Tips for Avoiding Food Triggers During Summer

Summer can be a tricky season for those managing a migraine disorder. Not only are you trying to stay cool and hydrated, but there’s also so many fun holidays that usually involve lots of potluck pitfalls. So how can we continue to enjoy ourselves and live life to the fullest without triggering symptoms? Here are some tips that may help.

Common Summer Food Triggers

While not everyone is triggered by food, there are some common ones that tend to bother many people with migraine. Generally these fall into a few categories – foods that are byproducts of aging or fermentation, foods that contain a lot of additives, like MSG, and foods which patients may have individual sensitivities or allergies. 

Some potential trigger foods that are common during summer months are:

  • Hot dogs, bacon, and sausage with additives or flavorings
  • Raw chicken that has been injected with “Natural Flavor” or MSG
  • Pre-marinated meat
  • Pre-made sauces like BBQ sauce, which also contain high amounts of sugar
  • Aged or fermented dairy products like cheddar and buttermilk
  • Beverages with lots of sugar, caffeine, or aspartame like Mountain Dew, certain sodas, or lemonade
  • Fermented or pickled items
  • Apple cider vinegar or any aged vinegar other than distilled white vinegar
  • Chips with flavorings
  • Certain citrus fruits like lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruit as well as pineapple
  • Alcohol – beer, wine, and dark liquors in particular

The best way to figure out if these could be a trigger for you personally is through an elimination diet, but if you’re not quite sure what yours are yet it could be helpful to avoid all of them for now.

We know that individual migraine triggers can stack on themselves, eventually reaching our threshold where we experience an attack. If you’re eating some of these items at a BBQ while subjecting yourself to heat, lots of activity and conversation, it could be enough to push you over that threshold. Most often we like to blame food, but really it could be just one part of the big picture. 

Safe Foods

The good news is there are still tons of great foods you can enjoy freely this summer that are also considered migraine-friendly. Some of them involve getting a little more creative in the kitchen, but since we’re all spending more time at home, it’s a great chance to reconnect with your inner chef or grill master. A few of my favorites are:

Tips for Cookouts

Backyard cookouts are on the rise as temperatures start to increase, but navigating a potluck may be difficult when you can’t exactly ask every person what’s in each dish. 

If I’m visiting with a close friend or family, I’ll typically send them recipes that also fit my diet. This is so much easier than sending them a list of all the things you can’t have, as they’ll probably just end up overwhelmed and frustrated. If they’re grilling, just ask them to leave any seasonings off your burger or chicken and to just use salt and pepper. This way you can add your own toppings as you’d like. 

Another tip is to bring a few different foods you can eat. If you don’t feel like spending the whole day cooking, a fresh cheese board with cut vegetables and fruit are an easy way to make sure you have at least something that fits your diet. Boursin cheese, goat cheese topped with honey and fresh thyme leaves, little mozzarella balls, and cubed American cheese are some of my favorites. I’ll add sliced cucumbers, baby carrots, lots of berries, toasted sunflower seeds, and water crackers with minimal ingredients to round it out. 

Staying hydrated is essential, and often we can feel frustrated if we’re just carrying boring old water around. However, there are a few alternatives if alcohol is a trigger for you. Seedlip makes non-alcoholic gin that can be mixed with tonic, cucumber, and a few herbs for a great mocktail. Also any fruit juices mixed with sparkling water can be a wonderful and refreshing treat. A few of my favorites are muddled strawberries with mint topped with sparkling water, pear juice and sparkling water garnished with a rosemary spring, and pomegranate juice, sparkling water, and sliced jalapeños for a sweet and spicy faux-margarita. 

Need a sweet treat? Fruit cobblers and crumbles are so incredibly easy to make low sugar and migraine-friendly. Top with an additive-free vanilla ice cream, like Haagen Dazs, and it’s the perfect way to end a summer meal. If you’re missing out on chocolate, try gooey white chocolate blondies or cereal bars instead.

 

Enjoying Yourself Despite Migraine

Migraine can often rob us of the pleasure of attending events, spending time with friends and family, and enjoying foods freely without worry. But shifting our focus to all the wonderful foods that won’t trigger an attack can open more doors for creative cooking and more symptom-free days. Overall, eating additive-free in the long run can only be a good thing for both your Migraine disorder and for your overall health.


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MEET THE AUTHOR


Alicia Wolf is the Owner of The Dizzy Cook, a diet and lifestyle website for anyone with Migraine, an Ambassador for the Vestibular Disorder Association, an American Migraine Foundation Partner, and a Patient Advocate Board Member for Miles for Migraine. After struggling with chronic Vestibular Migraine, she realized there weren’t many upbeat resources for people following a Migraine diet so she created thedizzycook.com. Her new cookbook The Dizzy Cook: Managing Migraine with More Than 90 Comforting Recipes and Lifestyle Tips is available almost everywhere books are sold. 

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