We've long known about dietary triggers for migraines. Still, in a spot of good news, research suggests a link between dietary fiber and migraine attacks. A study published in Frontiers of Nutrition shows that lacking dietary fiber could contribute to migraines.
Unfortunately, most people take in less than the daily recommended volume of fiber, which could increase the frequency, severity, and duration of migraine attacks among the 18% of the global population who experience migraines.
Skipping meals and poor eating habits can drive migraine attack frequency and severity. If you find yourself constantly on the run and catching fast food for meals, you may need to find ways to introduce better dietary choices and stress relief.
Along with food triggers such as red wine, aged cheese, monosodium glutamate (MSG), and chocolate, the lack of fiber in your diet might be another entry in your migraine diary that points to a possible cause.
What Makes Up Dietary Fiber?
Dietary fiber is a form of carbohydrate that the body doesn’t digest or absorb. Instead, the carbohydrate polymers* enter the large intestine where your microbiota (your gut bacteria and other micro-organisms) ferments it - which explains why beans, a high-fiber food, create so much gas.
In a way, dietary fiber acts as a scrubber for your digestive system, helping clean the unused bits of food out of your system.
Dietary fiber is divided into four subgroups according to its chemical structure, physical and chemical characteristics, and degree of polymerization.
- Resistant oligosaccharides
- Non-starch polysaccharides
- Resistant starch
- Associated non-carbohydrate substances
The USDA requires food manufacturers and vendors to list the volume of total carbohydrates in each product, further broken down into dietary fiber, total sugars, and added sugars. The minimum daily requirement of fiber differs between men and women.
- Women should consume at least 25 grams of dietary fiber daily.
- Men should consume at least 38 grams of dietary fiber daily.
However, according to one survey, most Americans only average around 16 grams daily.
*Polymers are substances made up of multiple chains of the same or similar units bonded together.
The Fiber-Migraine Connection
A study of existing data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination survey found a significant association between fiber intake and migraine occurrence. As fiber intake increased, migraines and severe headaches decreased.
More specifically, the study showed that for every 10-gram increase in fiber intake, there was an 11% decrease in headache and migraine prevalence. The Global Burden of Disease consortium concludes that dietary shortcomings cause more deaths worldwide than any other non-communicable disease, including smoking. Statistically, dietary fiber intake is consistently reported as inadequate regardless of country, making fiber consumption an actionable lifestyle and dietary factor.
Other factors influencing migraine occurrence, duration, and intensity include genetic predisposition, the environment, alcohol, and stress.
High Fiber Foods
Due to educational outreach, most schoolchildren in the United States learn which foods are rich in fiber. You also hear it in commercials for products supposedly containing heart-healthy components.
Luckily, there is a long list of foods that can help you obtain the minimum daily fiber requirement, so you have a lot to choose from. Examples include:
- Chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
- Sunflower seeds
- Sweet potatoes
If you still have trouble consuming enough fiber, you can take a high-quality fiber supplement to enrich your diet.
What Else Can Fiber Do for You?
Dietary fiber provides a host of other benefits besides reducing the prevalence of migraines and severe headaches.
Putting more fiber into your diet helps you promote gut health. While it sounds gross, the state of your gut and how it breaks down the foods you eat play a large part in your overall physical and mental health. Also, fiber is bulky, taking up more room in your stomach and making you feel full, improving your feeling of satiety.
A high-fiber diet also improves digestion and immune function, balances blood sugar, and promotes healthy (and more comfortable) bowel movements. Fiber helps reduce cholesterol in your bloodstream, which increases heart health and function. Eating more fiber could reduce chronic diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Believe it or not, your gut health directly impa cts most of your body's systems, including your brain. Dietary fiber helps regulate your intestinal biome, which also affects your chances of developing central nervous system diseases such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, multiple sclerosis, and depression.
Other Dietary Choices That Reduce Migraines
When you eat all that fiber, you need to help your body wash it down with plenty of water. Not drinking enough water is often cited as a migraine trigger among sufferers. Most people suffer head pain when they are dehydrated. For a migraineur, dehydration can set off a migraine attack.
Supplements can help in some cases. Some migraineurs find magnesium and B vitamins helpful in staving off migraines. Certain types of diets might help others, such as a ketogenic diet or a low-fat diet.
Before starting any new diet or exercise regimen, consult your doctor to ensure you make the best choice for your body. Also, be flexible. You might not find the right combination for you right off the bat. Be open to experimentation — you might find foods you never knew you loved.
A wide-ranging study suggests eating more dietary fiber could reduce your chances of migraine attacks or their severity and duration. Most Americans eat less fiber than the USDA recommends, but adding more is easy in most cases. You have a long list of foods to choose from.
Even if you don’t find added fiber reducing your migraine symptoms, you still reap benefits for whole-body health. A diet rich in fiber helps reduce many other conditions that affect your quality of life.
If you suffer from migraines, contact the Migraine Relief Center. We would be happy to help you learn the potential triggers for your symptoms while living a healthier life.