The Four-Day Migraine

The Four-Day Migraine

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Wednesday began the four-day migraine. Sadly, I triggered it myself. “How,” you ask? I forgot to eat and I got dehydrated.

How Does One Forget to Eat?

I got busy. Having spent the day working on my blog and some training, I kept thinking, “I’ll eat when I finish this.”

Famous last words.

It’s something I do, this forgetting to eat thing. Every time, it triggers a migraine. The difference is this one went rogue and I was down for four days.


It’s a Life Long Kind of Thing

Forgetting to eat worked for me when I was younger. I still would get headaches and migraines, but they would go away when I got some protein and caffeine in me.

Somewhere around 40, that stopped working. Forgetting to eat would take me out for the day.

Now, you’d think that would be an incentive to not forget. My brain doesn’t work that way. Thus, the four-day migraine appears and takes me down.

I tend to get so wrapped up in what I’m doing, I simply forget. It began in childhood.

I was first diagnosed with migraines at age 13. The doctors decided, based on my history, that I experienced my first one at age 8. Sadly, it has taken a lifetime to put my symptoms together.

I Didn’t Eat a Lot as a Child

I don’t know why. Maybe because we were poor and portions were always rationed. Maybe because the mother was always on a diet and we were very conscious of no gaining weight. Whatever the reason, I always had small portions.

As a teen I got in the habit of skipping breakfast. Lunch was often a Diet Pepsi, tub of yogurt, and sometimes a candy bar or bag of pretzels. Not a lot of food.

Amusingly, or sadly, I’m not sure which, the more money I made, the more I ate. Better food, tastier food, things I never had before. In my adult life, I grew to LOVE food. That’s now a problem on so many levels, but that’s another story!

The Four-Day Migraine and how it feels
This pretty much sums up how a four-day migraine feels.

Migraines and Food?

Absolutely! Food triggers for me include:

  • processed sugar
  • dairy
  • some brands of white bread
  • deli meats high in nitrates
  • high fructose corn syrup
  • aspartame
  • sandwiches from two popular, nationwide fast sandwich chains
  • bananas
  • highly processed gluten type products

If you notice, there is a pattern. Highly processed, fake foods are the biggest triggers for me. Fortunately, none of these contributed to the four-day migraine this time around.

The more processed a food item is, the less it is actual food.

List of Food Migraine Triggers

According to the Cleveland Clinic, the following are some of the more common triggers (I’ve bolded those that impact me):

Red wine and cheese, two of my migraine triggers. Image by Daria-Yakovleva Дарья Яковлева from
Red wine and cheese, oh how I love them! Oh how they don’t love me.
  • Aged cheese (blue cheese, brie, cheddar, English stilton, feta, gorgonzola, mozzarella, muenster, parmesan, swiss)
  • Alcohol (red wine, beer, whiskey, Scotch, and champagne are the most commonly identified headache triggers)
  • Peanuts, peanut butter, almonds, and other nuts and seeds
  • Pizza or other tomato-based products
  • Potato chip products
  • Chicken livers and other organ meats, pate
  • Smoked or dried fish
  • Pickled foods (pickles, olives, sauerkraut)
  • Sourdough bread, fresh baked yeast goods (donuts, cakes, homemade breads, and rolls)
  • Brewer’s yeast found in natural supplements
  • Bread, crackers, and desserts containing cheese
  • Most beans including lima, Italian, pole, broad, fava, navy, pinto, snow peas, garbanzo, lentils, and dried beans and peas
  • Onions, garlic
  • Avocados
  • Certain fresh fruits, including ripe bananas, citrus fruits, papaya, red plums, raspberries, kiwi, and pineapple
  • Dried fruits (figs, raisins, dates)
  • Soups made from meat extracts or bouillon (not homemade broth or bouillon cubes that do not have MSG or “all natural preservatives” on the label)
  • Canned soups
  • Cultured dairy products, sour cream, buttermilk, yogurt
  • Chocolate
  • Caffeinated beverages, including coffee, tea and colas
  • Aspartame and other artificial sweeteners
  • Nitrate/nitrite-containing meats including hot dogs, sausage, bacon, lunchmeats/deli meats, pepperoni, other cured or processed meats
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG) containing products including soy sauce, meat tenderizer, Asian foods, and a variety of packaged foods. MSG is an often disguised ingredient; also look for these common aliases: monopotassium glutamate, autolysed yeast, hydrolysed protein, sodium caseinate

Read more from the Cleveland Clinic about migraines and food.

How Common are Food Triggered Migraines?

Some say food contributes about 20% to the triggering of a headache. I know for me that many of the items on the Cleveland Clinic’s list are a problem for me.

There are a few exceptions. Sour cream doesn’t bother me. Good quality dry salami goes down very easily. Basically, the things that trigger me are, for the most part, highly processed.

Dairy is an Inflammatory Which Contributes to Migraines

You read that right. If you suffer from any kind of swelling or inflammation, ditch the dairy. For me, it’s a double-whammy. My sinuses go nuts, inflammation increases and I get a headache within 20-minutes of eating it. Cheese is my poison of choice. I do miss eating good cheese…

How Did All This Lead to the Four-Day Migraine?

This time it was a lack of food and dehydration. I can’t blame cheese or any of my other triggers. I just didn’t properly nourish myself.

It’s a catch 22. I have a headache from not eating or drinking enough, and I can’t stomach eating or drinking. Sleeping it off is usually the only option I have on day one. That’s what I did. Day two, I ate a bit more. On the third day, I tried to eat more, and the fourth day brought my appetite back.

I did have a migraine hangover. That’s almost as bad as the migraine itself! It’s total exhaustion and feeling like you’re stumbling around in the fog. I had to go back to work, so I did that with a two-day migraine hangover.

Lesson learned. Eat and drink good, healthy, wholesome food…and do it often!

Learn more about my road to healthier living.