Wellness: Eating for Everyday Health (cont.)

However, headache expert Seymour Diamond, MD, director of the Diamond Headache Clinic in Chicago, says several studies have unequivocally shown that there is no link between food and headaches. But that doesn't mean the myth still won't hold true for some people, especially those who suffer from recurring migraine headaches.

"I've been doing this for almost 40 years, and I believe people. And people routinely tell us about certain foods triggering migraines," Diamond tells WebMD. "But only about 30% of migraineurs are really sensitive to anything."

The National Headache Foundation recommends that people who experience recurring headaches keep a diary of foods eaten before migraine attacks to determine any possible food sensitivities. Foods frequently reported as headache triggers include:

  • Aged cheeses
  • Foods containing caffeine, such as coffee, tea, soft drinks, and chocolate
  • Anything pickled, fermented, or marinated
  • Processed meats containing nitrates
  • Aspartame (artificial sweetener)

Diamond says alcohol can also trigger a headache, as anyone who has suffered a hangover after drinking too much can attest. That's because alcohol causes blood vessels to widen, causes dehydration, and even can decrease your blood sugar, all of which can lead to a headache. In addition, certain drinks that have been aged or processed in a flask or barrel, such as red wine, may also contain certain byproducts that can cause headaches.

What teenager hasn't been told to stay away from pizza or other greasy foods because it'll make their face break out with pimples?


"A warm glass of milk before bed may soothe your nerves, but it won't necessarily send you off to dreamland."

But the American Academy of Dermatology says the truth is that extensive scientific research has yet to find a connection between diet and acne. In other words, foods don't cause breakouts.

Dermatologist Doris Day, MD, says some studies are being done that are starting to show that there might be something to the food-acne link, but the problem is that it's a difficult link to prove.

"The question is, do you eat certain foods because you're stressed, and that stress is the same thing that causes acne?" says Day, assistant professor of medicine at New York University. "Or around your period when you want to eat chocolate...Is it the hormones that are creating those cravings that are also creating the acne, or is it the food itself?"

Day says that until researchers can prove otherwise, it's best to follow your gut.

"You know your own body, and you know what happens to you when you eat certain things," says Day. "So that's true for you, and you need to avoid those triggers."

Day says that some people may also confuse food-related flare-ups of a skin condition called rosacea with acne. Rosacea is a skin disease that can cause redness and swelling, usually on the face. Spicy foods, hot drinks, and alcoholic beverages are known to cause flare-ups of this condition.


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