Doctors say man who suffered from severe migraines for 12 years was ‘cured’ after eating leafy greens

An archive photo showing salmon served with kale.

The Washington Post / Contributor

  • A scientific article described a man with migraines that suddenly disappeared.
  • The 60-year-old stopped having debilitating headaches after changing his diet, he said.
  • He hasn’t had a migraine for seven years. Doctors have a theory as to why.
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A 60-year-old man who suffered from severe migraines for 12 years stopped having them within three months of switching to a diet high in leafy greens.

The patient, who suffered from severe migraines for more than 12 years, has not suffered from headaches for more than seven years, according to a case study published Thursday by BMJ Case Reports.

The study authors said the man had the longest documented case of chronic migraine that resolved after a change in diet.

Based on a single case study, it is impossible to conclude that a change in diet can cure chronic migraines. There were also other factors that could have influenced this patient’s symptoms, including his HIV status.

Sometimes patients track “trigger” foods to try to minimize the intensity of the headache. But so far, there is no conclusive link between migraines and particular foods, selon la Migraine Research Foundation.

The patient, who has not been named, had more frequent migraines in the six months before a clinic visit, according to the study. He said he has six to eight migraines per month.

In a short testimony included in the case report, he said the migraines were “debilitating,” some lasting up to 72 hours.

The migraines would become so severe that he “could end up in bed in a fetal position,” he said. When the migraines did not come, he spent days recovering, which made his job as a photographer “almost impossible,” he said.

After the migraines stopped, he said, “I am no longer a prisoner of my own body. I got my life back.

The patient was advised to follow these recommendations:

  • eat at least five ounces of raw or cooked dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale and watercress each day.
  • drink a daily green smoothie of 32 ounces per day.
  • limit the consumption of whole grains, starchy vegetables, oils and animal proteins, especially dairy products and red meat.

Although scientists were unable to monitor whether he was following the diet to the letter, the patient kept a food diary.

After the switch, the patient even stopped taking his migraine medication, according to the study.

The patient had tried other lifestyle interventions and medications, including eliminating chocolate, cheese, nuts, caffeine and dried fruits, which he had identified as “potential triggers,” according to the patient. study.

None of these interventions worked, according to the study

According to the American Migraine Foundation, studies have shown that migraines are a genetic disease, but that lifestyle, diet and environmental cues can play “a big role” in how often does a patient have a migraine.

The foundation warned patients to “be careful” when trying extremely strict diets that could lead to nutrient deficiencies.

The case study authors suggest a potential mechanism for the effect: Leafy greens are high in beta-carotene and other nutrients that the study found may have anti-inflammatory properties.

Although the man already ate a balanced diet, the inclusion of leafy greens increased his serum beta-carotene levels, the study reported.

It is not known if their theory of what may have caused the change is correct. Other factors could explain the change in symptoms beyond diet. For example, the man is HIV positive who was linked at an increased risk of migraines, according to the study authors.

The man’s allergies also improved after a change in diet, which could be linked, according to the study’s authors.

According to David M Dunaief, a New York expert in nutritional medicine and lifestyle interventions who authored the study, “several” other patients, whose names were not disclosed, saw their migraines become less frequent within three months of changing their diet.

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