rich emollient used in the management of eczema, psoriasis and other dry skin conditions.


With an estimated 12-15% of people suffering from migraine, this means that roughly seven million people suffer in the UK alone. Stats from the charity Migraine Action reveal that migraines affect twice as many women as men, they affect people from all age groups (even young children) and all social classes, and they cost the UK around £2.25 billion per annum. The World Health Organisation has classified headache as a major health disorder and has rated migraine amongst the top 20 most disabling lifetime conditions. A migraine attack can last for between 4 and 72 hours and sufferers experience an average of 13 attacks each year. Sobering statistics indeed.

Doctors know very little about migraine headaches except that they run in families, and may be caused by many conditions ranging from nervous excitement, disturbed sleep patterns, stress and reactions to certain foods. These headaches can last hours, sometimes days, and often come with nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to sound and light, and, perhaps most strangely of all, distorted sensory perception, especially vision. If you add together the range of different symptoms and so many different potential triggers, it is no surprise that researchers are perplexed about the science behind these headaches, or that sufferers seem to find treatments so hit-and-miss.

A recent survey of a 1,000 people suffering with migraine by the charity Migraine Action has revealed that over two thirds of Migraine Action members affected by frequent migraine attacks believe that certain foods could be the cause. As I have mentioned before, the best accepted method for confirming food reactions is by elimination diet. This involves eating a restricted diet for several weeks. If there is no improvement in the incidence or severity of your migraines during this time, it is assumed that the food type that has been restricted is not contributing to the symptoms (migraines), and the process is repeated with another food type. This method is time consuming, and it is very difficult to test all the different combinations of food types that may be contributing to the problem.

The survey found that 85 percent of people affected by debilitating migraines had their symptoms reduced, and quality of life improved, when their food triggers were discovered and avoided. Additional research from the University of York, the largest clinical trial of its kind in migraine-like headaches, just published in Nutrition Journal, has further supported the Migraine Action findings, uncovering that the frequency of migraine attacks was cut by almost a quarter (23%) over 4 weeks when the YorkTest food-specific antibodies test from was carried out to identify potential food triggers.

Professor David Torgerson, co-author of the paper and Professor and Director of the York Trials Unit at York University commented: “This study, which we believe to be the largest randomised controlled trial of its kind in migraine-like headaches shows the potential for elimination diets based on food-specific IgG measurement with a 23% reduction in the number of migraine-like headaches after four weeks of dietary change based on YorkTest FoodScan results”. Dr Andrew Dowson, head of headache services at King’s College and member of the medical advisory board of Migraine Action, commenting on the research said: “A link between food intolerance and migraine has long been suspected. Recent research has shown that when people with migraine follow tailored diets to eliminate trigger foods their symptoms significantly improve, however the treatment of migraine is not a ‘one size fits all’ situation, each person needs to establish their own specific combination of triggers, which can also include factors like stress and irregular sleep patterns. The link between food intolerance and migraine is a interesting new field and warrants more detailed research.”

We have been really delighted with the positive feedback that we have had about this exciting research which supports our findings over many years now.


Dr Gill Hart

Dr Gill Hart is a PhD Biochemist with over twenty years experience in the development and clinical evaluation of diagnostic tests. Gill joined the YorkTest team as Scientific Director in 2005, and has applied her scientific and regulatory knowledge to all YorkTest services; including putting in measures of self-regulation in the under-regulated diagnostic testing services arena. Gill regularly gives talks and lectures on food intolerance at Universities, Colleges, trade shows and consumer events. She also provides guidance for those choosing diagnostic tests with her ‘What makes a good diagnostic test’ checklist, and has written many articles in scientific journals and consumer magazines.

2 Responses to Food intolerance – research links food triggers with migraine

  1. Cathy Wheller

    I suffer dreadfully from migraines, I usually have one severe attack at least once a month and generally suffer from headaches every day.
    Some years I did go onto a food elimination diet and it did help, I probably need to go through the process again to see if there is something new that triggers them.
    I am very conscious that I use far too many headache pills, most of which don’t touch the really bad headaches. I was using propaine plus and that did help until I found out that it was addictive so I was becoming reliant on taking the painkillers.
    I would love to go a day without a headache of some sort, I am trying to increase my water intake as I am also aware de-hydration is a contributory factor.
    My dad, bless him suffered with them all his life, well, until he retired, and to be honest, I don’t want to wait that long.
    I am at the stage where I will try anything as people who don’t have migraines just don’t know how bad they can be, it’s true, bed, darkened room and generally out of action for 24 hours:-(
    I also note stress and irregular sleep are factors, well that’s probably me too:-)
    Any extra advice is greatly taken on board and I will go back to looking at my diet more closely as to be honest I haven’t found GPs very helpful, they just seem to want to hand out more medication, I would much rather try to eliminate the cause.

  2. I think I’ve just experienced my first migraine and it was horrible. I felt sick, and my head felt like it was about to explode! I could hardly move my head or neck as it hurt beyond belief. Two Nurofen later, and a two hour lie down and it’s completely gone! Is this a migraine do you think?

Add a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *