During this time, he added, brain imaging studies have shown that the hypothalamus, a region of the brain that regulates hunger, becomes activated, causing people to crave and eat certain foods. “It’s pretty clear that this area is changing in activity before the pain starts,” she said. What a person looks for in response is usually rich in carbohydrates and very tasty, although the exact food varies from person to person. Some people want savory or salty snacks, while others crave sweets and chocolate, Dr. Goadsby said.
Then, after you’ve satisfied your craving and the headache phase of a migraine begins, it’s natural for people to wonder if something they ate contributed to the pain, Dr. Halker Singh said. “Sometimes people come to me and say, ‘I had some chocolate and shortly after that my migraine attack started,'” leading them to assume that the chocolate itself caused the headache. But what could also have happened, he said, “is that maybe the craving for chocolate was actually the start of the migraine.”
Chocolate is one of the most reported food triggers for migraines, but in a review of studies published in the journal Nutrients in 2020, researchers concluded that there was not enough evidence to say that chocolate can cause migraines In the above scenario, Dr. Goadsby said, the person would likely have had a headache whether or not they ate the chocolate. So if he has a craving for a treat during the early stages of a headache, he said, it’s okay for him to enjoy it.
If you often have food cravings before your migraine headaches, it’s a good idea to make a note of them, along with other prodrome symptoms, so you can prepare for what’s to come. You can use that time to find your migraine medication and opt to go to bed early, for example, instead of going out for a drink, Dr. Goadsby said. “If people have a better understanding of their disorder, they can adjust what they’re going to do so they don’t put themselves in shock,” he said.
Margaret Slavin, an associate professor of food and nutrition studies at George Mason University, said foods high in sugar or refined carbohydrates can also cause blood sugar to rise, leading to “a huge insulin. Insulin helps normalize blood sugar, but too much insulin can overshoot the target and cause low blood sugar. This condition is called reactive hypoglycemia, and a headache is one of its symptoms, along with feeling weak, shaky, tired, and dizzy.