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Can Arthritis Trigger Migraines?

One of the questions that I’ve had from clients is whether their arthritis might be triggering their migraines. I’m lucky that I don’t personally suffer from migraines but if you do, you’ll know how they negatively impact your quality of life. The pain, vision problems, nausea, etc. can be debilitating; especially if they stick around for hours or even days.

While the exact cause is not known, many foods and drinks are thought to be common triggers. And the pain from arthritis can be a trigger as well.

This post will cover how foods and lifestyle factors (including your arthritis pain) may be at the root of your migraines and what you can do to reduce your risks.

How Arthritis Can Be a Factor

Woman sitting on a table while touching her back in a medical room

If you experience arthritis symptoms in your back, it’s possible that it’s from bone spurs or lack of cartilage. These are issues that can radiate pain to the head triggering migraines.

In order to reduce your pain experience from arthritis, it’s essential to work on your symptoms from a few angles. Reducing inflammation and managing weight are 2 important areas to focus your efforts. Diet, gut health, stress management, and movement are all key factors and are good places to start.

Not sure where to begin? Feel free to book a complimentary strategy session with Bonnie here.

Foods and Drinks to Consider

One of the main ways foods and drinks trigger migraines is by their action on the blood vessels in the brain. When the brain’s blood vessels constrict and then dilate (widen), this seems to cause migraines. Also, certain foods can cause an inflammatory reaction in certain people worsening their arthritis symptoms, so that could be a mechanism as well.

It’s important to note that your symptoms may come on soon after you eat the food and other times it may be several hours or a day later. And not all of these will be a problem for everyone.

Assortment of dairy products on white background
  • Cheese – This food is on the list because it contains “tyramine” which is from an amino acid in the protein found in cheese. Other foods high in tyramine include those that are aged, cured, dried, smoked or pickled. These include sauerkraut and tofu.
  • Cured or processed meats – Things like hot dogs, lunch meats, and bacon are in this category; this is because of their nitrates and nitrites that can dilate those blood vessels in the brain. Even if these are not a trigger for you, it’s best to eliminate them from your diet because of other health issues they’re associated with like colon cancer.
  • Chocolate – The evidence is conflicting, as some studies show a link and others don’t. You may or may not be sensitive to chocolate’s effects on the brain; you have to eliminate it to find out.
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG) – often found in Chinese food and is a common migraine trigger. There is not a lot of research on this, but it’s something to consider eliminating from your diet to see if it makes a difference.
  • Alcohol – Red wine and beer seem to be the most common culprits. We’re not sure why, but it may be red wine’s compounds such as histamine, sulfites, or flavonoids.
  • Ice and ice-cold water – try not to eat or drink things that are too cold.
  • Artificial sweeteners (e.g. Aspartame) – in diet sodas and other processed foods. As with MSG, there is not a lot of research on its effects with migraines. But again, it is something to consider eliminating from your diet and see if that makes a difference.

Bottom Line

There are many triggers for migraines, and your arthritis symptoms may be one of them. The best way to know is by working with a practitioner and/or keeping a diet and lifestyle journal for a few weeks. Make note not only of the foods you’re eating but also your stresses, activities, and pain to see what connections you are able to make.

Do any of the above trigger migraines for you (or someone you care about)? Let me know in the comments below.

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If you would like to discuss how you can create the thoughts you need to support achieving your health goals, schedule a call with me now to discuss.

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“I believe that when we are empowered to take control of our health, we find the help we need to feel our best.”

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