After switching to plant-based diet, patient's migraines ‘completely eliminated’

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  • A 60-year-old man conquered his migraines with a strictly plant-based diet.
  • The case was reported in BMJ Case Reports by his doctors.
  • Experts have, however, cautioned that larger studies are needed to confirm these results.

There’s nothing quite like a pounding migraine to ruin your day. According to a report published in BMJ Case Reports, a US man was suffering six to eight debilitating migraines a month, each lasting up to 72 hours. 

“Most days, I was either having a migraine or recovering from one,” said the patient, a 60-year-old photographer.

But when the doctors of the report recommended he follow a Low Inflammatory Foods Everyday (Life) diet, he soon felt an improvement.

In fact, just one month after being on the plant-based diet consisting of plenty of dark-green leafy vegetables, the man’s migraines disappeared. Moreover, he has not had a migraine in more than seven years. 

The authors  wrote: “Within two months, his headache frequency declined from 18 to 24 headache days per month to one, and he discontinued his preventive and abortive migraine medications. After three months, the patient had no headaches.”

Headache vs migraine

Migraines can affect several aspects of a person's life, including their work, education, and mental health. Statistics by the Migraine Research Foundation indicate that the illness affects a billion people worldwide.

While both a headache and migraine can be debilitating, the latter can be described as a more intense headache involving severe throbbing that is often accompanied by nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light and sound.

Numerous treatments

The patient had tried various therapies, including prescribed medication, yoga and meditation. He also removed potential trigger foods from his diet, such as chocolate, cheese, caffeine and nuts, in the hope of reducing the severity and frequency of his migraines, but nothing helped.

“I am a photographer, and migraines made my job almost impossible. Before I changed my diet, I was suffering six to eight debilitating migraines a month, each lasting up to 72 hours. Most days, I was either having a migraine or recovering from one,” he said.

The man explained that he was on preventative medication and would take another drug when he experienced symptoms. But even then, he would sometimes still end up experiencing severe headaches which left him “in bed in the foetal position”. 

Plant-based diet

His doctors finally advised a nutrient-dense, plant-based diet that included primarily dark green leafy vegetables, fruits, beans, oatmeal, and a daily green smoothie. 

Migraine is believed to be caused by a mixture of environmental and genetic factors, and although drugs are effective in treating it, mounting research suggests that diet also plays a critical role in lessening the effects or preventing this neurological disorder altogether.

“Dark green leafy vegetables are important sources of carotenoids (i.e. beta-carotene) that reduce systemic inflammation and oxidative stress, both of which are implicated in migraine aetiology,” the doctors explained.

'I have my life back'

The patient reported: “Now the migraine medications have expired ... I can’t even remember the last time I had a headache. I am no longer a prisoner in my own body. I have my life back.”

However, while a whole food plant-based diet may offer a safe and effective treatment for reversing chronic migraines, as the doctors wrote, experts have pointed out that further research is needed to validate the findings of the current study, especially because the report is based on a single case.

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READ | SEE: Do you have a headache or a migraine?

READ | Could acupuncture help prevent migraines?

READ | How migraine medication caused a rare 'medieval' disease

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