Diet, Exercise, and Migraine Headaches

We’ve been hearing for years that proper diet and exercise will make us feel better with tremendous health benefits. Now, for migraine sufferers, this advice may resonate a little more as researchers are pointing to the foods we eat and the amount of exercise we get as potential triggers for the debilitating pain.

Hardly anyone can argue that it’s not beneficial to eat a well-balanced diet of fruits and vegetables, avoid fatty, processed foods and get plenty of physical exercise every day. The overall health benefits are indisputable. However, what many people may not have realized is that there is a link between healthy habits and migraine pain. While the migraine may not be eliminated altogether, certain lifestyle changes may lessen and control triggers.


For those who suffer from frequent migraines, “trigger” is a familiar word. We have been told that there are certain food triggers that may precede migraine pain. Some of the more familiar triggers include alcohol and foods that contain tyramine, sodium nitrate or phenylalanine. Some examples of these foods include chocolate, processed meats, peanut butter and certain aged cheeses. In addition to the specific items, a diet high in fat and low in fruits and vegetables can also have a negative effect. For instance, fasting or dehydration can make migraine pain worse or increase frequency.


Exercise for migraine relief has been met with mixed reviews. For some unfortunate people, exercise is actually a trigger for migraine pain, making it extremely difficult to incorporate physical fitness into a daily health care routine. However, for others, exercise may decrease severity or frequency of migraine pain, providing major incentives to stay in shape.

While it may be difficult to determine if exercise is a trigger for your migraine pain, at the very least, finding out can reduce stress, improve mood and even loosen tense, tight muscles. Generally, there are more positive benefits to regular exercise than negative. Even thirty minutes of moderate exercise per day can potentially reduce migraine pain. Begin slowly by taking a walk or biking for short durations of time. If you are unaffected, increase your intensity and frequency.

Yoga as a Benefit

Many people have benefitted from the relaxing technique of yoga. As a spiritual form of exercise, yoga has a positive effect on emotional stress, which has been associated with migraine, even linked as a potential trigger. From a scientific perspective, yoga is calming and helps release tension that builds up over time. The chemicals released when the body is under stress may cause blood vessels in the brain to dilate and create pressure, which can trigger a migraine. Breathing and meditation techniques common with yoga can reduce stress, which can ultimately reduce migraine.

Research is inconclusive as to the effects of diet and exercise on migraine pain. However, for anyone who has ever dealt with the debilitating pain associated with this type of ailment, it’s definitely worth giving it a try. Besides, what are the side effects of watching your diet and exercising more- a smaller waistline? Few will complain about that.

For more information on ways to reduce or manage migraine pain, see