- A scientific article described a man afflicted with migraines who abruptly disappeared.
- The 60-year-old stopped having debilitating headaches after switching diets, it said.
- He has been migraine free for seven years. Doctors have a theory for why.
A 60-year-old man suffering from 12 years of severe migraines stopped experiencing them within three months after switching to a diet rich in leafy greens.
The patient, who had severe migraines for over 12 years, has been headache-free for over seven years, according to a case study published Thursday by BMJ Case Reports.
The authors of the study said the man exhibited the longest documented case of a chronic migraine that was resolved after a change in diet.
Based on just one case study, it is impossible to conclude that a change in diet can cure chronic migraine. There were also other factors that could have influenced this patient’s symptoms, including that he was HIV positive.
Patients sometimes track “trigger” foods to try to minimize the intensity of headaches. But so far, there is no conclusive link between migraines and certain foods, according to the Migraine Research Foundation.
The patient, who was unnamed, had more frequent migraines in the six months up to a clinic visit, according to the study. He reported having six to eight migraines a month.
In a brief testimony included in the case report, he said the migraine was “disabling”, with some lasting up to 72 hours.
The migraine would get so bad that he “could end up in bed in the fetal position,” he said. When the migraine did not come, he spent days recovering, making his job as a photographer “almost impossible,” he said.
After the migraine stopped, he said, “I am no longer a prisoner in my own body. I have my life left.”
The patient was advised to follow these recommendations:
- Eat at least five ounces of raw or cooked dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale and watercress every day.
- drink a 32-ounce daily green smoothie daily.
- limit the intake of whole grains, starchy vegetables, oils and animal protein, especially dairy products and red meat.
Although the researchers did not have the ability to check whether he was following the diet to the letter, the patient kept a food diary.
After the shift, the patient even stopped taking his migraine medication, according to the study.
The patient had tried other lifestyle interventions and medications, including the elimination of chocolate, cheese, nuts, caffeine and dried fruits, which he had identified as potential “triggers,” the study said.
None of these interventions had worked according to the study
According to the American Migraine Foundation, studies have shown that migraines are a genetic disorder, but that lifestyle, diet, and environmental signals can play “a major role” in how often a patient gets migraines.
The foundation warned patients to “be careful” when trying extremely strict diets that can lead to nutrient deficiencies.
The authors of the case study offer a potential mechanism for the effect: The green leaves are rich in beta-carotene and other nutrients, which they said in the study may have anti-inflammatory properties.
Although the man already ate a balanced diet, the inclusion of leafy vegetables increased his serum levels of beta-carotene, the study reported.
It is unclear whether their theory of what could have caused the change is correct. Other factors could explain the change in symptoms in addition to diet. For example, the man is HIV-positive, which has been linked to an increased risk of migraines, the study authors said.
The man’s allergies were also improved after he changed his diet, which could be related according to the study’s authors.
According to David M Dunaief, a New York expert in nutrition and lifestyle interventions who co-authored the study, “several” other patients, whose names were not disclosed, saw their migraines become less frequent within three months of changing their diet.