Man, 67, cured migraines by switching to vegetable diet
A man who suffered from debilitating 72-hour migraines for more than a decade claims he was cured after switching to a diet rich in vegetables.
The unnamed 67-year-old American man suffered from painful headaches for 12.5 years and had tried everything from drugs to cutting out certain foods and yoga in his quest to put an end to them.
But a prescription diet full of nutrient-rich dark green leafy vegetables such as kale, watercress and spinach cured the man’s condition in just three months.
The man, who was 60 years old when he first started the diet in 2012, has now been migraine-free for just over seven years.
Doctors, who described the case in detail BMJ Case Reports, attributed its improved fitness to the high levels of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant nutrients in the leafy green vegetables.
A diet full of nutrient-rich foods in dark leafy green vegetables has the merit of curing a man who often suffered from debilitating 72-hour migraines
“Given the central role that a proinflammatory and oxidative state play in the pathophysiology of migraine, it is likely that this patient achieved relief and reversal of his chronic migraine by increasing his consumption of phytonutrients,” they said.
Before starting the plant-based diet, called Low Inflammatory Foods Everyday (LIFE), the man had chronic migraines, where the painful headaches lasted up to 72 hours on 18 to 24 days of each month.
When asked to rate the migraines on a pain scale of 10, the man ranked them between 10 and 12.
But just two months after increasing his daily vegetable intake, the migraines subsided to just once a month before completely disappearing into the diet for three months.
What is a migraine?
A migraine is usually a moderate or severe headache that is felt as a throbbing pain on one side of the head.
It is a common health condition that affects about one in five women and about one in 15 men. They usually start in early adulthood.
There are different types of migraines, some have warning signs like flashing lights in sight, some don’t.
Some people have migraines frequently, up to several times a week, while others may have years between attacks.
You should see a GP if you have frequent or severe migraine symptoms, classified by the NHS as more than five days a month.
The exact cause of migraines is unknown, but they are thought to result from temporary changes in the chemicals, nerves, and blood vessels in the brain.
Some patients know that certain triggers, such as certain foods or drinks or stress, can cause or increase the risk of migraines.
The NHS says there is no cure for migraines, although certain medications and behavioral changes can reduce the symptoms or frequency of attacks.
By describing his experience in the report, the man could not underestimate the difference it had made in his life compared to his previous regimen of taking anti-migraine drugs.
“Most days I either had migraines or recovered from them,” he wrote.
“If I missed the 15-30 minute medication window, the migraines would be a 12 out of 10 and I could end up in bed in fetal position. I was desperate.’
The man, who works as a photographer, said the diet changed his life.
“I can’t even remember the last time I had a headache. I am no longer a prisoner in my own body. I have my life back,” he wrote.
The LIFE diet includes eating at least 140 g of raw or cooked dark green leafy vegetables per day, drinking one liter of a daily green smoothie and limiting intake of whole grains, starchy vegetables, oils and animal proteins, especially dairy and red meat.
Dark green leafy vegetables are important general sources of carotenoids, such as beta-carotene, which are phytonutrients proven to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress
Before he went on a diet, blood tests showed that the man had a normal level of beta-carotene, a red-orange component found in many fruits and vegetables, 53 µg/dl.
After one month on the LIFE diet, this rose to 92 µg/dl and then increased to 150 µg/dl for the next seven and a half years.
Phytonutrients are natural compounds found in plant foods that have been linked to various health benefits.
One of the authors of the case report, Dr. David Dunaief of New York, said that while their report described only one case, it highlighted the potential benefits of a plant-based diet for people suffering from chronic migraines.
“While this report describes a very committed patient who had a remarkable response, the LIFE diet reduced migraine frequency in several other patients within 3 months,” he said.
“Prospective studies on the effects of the LIFE diet and other WFPB diets on patients suffering from migraine are warranted.”
A limitation of the study is that the man was HIV positive and it is unknown how his HIV status and the antiretroviral drugs he was taking contributed to his symptoms.
The authors said more than 1 billion people worldwide have migraines, characterized as a one-sided, pulsating headache that lasts four to two hours, often accompanied by sensitivity to sound and light.
Migraines are classified as episodic, less than 15 days per month, or chronic, which is 15 or more migraine days per month and has them on at least eight days per month.
The NHS says that about one in five women and about one in 15 men suffer from migraine attacks.
What causes migraines is unknown, but they are thought to result from temporary changes in the chemicals, nerves and blood vessels in the brain.
The NHS advises that there is no cure for migraines, although medications and behavioral changes to avoid certain triggers such as certain foods/drinks and stress can reduce the symptoms or frequency of attacks.
WHAT SHOULD A BALANCED DIET LOOK LIKE?
Meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally whole grains, according to the NHS
• Eat at least 5 servings of different fruits and vegetables every day. All fresh, frozen, dried and canned fruits and vegetables count
• Basic meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, preferably whole wheat
• 30 grams of fiber per day: This is equivalent to eating all of the following: 5 servings of fruits and vegetables, 2 whole-grain cereal biscuits, 2 thick slices of whole-wheat bread, and large baked potato with skin
• Have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soy drinks) and opt for low-fat and low-sugar options
• Eat some beans, legumes, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins (including 2 servings of fish per week, one of which is fatty)
• Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and consume in small amounts
• Drink 6-8 cups/glasses of water a day
• Adults should have less than 6 g of salt and 20 g of saturated fat for women or 30 g for men per day
Source: NHS Eatwell Guide