Every migraineur has a different migraine experience with any number of triggers; however, the most common trigger in every sufferer is food.
It’s a jungle out there, with grocery stores and food suppliers piling up the goodies filled with the poison that has declared war on your body.
Cryptic Ingredients and Chemical Triggers
“You are what you eat.” We’ve all heard the phrase. Many people think it is a simple witticism; quirky, yet wise; however, there is a lot of truth in the statement. You are, and will feel, everything you eat. All the food and drinks you put into your mouth are sustaining OR harming your body and internal organs.
We know the big migraine triggers, such as:
- Citrus fruits
- Processed foods
- Fatty, greasy foods
But, what about the hidden migraine triggers; the ones that aren’t on the labels? What are they, and how do you avoid those?
Aspartame and Headaches – What the Research Shows
There is very little literature to confirm that aspartame triggers migraines; however, I have worked with hundreds of migraineurs, and I have seen how they improve with the elimination diet.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has recorded several complaints lodged against aspartame, and the most common one is headaches. Specifically, 67% of these cases had neurological symptoms, including headaches, dizziness, and mood swings.
Unfortunately, however, headaches were also seen to be present in the placebo trial, so it is difficult to have a conclusive finding.
The study that connected aspartame to headaches was done in 1995 and harshly criticized because it was a sampling of self-reported aspartame-induced headaches. No attempts have been made since that time to study aspartame’s role in migraine attacks.
Furthermore, aspartame is connected to the most common hidden migraine trigger in our culture: free glutamate/MSG.
The Most Common Hidden Migraine Trigger
There are dozens of claims that MSG is harmless and safe for use; however, migraine specialists know that MSG is a truly dangerous chemical.
Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is considered a “natural” substance, so it is generally not listed as an ingredient.When MSG does make an appearance, it is usually downplayed or hidden behind a pseudonym such as:
- Glutamic acid
- Calcium glutamate
- Magnesium glutamate
- Monopotassium glutamate
- Yeast extract
- The word “hydrolyzed”
- Whey protein
This is not an exhaustive list, but you get the idea. MSG is sneaky.
Some foods are processed in such a way that it releases the glutamate compound, and this can be detrimental for those sensitive to MSG.
How do I know What Foods to Avoid?
Aspartame and other harmful chemicals, such as sulfites, tannins, and nitrites are clearly labeled, but others may escape your notice. The list of things to look out for is longer than the list of things to focus on, so here are a few tips:
- Shop the produce section of the store and stay out of the aisles as much as possible
- Get organic and locally grown or raised as much as possible
- Watch out for the “glutamate” and “hydrolyzed” terms in the ingredients
- Don’t always trust “low fat” or “no fat foods” because they will often use aspartame or other artificial sweetener
- Syrup is a term you want to try to stay away from as much as possible
- At restaurants, aim for healthier and lighter dishes that are not likely to have a lot of sodium. This may take some research into the menu.
It’s time to put your research cap on. Your health is your responsibility, and the easiest way to improve it is by changing the way you eat. Migraine attacks are frequently caused by foods and the chemicals that are used to make them. You have to stay informed and know what is good and bad for you in the grocery store and while you’re out to eat. The internet is a vast and glorious thing. I have supplied some sources below to help you in your search. If you have further questions or concerns about how chemical ingredients are affecting your migraine and general health, you should talk to your doctor and figure out a good diet that will help you feel better and reduce migraine symptoms.