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Foods and Supplements in the Management of Migraine Headaches

Sun-Edelstein, Christina MD*; Mauskop, Alexander MD* †

The Clinical Journal of Pain: June 2009 - Volume 25 - Issue 5 - p 446-452
doi: 10.1097/AJP.0b013e31819a6f65
Review Article

Objective Although a wide range of acute and preventative medications are now available for the treatment of migraine headaches, many patients will not have a significant improvement in the frequency and severity of their headaches unless lifestyle modifications are made. Also, given the myriad side effects of traditional prescription medications, there is an increasing demand for “natural” treatment like vitamins and supplements for common ailments such as headaches. Here, we discuss the role of food triggers in the management of migraines, and review the evidence for supplements in migraine treatment.

Methods A review of the English language literature on preclinical and clinical studies of any type on food triggers, vitamins, supplements, and migraine headaches was conducted.

Results A detailed nutritional history is helpful in identifying food triggers. Although the data surrounding the role of certain foods and substances in triggering headaches is controversial, certain subsets of patients may be sensitive to phenylethylamine, tyramine, aspartame, monosodium glutamate, nitrates, nitrites, alcohol, and caffeine. The available evidence for the efficacy of certain vitamins and supplements in preventing migraines supports the use of these agents in the migraine treatment.

Conclusions The identification of food triggers, with the help of food diaries, is an inexpensive way to reduce migraine headaches. We also recommend the use of the following supplements in the preventative treatment of migraines, in decreasing order of preference: magnesium, Petasites hybridus, feverfew, coenzyme Q10, riboflavin, and alpha lipoic acid.

*The New York Headache Center

SUNY Downstate Medical Center, New York, NY

Reprints: Christina Sun-Edelstein, MD, The New York Headache Center, New York, NY 10021 (e-mail:

Received for publication September 8, 2008; revised October 27, 2008; accepted November 1, 2008

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.