a severe pulsating pain that occurs on one side of the head. Migraines are also associated with early warning symptoms that may occur hours or days before an attack.

Early warning symptom like sugar craving is often confused with migraine triggers associated with foods. Migraine triggers or precipitators are factors that lead to an acute migraine episode on exposure or withdrawal. Besides dietary triggers migraine may be triggered by an allergic reaction, bright lights, loud noises and specific fragrances. Migraine may also be precipitated by change in sleeping patterns, stress (emotional or physical), exposure to smoke, hunger and a host of other behavioral and environmental factors. Migraine patients are often advised to keep a diary to record migraine episodes to establish and avoid foods that act as a precipitating factor.

Avoiding triggers is integral to any treatment regimen for alleviating migraine pain. Cane sugar was identified as a migraine trigger in 1979 during a study on food intolerance and migraine. Since then the correlation between sugar and migraine has been the subject matter of many forums and sweet cravings is among the top ten migraine triggers.

Sugar intolerance is basically not an allergy. Craving sweets, on the other hand, is strongly related to blood sugar levels and diabetics report severe attacks of migraine when they ingest too much sugar, which gives credence to the theory that sugar can trigger migraine. People with abnormally low blood sugar levels report even more instances of sugar-induced migraine.

Consumption of monosodium glutamate (MSG), which is widely used in Chinese food, is also thought to a migraine trigger. Interestingly, this flavor enhancer and meat tenderizer is commonly made from cane sugar. Since sugar cravings have firmly been established as a trigger, avoiding sugar can be an important part of preventive treatment for migraine.

The problem with migraine treatment is the same that we tend to treat symptoms and not the cause. Try to eliminate sugar from your diet for a month or so. You may have to resist sugar cravings for some time but if there is a reduction in frequency of migraine attacks, it may prove to be a boon to you.