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The #1 Best Diet for Migraines, According to New Evidence

Consider adding kale to your shopping list.

It's no secret: Migraines can be pretty terrible. Though you may start to feel helpless when the pain hits, there are certain actions you can take to help manage your symptoms. For instance, certain fruits could spike your risk of migraine, while foods high in omega-3 fatty acids may decrease the frequency and intensity of these severe headaches.

Now, a case study of a 60-year-old man who suffered from chronic migraines for more than 12 years suggests that eating the plant-based, whole foods diet known as the LIFE (Low Inflammatory Foods Everyday) diet could play a key role in fighting chronic migraines.

The study, which was published in the journal BMJ Case Reports, revealed that after sticking to the diet, which is rich in nutrient-dense leafy greens among other plant-based whole foods, for two months, the patient went from experiencing headaches 18 to 24 days a month to one. The headaches disappeared after three months, and the migraines haven't recurred in more than seven years.

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"Using the LIFE diet . . . succeeded in reversing chronic migraines when other interventions had failed," study author David M. Dunaief, MD, said. "While the results are impressive, this is not a large prospective trial. Still, there is no downside to following the LIFE diet with medical oversight, since the side effects are better health."

For his part, the patient commented that, in addition to eliminating the painful headaches, the diet allowed him to shake his reliance on medications with heavy side effects and improved his asthma as an added bonus.

Still, while eating a plant-based whole foods diet has plenty of benefits for your health, a single case study is far from enough evidence to guarantee that switching to this diet would make your chronic migraines go away.

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"This is a case study of one person, and results vary greatly from one migraine sufferer to the next. I've had some patients who had migraines resolve from being on an anti-inflammatory elimination diet and others who felt little to no improvement," Michelle Babb, MS, RD, author of Mastering Mindful Eating, told Eat This, Not That! in an interview. "There's no downside to trying an anti-inflammatory diet and/or an elimination diet, but if the migraines are hormonally induced or the result of changes in barometric pressure, there may not be notable improvement from the LIFE diet alone."

Stating that the LIFE diet did not significantly reduce the patient's inflammation, Babb added that the study left her with "a lot of questions." However, Babb agreed that there are "a lot of reasons" to try an anti-inflammatory diet. Reducing inflammation can help keep you sharp, maintain your heart health, stave off arthritis, and even combat fatigue.

For more on fighting inflammation, be sure to learn about How to Lower Inflammation Starting Right Now, According to Nutritionists.

Clara Olshansky
Clara Olshansky (they/she) is a Brooklyn-based writer and comic whose web content has appeared in Food & Wine, Harper’s Magazine, Men's Health, and Reductress. Read more