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20% of Australians suffer from migraines

Nearly one in five of us will suffer from debilitating, crippling headaches that impact upon our holistic health levels. But there are simple dietary hacks we can utilise to not only stave off such headaches but also improve our overall wellbeing.

According to Headache Australia, 20 per cent suffer from migraines at some stage of their lives, accounting for nearly five million people across the country. Further, 15 per cent of us are taking pain-relieving medication for headaches at any given time.

Nourish Naturally dietitian and nutritionist Rebecca Gawthorne told Wellness Daily that many Australians suffer with headaches and migraines because of “common modern-day lifestyle factors”, like a fast-paced work environment, high stress levels, long work hours, lack of physical activity and poor dietary choices.

“A lot of Aussies are tackling headaches and migraines with pain-relieving medication without also addressing one of the root causes of the problem – our diet,” she explained.

“Many don’t realise the negative impact that certain foods or chemicals in foods can have on our body and are unaware of the role our lifestyle plays in headache and migraine triggers. Instead of taking preventative measures against headaches, we are reactive, and that’s not solving the problem.”

Individuals will benefit, she continued, from being proactive about management of their bodies, in that they will see positive improvements to holistic health.

“Improving your diet for the purpose of preventing headaches and migraines can create a butterfly effect. For example, staying hydrated will not only stop your brain from shrinking which can cause headaches, but you will feel less fatigued, be in a better mood and is also essential in helping your organs remove toxins from your body,” she advised.

“When you take a proactive stance on your health maintenance, you’ll notice how it positively impacts your body in so many other different ways!”

In order to achieve this, Ms Gawthorne identified six “simple dietary hacks” to reduce our chances of getting such debilitating headaches:

Hydrate yourself

“Dehydration causes your brain to pull away from your skull – yes, seriously! The Better Health Channel recommends women to drink eight cups of water per day and men to drink 10 cups. Now you know why!”

Fresh is best

“Migraine triggers have been linked to the consumption of added food preservatives like MSG, nitrates and aspartame, some of which can dilate blood vessels and in turn trigger those pesky headaches,” she advised.

Avoid this by keeping the “freshness” in your diet with vegetables, fruit, whole grains and lean proteins, she suggested.

“Avoid overly processed foods and check the labels for preservatives. Your body will appreciate what you put in!”

Get off the sugar high

Sugar binges or a high-sugar diet cause your blood sugar level to jump and crash, affecting the constant flow of glucose to your brain that it needs to function, which can in turn lead to headaches, she mused.

“Swap out sugar-dense foods like soft drinks for sugar-free options, such as water, or if you’re after some flavour, try Nexba’s Soft Drinks that have no sugar and nothing artificial. I also love to recreate my favourite treats with no/less sugar. There’s great natural sugar replacements out there, such as raw honey and coconut sugar.”

Don’t go hungry

“Hunger causes your muscles to tighten and leaves your body in tension, which can cause headaches. We are all busy, but it’s key to eat regular meals and snacks. If you know you will be going a while between meals, choose fibre-rich foods like whole grains, veggies, fruit and legumes to keep you feeling fuller for longer.”

Feed your gut

A recent study has shown that probiotics play a role in positively reducing migraines, Ms Gawthorne identified.

“The gut is closely connected with the brain, so consuming probiotic-rich foods like yogurt, miso or Kombucha can help maintain a healthy balance of gut bacteria and reduce headaches. I am loving the Nexba Kombucha range right now as it’s sugar and artificial free and uses a special type of probiotic, which is 30 per cent more likely to reach the gut.”

You are unique!

Everyone is different and you need to be aware of your own food triggers that may affect your migraines, she concluded.

“Listen to your body and try to correlate certain sensations to particular foods and avoid if possible. If you suffer from ongoing headaches, keep a food diary and jot down your headaches too – you may notice a pattern!”