Dietitian-Recommended Foods to Try When You're Recovering from a Migraine
From tasty treats like cherries to comforting drinks like peppermint tea, recovering from a migraine doesn't have to be miserable.
The head-spinning discomfort of a migraine can easily do a number on your appetite. But nutrition can play a huge role in managing your symptoms. You just need to know which foods can help ease migraine pain rather than exacerbate it.
ICYDK, certain foods can actually "trigger" migraine symptoms. "Many find a connection between what they eat and the onset of a migraine, or a greater susceptibility to a migraine starting, and additives or compounds in foods are often the culprits—things like MSG, artificial sweeteners, tannins in wine, nitrates in cured meats, tyramine in aged cheese, or excessive sodium," says Carolyn Williams, Ph.D., R.D., author of Meals That Heal: 100+ Everyday Anti-Inflammatory Recipes in 30 Minutes or Less.
The good news? Just as certain foods can set off migraine pain, others can help you recover. Here are some foods to try the next time you're coming out of a migraine.
Water, Water, Water
"Stay adequately hydrated, or catch up on hydration if needed, since dehydration can lead to migraines or make them worse," explains Williams. (Here are the hydration tips every fit girl needs.)
In addition to drinking lots of water, eat hydrating foods when you can, such as watermelon or pineapple, suggests Sara Crystal, M.D., neurologist, headache specialist, and medical advisor for Cove, a service providing FDA-approved headache and migraine pain treatments.
If your appetite allows for it, homemade chicken vegetable soup is another hydrating, more nourishing option, says Ilana Muhlstein, R.D.
This tart fruit isn't just a pretty garnish for Shirley Temples. Williams says cherries are "definitely worth a try" when you're coming out of a migraine.
"The reason is that they have anti-inflammatory compounds whose effects in the body can be similar to the pain-relieving effects that ibuprofen has for some," she explains.
Sipping tea after a brutal migraine can be comforting in and of itself. But Muhlstein is a big proponent of ginger tea, specifically. "Ginger can help improve a variety of migraine-related symptoms, including motion sickness, nausea, and loss of appetite," she explains, adding that it also helps to keep you hydrated.
Not a fan of ginger? "Peppermint is another herbal remedy that can help reduce pain and migraine-induced nausea when ingested, as well as when applied topically," adds Will Cole, I.F.M.C.P., D.C., functional medicine expert, author of Ketotarian and the upcoming book The Inflammation Spectrum, and REBBL collective member.
Whole, Minimally-Processed Foods
Migraines can sometimes be triggered by additives like chemicals, colorings, and preservatives, which are typically found in processed foods, says Williams. So when you're recovering from a migraine, it's best to stick to whole, unprocessed (or at least minimally-processed) foods, such as fish, grains like rice and quinoa, and fresh vegetables like steamed broccoli, suggests nutritional therapy practitioner, Caitlin Crowell.
"Pick foods without strong odors (dry crackers, toast, baked potato, etc.)," adds Stephanie Ferrari, M.S., R.D.N. "These foods will help you get over nausea that could be caused by the migraine."
BTW, this doesn't mean you have to make everything from scratch, says Williams. Just be aware of a food's ingredients list. "Shorter, simpler lists are better," she explains. "One trick that I use is to look at a list to see if the ingredients in the product are similar to what I might use if I were making the food at home." (Here's the ultimate guide to clean eating.)
Sometimes a lack of certain nutrients in your diet, particularly magnesium, can play a role in migraines, says Williams.
"Magnesium works to relax blood vessels in the brain," explains NavNirat Nibber, N.D., medical advisor at Advanced Orthomolecular Research. She recommends eating foods like bananas and leafy greens when recovering from a migraine. (Here are the benefits of magnesium and how to get more of it in your diet.)
The Bottom Line
While experts recommend the above foods for migraine recovery, remember that triggers and symptoms "vary greatly from person to person," says Dr. Crystal. Be sure to consult with your doctor about which foods are best for your body.