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How Food Can Impact Headaches & Migraines

Part 1: Headaches, migraines and your diet. Is there a link?

By Physiotherapist, Peter Tziavrangos

I’m excited to announce that we can now offer Nutrition and Dietetics services at Move for Better Health!

For some time, I have been trying to find a Dietitian with the right experience and qualifications to practice with the team at Move. I was fortunate to meet Jane Whitbread a couple of years ago, who was exactly what we had been looking for. Unfortunately for us, at the time, Jane was heavily pregnant and not looking to take on an extra work!

I was pleased to get a message from Jane towards the end of last year, to discuss practicing at Move, now that life was settling down a bit.

One of the reasons I was interested in Jane’s work, in addition to the help she can give for weight loss and other common dietary related problems, is the experience she has in managing patients with headaches and migraines.  As you may know, some people are affected by their diet in ways that can contribute to these problems and certain ingredients in foods can be a trigger for migraine.

What I have noticed over the years I have been seeing patients with headaches, is that there is rarely a single cause or trigger, and often there are several.  The people I have been able to help are those who have problems in the neck, which contribute to their headache pattern. So now I am really pleased that we have another factor which we can assess and manage at Move, in diet and nutrition.

So, if you have a recurring headache or migraine pattern and haven’t ever seen a Dietitian for an assessment, I would encourage you to do so.

You can learn more about our Jane, here.

Part 2: Food Chemical Intolerance – What is it, and can it influence your well being?

By Dietitian, Jane Whitbread

You may often hear people mention they are intolerant to added MSG in foods or sulphite preservative in wine, a few people might also believe they have various reactions from seemingly non-allergenic foods like berries, oranges or tomatoes.

Our diet is full of ‘food chemicals’ such as salicylates – a natural insecticide that plants produce contained in many brightly coloured fruit and vegetables, there are amines – chemical compounds naturally occurring in foods such as citrus, chocolate or aged foods, or glutamate (MSG) which is a protein naturally occurring in foods like tomatoes, mushrooms, grapes as well as being added to some foods to enhance flavour.

While these food chemicals are safe for the majority of us, for others, eating certain quantities can lead to a range of adverse reactions including hives, bowel irritation, headaches or migraine, fatigue, insomnia and sinus congestion.

According to research conducted by Sydney’s Prince Alfred Hospital the percentage of people who suffer from migraines influenced by food chemicals is as high as 70% (1).

Intolerance is different to food allergy as the chemicals in our diet can accumulate over 48 hours until we notice a reaction. That’s why in the case of food intolerance it can become harder to distinguish which foods are causing a reaction and we often blame the food eaten right before the reaction.

Dietitians specialising in chemical food intolerance can use different methods to help you determine if and which foods may be related to your adverse reactions. One of the most thorough and accurate approaches is the RPAH elimination diet where we exclude these chemicals and challenge them back into your diet one by one.

I have visited the RPAH hospital and observed immunologist Rob Loblay and Dr Anne Swain who developed these diets and have also seen the remarkable improvements in my clients who may have been suffering from various health problems for more than 40 years.

If you have an ongoing health problem which you feel might be food related and would like to learn more I am happy to spend the time working through your diet to test and see if you may have a food chemical intolerance influencing your well-being.

How to Book

To book with any of our experienced & qualified allied health staff, you can:


1 Loblay RH and Swain AR, ‘Food intolerance’. In: Wahlqvist ML and TruswellAS editors. Recent Advances in Clinical Nutrition. 1986 London: John Libbey, 169-177


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