foods that trigger migraines
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Foods that trigger migraines

Foods that trigger migraines

Do you suffer with bad migraines or know someone who does? Undoubtedly, migraines can ruin your day or even become your norm. But what are the foods that trigger migraines?

To help answer this commonly asked question, let’s review some recent scientific developments in migraine management that could turn things around for you or your loved one.

Understanding the evidence: Migraines, IBS and the gut-brain axis.

Did you know that migraines affect more women than men, and are often experienced with IBS?

Migraine is a complex neurological disorder that involves various genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. One potential link between the gut and migraine is through the gut-brain axis, which refers to the bidirectional communication between the gut and the brain via the nervous system, the endocrine system, and the immune system.

There is growing evidence to suggest that disturbances in the gut microbiota and increased intestinal permeability (also known as “leaky gut”) may contribute to the development of migraines. In fact, these disturbances can lead to increased levels of inflammation and immune activation, which can trigger migraine attacks.

A recent study looked at whether an IgG-based elimination diet and probiotics could help patients experiencing chronic migraine and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Basically, they divided patients into 3 groups:

1. Patients eating according to ImuPro Complete* test results for 14 weeks
2. Patients taking probiotics** 3 x daily for 14 weeks
3. Patients eating according to ImuPro Complete* results AND taking probiotics** for 14 weeks.

*ImuPro Complete is an IgG test analysing 270 individual foods.
**Probiotics taken contained 1.5g Bifidobacterium infantis, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Enterococcus faecalis, and Bacillus cereus

The IgG-based elimination diet used in the study aimed to reduce the immune activation caused by IgG-reactive foods, which may help to reduce inflammation and improve the gut-brain axis. By improving gut health and reducing inflammation, this approach may help to reduce the frequency and intensity of migraine attacks.

What were the results?

According to the results of the food intolerance tests fo the 60 patients, a total of 1,506 reactions were identified.

Interestingly, the highest reactions were toward spices, nuts & seeds, gluten, seafood, food additves, eggs & cows milk products.

By 7 weeks, no difference was seen in the group taking probiotics alone. While those on the IgG elimination diet experienced a reduced number of migraine days, participants on the combined IgG diet with probiotics experienced the greatest reduction of symptoms. 

By 14 weeks, all groups showed improved bowel regularity and an evident decrease in migraine days and symptoms. Again, the most significant was the combined IgG + probiotics group.

The authors suggest that the IgG based elimination diet reduced inflammation and improved the strength of the gut barrier.

Only the IgG diet group and IgG diet + probiotics group showed a significant increase in serotonin levels. Probiotics alone did not elevate this important brain chemical. Serotonin is known to play an important role in migraine and pain pathways in the body.

This adds to growing evidence that management of gut health can benefit migraine attacks, through the ‘gut brain axis’.

What is the gut-brain axis?

The gut-brain axis is a well-established concept in the scientific literature, and several mechanisms have been proposed to explain how the gut and the brain interact with each other. One such mechanism is through the immune system, where inflammation and immune activation in the gut can affect the brain and vice versa.

In this study, the authors proposed that the IgG-based elimination diet may work by reducing the immune activation caused by the consumption of IgG-reactive foods, which in turn could reduce inflammation and immune activation in the gut and potentially improve the gut-brain axis.


Compared to probiotics alone, the success of the IgG elimination diet combined with probiotics for reducing migraine and IBS was attributed to:

  • Reduction of inflammation. For example, inflammatory cytokines & lymphocytes were reduced following the personalised diet.
  • Improved intestinal barrier function from removal of inflammatory foods and fortified by probiotics.
    • Prevention of food proteins and endotoxins like lipopolysaccharide into the bloodstream.
  • Improvements mediated by serotonin which plays a significant role in migraine attacks.
  • Growing evidence that management of intestinal function may be beneficial for migraine patients.
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