Prescribed medications, elimination diet, yoga and meditation provided no or little symptom relief. Boosting dark green leafy vegetables intake may be key.
It may be worth adopting a plant based diet, rich in dark green leafy
vegetables, to ease the symptoms of chronic migraine, suggest doctors
in the online journal BMJ Case Reports.
The recommendation comes after they treated a man who had endured
severe migraine headaches without aura for more than 12 years.
He had tried prescribed medications (zolmitriptan and topiramate); cutting
out potential ‘trigger’ foods, including chocolate, cheese, nuts,
caffeine, and dried fruit; and yoga and meditation in a bid to blunt the
severity and frequency of his headaches. Nothing had worked.
Over 1 billion people worldwide have migraines, characterized as
one-sided, pulsating headaches lasting 4 to 72 hours, and often accompanied
by sensitivity to noise and light and sometimes prodromal auras.
Migraines are either episodic (fewer than 15 days a month) or chronic
(15 or more migraine days a month plus migraine features on at least 8
days of the month).
Successful migraine treatment is defined as a halving in the frequency and length of attacks, or as an improvement in symptoms.
While drugs can help prevent and treat the condition, a growing body
of evidence suggests that diet may also offer an effective alternative
without any of the side effects associated with some meds, say the
Six months before his clinic referral, the man’s migraines had become chronic, occurring on 18 to 24 days of every month.
He described the pain as starting suddenly and intensely in the
forehead and temple on the left side of his head. The pain was throbbing
in nature, and usually lasted 72 hours.
His headaches were accompanied by sensitivity to light and sound, and
nausea and vomiting. On a scale of 0 to 10, he scored the pain severity as
10 to 12 out of 10.
Blood tests revealed that he didn’t have high levels of systemic
inflammation and that he had a normal level of beta-carotene (53
This was likely derived from his daily consumption of sweet potatoes,
which, although high in beta-carotene, are relatively low in the
nutrients responsible for the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant
properties of carotenoids, point out the report authors.
These are instead found in dark green leafy vegetables, such as
spinach, kale, and watercress. Systemic inflammation and oxidative
stress are implicated in migraine.
The report authors advised the man to adopt the Low Inflammatory
Foods Everyday (LIFE) diet, a nutrient dense, whole food, plant-based
The LIFE diet includes eating at least five ounces by weight of raw
or cooked dark green leafy vegetables every day, drinking one 32-ounce
daily green LIFE smoothie, and limiting intake of whole grains, starchy
vegetables, oils, and animal protein, particularly dairy and red meat.
After 2 months on the LIFE diet, the man said that the frequency of
his migraine attacks had fallen to just 1 day a month; the length and
severity of the attacks had also lessened. Blood tests showed a
substantial rise in beta-carotene levels, from 53 µg/dl to 92 µg/dl.
He stopped taking all his migraine medications. Even when he tried certain
‘challenge’ foods, such as egg whites, salmon, or iced tea, which
triggered headache attacks, these were much less painful and much
shorter in duration than before.
After 3 months his migraines stopped completely, and they haven't returned in 7.5 years.
The man was allergic, and previously published research suggests that
better control of allergies may lead to fewer migraine headaches. In
this case, the man’s allergy symptoms improved to the point that he no
longer needed to use seasonal medication.
He was also HIV positive, and HIV has been linked to a heightened
risk of migraines, so it is certainly possible that the man’s HIV status
and antiretroviral drugs had contributed to his symptoms, say the
But it wasn’t possible to study this further without stopping the
antiretroviral treatment, which is a limitation of the study, they
But they conclude: “This report suggests that a whole food
plant-based diet may offer a safe, effective and permanent treatment for
reversing chronic migraine.
“While this report describes one very adherent patient who had a
remarkable response, the LIFE diet has reduced migraine frequency within
3 months in several additional patients (personal communication).”
Source: News Release
November 18, 2021