Can a better diet help headaches?

    If you suffer from regular headaches, a few changes to your daily diet can make all the difference. Nutritional therapist, Kerry Torrens explains...

    Can a better diet help headaches?

    Around 10 million people in the UK suffer from some sort of headache. For one of my clients, a working mum, it had been a long-standing problem. Her GP diagnosed 'tension headaches', and she was keen to find an alternative to over-the-counter painkillers.

    She skipped breakfast to squeeze in the school run, and grabbed snacks rather than eating at set times. Her diet lacked magnesium (low levels of this mineral are associated with tension headaches) and she often didn't sleep well.

    My advice to the client was:Oven-baked Thai chicken rice

    • Eat breakfast within an hour of waking - wholegrain cereal with fruit, granary toast with sugar-free nut butter, or eggs with spinach or watercress - and eat every 3-4 hours to stabilise blood sugar levels.
    • Base meals and snacks on low-GI carbs such as rye crackers, wholemeal bread, wholewheat pasta or basmati rice, combined with lean protein like chicken, turkey, fish and low-fat dairy.
    • Eat magnesium-rich foods, such as green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans and peas.
    • Snack before bed to help improve sleep - good choices include porridge, oatcakes topped with low-fat cream cheese, a plain yogurt with nuts and sliced banana.

    Open sandwiches - Smoked salmon & avocado on rye The results:

    Setting her alarm 10 minutes earlier gave my client time to have breakfast; she then started to build in the other changes. Within three months she reported fewer headaches with less severe symptoms.


    Recipe suggestions:

    Brown loaf
    Almond butter
    Baked dippy eggs
    Oven-baked Thai chicken rice
    Wholewheat pasta with broccoli & almonds
    Chicken & vegetable stew with wholemeal couscous
    Open sandwiches - smoked salmon & avocado on rye
    Perfect porridge

    If you've been diagnosed with migraines, rather than tension headaches, you might be interested to read our interview with neurology expert Dr Peter Goadsby regarding the relationship between food and migraines.

    This article was published on 11th June 2015.

    A registered Nutritional Therapist, Kerry Torrens is a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food magazine. Kerry is a member of the The Royal Society of Medicine, Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC), British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT).

    All health content on is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact  your local health care provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

    Do you suffer from headaches or have you made any dietary changes that have helped ease symptoms? Let us know below.

    Comments, questions and tips

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    23rd Jan, 2015
    Interesting food photo use. An example of good or bad foods for headaches (smiles).
    17th Sep, 2014
    I have found that giving up grains has helped enormously with headaches and migraines. I now rarely eat bread, pasta, rice or anything containing gluten and feel so much better, in a headache sense and generally too, feel less achy and have much more energy. I also eat a lot less sugar which has helped immensely.
    jessybrain's picture
    4th Jun, 2014
    I got your post. But, my question is if I have a migraine problem then what should I do? I believe sometimes headache is occurring from weakness. Your advice was great indeed. Maintaining your advice would be helpful too, I guess.
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