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One message that I receive fairly often on The Dizzy Cook goes something like this – Hello, I’ve been on the Heal Your Headache diet about 2 weeks and I’m not feeling better. Why is my migraine diet not working? If anything, I feel worse. Should I stop? Can you help?!
It seems crazy to me that anyone would expect huge changes just two weeks in, but I forget that I used to be one of them.
I was about a month or two into the Heal Your Headache diet when I felt frustrated with it as I wasn’t really seeing any noticeable relief. It was difficult to always have to cook at home, especially when I felt like garbage, and the list of triggers were still incredibly overwhelming. I missed my morning caffeine and yogurt, I missed guacamole, and I really missed all the nuts I used for milk and snacks. One night I just decided the whole thing was stupid and didn’t seem to be making a difference. That night I tried yogurt (tzatziki sauce specifically) with a lamb dish I used to make quite often. Within the hour, I had a severe vertigo attack. It was then that I decided maybe there was something to this diet and I should probably stick with it a little bit longer.
However I understand putting all your effort into something and being frustrated when you don’t receive immediate results. I’m here to share the top five reasons why your particular migraine diet might not be working.
While Migraine Strong writes about the latest in migraine treatments, this is not medical advice. We are patient educators and all information you read should be discussed with your doctor.
1. You’re not fully committed
This is a reason I see fairly often. People think this or that food won’t bother them, after all, they ate it all the time before and didn’t notice any issues (this was me with nuts and yogurt). They continue to make excuses to keep certain items around because it would be too difficult to give up. Or perhaps they don’t want to spend a lot of time in the grocery store reading labels. If you find yourself making excuses often because you’re too tired, too busy, or have too many events, you may be sabotaging your own progress. Think of it this way, if you go to the gym everyday for two weeks but spend most of the time on a recumbent bike texting your friends, do you really expect to have a six pack at the end of it? I would hope not…but wouldn’t that be wonderful!
2. Hidden triggers
Let’s say you’ve been 100% committed with no cheating at all…or not that you know of. Many times sneaky ingredients or not reviewing the approved/not approved lists regularly can mean you’re missing something. Do you check all your labels for hidden MSG? This was a mistake I made in the beginning of my journey when I added Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides to all my HYH Smoothies. Although the ingredients seemed fine, when I really read the back label I noticed it was incredibly high in glutamate. Here’s a helpful table that you can save to your phone to double check for items high in glutamate when you grocery shop.
Another issue could be that an ingredient which is allowed in certain cases, like tomatoes or mushrooms, but tend to be a problem for those who are extremely sensitive to glutamate. Perhaps you find that shellfish and spinach trigger you, which could point to a histamine sensitivity. Some people have sensitivity to eggs on their own, but do ok with them baked into dishes. Don’t feel as though you have to eliminate everything right away, just be more aware of any connections you can make if you’re still having attacks after eating certain items.
3. Not enough time
As hard as I tried to get my six pack abs in two weeks before my trip to Vegas, I can assure you that I failed miserably. The same can be said for a migraine diet. It can take a while to calm down our super sensitive systems. And although many resources tell us we should feel a difference within four months, the more I speak with other people who have been through this, the more I realize that there can be such a huge range for noticing results. I’ve had people tell me they felt a huge difference within three weeks! I was not one of those people and it was incredibly frustrating to wonder why it was taking me so long. For me, I truly didn’t see huge progress until somewhere between four and six months. At about that time, I started to slowly reintroduce foods.
4. Support is lacking in other areas
There is no single cure for this neurological illness and that definitely includes diet. Here at Migraine Strong we talk about a multimodal approach called The Treatment Pie. All of these slices work together to raise your overall threshold for migraine attacks. So if you’re just concentrating really hard on one area, like diet, but neglecting your sleep schedule, unable to control your stress levels, or not incorporating medication when it is necessary, you could be hindering your progress.
I totally believe many people can keep their migraine attacks under control by using natural treatments as that’s how I’m functioning currently. However, when I was in my 24/7 chronic cycle, I’m not sure if I would have ever been able to break that cycle with diet and evidence-based supplements alone. Still, there are many people who can’t take medications for various reasons. For me personally, and for many women, it’s for trying to conceive. In that case, you really have to hit the other natural treatments as hard as you can.
5. This isn’t the diet you’re looking for
If you know, deep down, that you gave it your best shot and you stayed on a certain diet for at least four to six months with zero results while hitting all the other areas of the Treatment Pie really hard, it could be time to consider switching to another diet. The three we find most useful are low tyramine/Heal Your Headache, the Charleston diet, which is a little more strict, and the Keto diet.
I have had many friends who had little to no success with HYH that ended up transitioning to Keto and loved it. Part of the benefits of starting with HYH and switching to Keto is that you can possibly point out some personal triggers to eliminate before you begin. Since items like nuts and avocados are a heavy staples on Keto, if you find they may be a trigger for you on HYH, you can know to eliminate those going forward. This is a great beginners guide to keto for migraine.
Other factors that could be an issue are sensitivities and allergies to certain foods. Perhaps you have a gluten or dairy sensitivity or, as we talked about above, you could have a histamine intolerance.
With so many variables, it’s important to note that you shouldn’t give up searching for something that may help you. Because eventually you’ll figure this out and the relief you feel will be worth the months of effort you put into to discovering what works best for your body. If you need a little extra help, check out our closed Migraine Strong Facebook group for some support.
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