Is Food Causing Your Migraines?

It might be. Research tells us certain foods are major migraine triggers. In fact, the ideal diet for migraineurs as well as for the rest of the world is full of fresh fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins. Processed foods aren’t good for anybody. (Surprised?)

Even when eating an all-around healthy diet that limits salt, added sugars, and preservatives, your food might still be a major source of your pain. Migraineurs and non-migraineurs alike can suffer from food intolerances, which may cause some recognizable problems with the skin, hair, and nails, as well as issues with weight gain.

What is a food intolerance? 

A food intolerance occurs when your body has trouble digesting food. Being sensitive to a certain food isn’t life-threatening, but it can be very uncomfortable. People respond to food sensitivities in various ways. Some causes of food intolerances include:


  • Reactions to food preservatives, like artificial colors
  • A lack of the right enzymes to digest certain foods
  • Sensitivity to caffeine or other naturally-occurring chemicals
  • Sensitivity to the sugars found in foods like onions, broccoli, and Brusselssprouts


Food intolerances are different from food allergies. Allergies trigger an immediate histamine response, and they’re typically easy for medical professionals to spot.

Unfortunately, food intolerances can be harder to detect. You know your body best, and medical tests can only do so much. Because of this, I urge my patients to go on an elimination diet to find the source of their sensitivity.  At the very least, you should be using a journal to track your food and responses. If the elimination diet seems too time-consuming, talk to your doctor about IgG testing.

What symptoms you express on the outside of your body all starts from the inside. Although bloating and other digestive problems typically coincide with food intolerances, they aren’t the only ways to explain your dietary problems. For the rest of the article, I’ll discuss common external signs of food intolerance that many migraineurs face.

Skin Problems

Medical research connecting acne, rosacea, and other skin concerns with food intolerances is limited. Unfortunately, most of the research concerning this topic relates to dairy products and acne. Still, this research does suggest, general internal inflammation impacts the skin.

Although there are numerous theories on how dairy affects the skin, many researchers believe the hormones in dairy, combined with modern diets, disrupt insulin levels, which make the skin more acne-prone.

Other studies show a correlation between carbohydrate-rich foods, chocolate, and caffeine and skin concerns.

Bottom line is if you’re concerned about your skin and your migraine food journal is pointing to dairy as the trigger, it’s time to accept your fate and remove it from your diet.

Weight Gain

Eating foods you’re intolerant to might be what’s stopping you from losing those extra pounds. If you’re struggling to lose weight despite exercise and a healthy diet, you probably have a food intolerance to several foods.

When faced with food sensitivities, your body responds by producing excess insulin and cortisol. Both of these hormones make it easier for your body to store fat. Additionally, inflammation can affect your thyroid, lowering your metabolism and making weight gain inevitable.

Turns out, “move more and eat less” isn’t always the best weight loss solution. Migraineurs (and everyone else for that matter) should focus on the quality of the food you are eating, not just the quantity. 

Nail and Hair Health

It’s easy to be jealous of someone with strong nails and luscious hair. These traits aren’t just sources of vanity. In fact, your diet affects your hair and nails. Research and countless anecdotal stories tell us that inflammation can result in dry, cracked nails and hair.

People who suffer from food intolerances and general inflammation (including IBS, leaky gut, and Crohn’s Disease) often have specific signs on their nail beds that pinpoint specific problems.


  1. Split nails (or nails that are easily breakable) often come about from iron deficiencies, hypothyroidism, and low levels of protein.
  2. White spots on your fingernails might show up after you’ve slammed a finger. However, if these show up often, you might have a zinc or calcium deficiency.
  3. Horizontal lines across the nail bed can indicate low vitamin B3, zinc, or inflammation. These lines show up on more than one finger.


Your body is trying to speak to you. If you experience external problems, you should pay attention. If you have migraines, you likely have food intolerances that make your condition worse. Consider an elimination diet, in addition to a wholesome diet, to improve yourself holistically.




Medical News Today – What is a food intolerance?

Medical News Today – Most common food intolerances

Celiac Community – Changes in nails

Diabetes Journal – Insulin and Weight Gain

Mayo Clinic – Acne and Diet