Migraine Prevention Diet

About 20% of patients with lupus have migraine-like headaches. The following list outlines a program designed to mitigate such headaches. This list is taken directly from a handout prepared by Dr. David Buchholz, MD.

Foods to Avoid:

  • Caffeine: Coffee, tea (hot or iced), cola; even decaf coffee and tea may be a problem; try caffeine-free herbal tea
  • Chocolate
  • Cheese: Avoid all cheeses except American, cream, and cottage cheese. Avoid cheese-containing foods such as pizza and macaroni-and-cheese.
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG): Chinese restaurant food, many snack foods and prepared foods, Accent and other seasoning products; MSG may be labeled as hydrolyzed vegetable/soy/plant protein, natural flavorings, yeast extract, Kombu, “broth,” “stock,” and others; read labels – note: “hydrogenated” is OK)
  • Certain Dairy Products: Yogurt, sour cream, and buttermilk.
  • Nuts: All, including nut butters (e.g., peanut butter)
  • Processed meats: Those that are aged, canned, cured, marinated, tenderized, or contain nitrates or nitrites; includes hot dogs, sausage, bacon, salami, bologna
  • Alcohol and vinegar: Especially red wine, champagne, and dark/heavy drinks; vodka is best tolerated; white vinegar is OK
  • Citrus fruits and juices: No oranges, grapefruits, lemons, limes, pineapples, or juices from these fruits. Vitamin C and citric acid are OK
  • Certain other fruits: Avoid bananas, raisins, red plums, canned figs, and avocados.
  • Certain vegetables: Avoid lima, fava, and navy beans, and pea pods, sauerkraut, and onions.
  • Certain bread products: No yeast-risen bread products less than one day old – such as those from bakery, doughnut shop, or home
  • Aspartame (Nutrasweet)

Over-the-counter Medications to Avoid

  • Caffeine-containing medications: Excedrin, Anacin, etc.
  • “Sinus”/decongestant medications: Actifed, Sudafed, Dimetapp, Sine-Aid, Dristan, and all other “sinus” and cold products that contain decongestants; plain antihistamines without decongestants are OK


  • The migraine prevention program may not be maximally effective until you have been on it for at least 1 month. Caffeine withdrawal may be associated with temporarily increasing headaches.
  • In some cases, this dietary program alone may not adequately control migraine symptoms. In such cases, avoidance of certain other medications (e.g., birth control pills) and addition of migraine-preventive medication may be advisable.
  • Even if you take migraine medication, you should follow this program. Without this program, migraine-preventive medication may not work to its full potential.
  • You should strictly follow this program until your migraine symptoms are adequately controlled. Then, you may wish to ‘experiment’ with an item you have been avoiding, one item at a time, so that you can assess its individual effect on your symptoms. If eating or drinking an item is associated with recurrent symptoms, you should continue avoiding that item. Dietary triggers can act 1-2 days after consumption.
  • Take a high-potency multivitamin daily.


David Buchholz, MD. “Migraine (Headache) Prevention Program.” 2001.