Eating a plant-based diet may have the potential to “completely eliminate” chronic migraines, a study has suggested.
Doctors in the US reported a case of a 60-year-old man who, after switching to a plant-based diets rich in dark green leafy vegetables, discovered that his chronic migraines disappeared within three months.
The man, who “struggled with frequent migraines” for 12 and a half years, was advised to follow a Low Inflammatory Foods Everyday (LIFE) diet, which involves eating foods such as spinach, kale, Swiss chard, rocket, as well as whole grains and healthy fats like olive oil.
Migraines affect more than a billion people worldwide and are characterised as “unilateral and pulsating headaches” that can last anywhere between four to 72 hours.
The debilitating headaches are often accompanied by sensitivity to light and sound, and some people experience pre-migraine “auras”.
The authors of the study said that within two months, the frequency of the man’s migraines declined from 18 to 24 headaches per month to just one and he was able to stop taking migraine medications.
After three months, he found that he had no migraines. According to the study, these results “far exceed the goal of migraine treatment with medication”, which aim to reduce migraine frequency by more than 50 per cent per month.
The doctors also found that the results withstood the test of time, as the patient continued his plant-based diet and has been migraine-free for more than seven years now.
“To our knowledge, this study reports the longest successful treatment of chronic migraine attained with only dietary intervention published to date,” wrote the authors.
Prior to being prescribed the LIFE diet, the man tried daily migraine medication, elimination diets, meditation and yoga.
The case was reported in the journal BMJ Case Reports by Dr Brittany Marie Perzia from Stony Brook University Health Sciences Centre School of Medicine, Dr Joshua L Dunaief of the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, and Dr David M Dunaief, from a private practice in New York.
The patient, whose identity was not disclosed, wrote in the report that the chronic migraines made his job as a photographer “almost impossible” to do.
“Before I changed my diet, I was suffering six to eight debilitating migraines a month, each lasting up to 72 hours,” he said.
“Most days, I was either having a migraine or recovering from one.”
He said that, in the first month of starting the nutrient-dense, plant-based diet, he was able to stop taking both types of migraine medications he had previously been taking regularly.
“I can’t even remember the last time I had a headache,” he continued. “I am no longer a prisoner in my own body. I have my life back.”
The man said he also saw his asthma “improve dramatically” since he changed his diet and was also able to get off his cholesterol medication.
The authors called for further studies on the effects of whole food plant-based diets on patients suffering from migraines, as this case suggests that such diets “may offer a safe, effective and permanent treatment for reversing chronic migraine”.