Migraines and preservatives in food

Recently I have been conducting some animal experimentation. The animal under investigation is me. I get migraines, frequently. They are not always terrible, but still unpleasant and usually accompanied by vision impairment. The vision impairment is debilitating because for the 30 minutes or so that it lasts, I cannot read, write or drive.

A few months ago I was talking to my sister who happens to have a sulphite (preservative) allergy. This is something I haven’t tried removing from my diet before. I’ve tried most of the other triggers – chocolate, coffee, alcohol and cheese. So a few months ago, I eliminated all preservatives. It was fairly easy. Dried apricots was the only real thing I had to give up and also my regular margarine. Most margarines contain preservative but I managed to find one without it.

Since that time, I have not had one episode of vision impairment until yesterday. At first I thought bugger, I can’t blame the preservative, but then I thought about what I’d eaten that day. For breakfast, I ate some muesli. It was newly-bought muesli rather than my usual home-made stuff and one I hadn’t eaten before so I checked the packet. Sure enough, preservative was listed in the ingredients. This was on a box of Vogels, “super natural” muesli. I should have known better I suppose but was in a hurry when I bought it and you would think that muesli which claims to be “super natural” would not contain preservatives.

I realise this is hardly a robust experiment, but if it continues to work for me, then I’m clinging to it.


11 responses to “Migraines and preservatives in food”

  1. Would really like to talk to you about what you are experiencng Rachel.  Preservatives, sulphur related substances, chocolate, oranges, white or red wine et al…. are definately evil suspects.  Having suffered migraine for  about 40 years, I experimented and was treated and medicated and repeatedly tested for most possible triggers… you may or may not remember.  I have a slightly biased perception about this horrible condition.  But maybe have another  possible solution I would love to share with you. xo


    WordPress.com Rachel posted: “Recently I have been conducting some animal experimentation. The animal under investigation is me. I get migraines, frequently. They are not always terrible, but still unpleasant and usually accompanied by vision impairment. The vision impairment is debil”

  2. Rachel,

    while it’s only a single data point it’s an interesting one, as it seems to largely eliminate the nocebo effect (opposite of the placebo effect) whereby if you take something you think is going to make you feel bad, indeed you do – whether it had any pharmacological effect or not. Since you didn’t know that the muesli contained preservative when you ate it, this was a notable experiment because it was inadvertent.

    “Preservative” covers a broad range of substances including longstanding traditional ones such as hops, salt, sugar, vinegar and alcohol (and simply dehydration – drying), but the ones causing trouble are more likely to be substances such as benzoates, sulfites, nitrites etc that have entered the human food chain in the last century or so.

    It would be good if you identified the actual preservative in the muesli. It will probably have an obscure name such as “preservative 211” or something and require research to find out what it actually is, but it is time to start highlighting the specific chemicals that are being shoved into our mouths.

    McDonalds, to its credit, provides the gory detail of what’s in its food, http://mcdonalds.com.au/sites/mcdonalds.com.au/files/images/Core-Menu-AUST-Menu-Info-19-June-2013.pdf, but it sounds like it’s made in a laboratory, not a kitchen.

    It’s time other food suppliers as well highlighted the substances they use that were never found in your great-grandmother’s kitchen.

    • I’m pleased to hear you say this, MikeM. I’ve thrown the muesli away so I can’t tell you the exact number but it may not have had the number. I know to avoid anything which says 202, 211, sulfites, SO2, sulfur dioxide. Are there any others that you know of?

      I really hate that they put this crap in our food but I suppose it’s just another reason to avoid processed food, although I would not have classified muesli as processed by any means.

  3. Rachel, I discovered quite by accident that Bordeaux wines leave me without the usual three day migraine and temporary blindness that I have suffered for over forty years drinking Australiasian wines. Blends, I found, were especially bad. It wasn’t that I didn’t love the taste of our wines, it was just they didn’t agree with me. Now I can enjoy drinking, sleep like a log afterwards and wake the next morning without the slightest headache. Any leftovers in the bottle are very drinkable the next day, another plus. All I can say is that local wines are mostly full of preservatives like sulphites, and for some of us it is poison to our digestive systems. I suggest you try some Bordeaux when you are in York later this month and see how enjoyable good wine can be without accompanying migraines!

  4. All these food intollerances are all classified as ‘Tyramine Intollerance’. Thankfully there are now Neurologists who actually specialise in Tyramine Intollerance, commonly known as food intollerance. There is a lot of information now available on the internet on the subject…what to avoid etc…my Neurologist put it simply to me…’fresh is best’…stay away from pre packaged foods, aged or cured foods such as hams, bacon, alcohol and anything else that is fermented…the list goes on. Most of the foods on the supermarket shelf has preservatives or nasties of some sort including MSG and Yeast Extract, both huge triggers of migraines.

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