We’ve all heard about “food triggers” for migraine. Some of us know we can’t eat cheese, or chocolate, or cured salami without paying a price. Some of us avoid red wine and wheat beer. Some of us, however, have kept migraine diaries for years without ever being able to identify a single food trigger.
Does our inability to identify a trigger mean we don’t have any sensitivities to food? Or does it mean that our sensitivities are either so subtle or so widespread that to identify them through a migraine diary is close to impossible? Many specialists and some migraineurs are beginning to say it’s the latter.
In a Huffington Post article published last year, Dr. Leo Galland wrote that food and drink triggers were the migraine triggers over which migraineurs “have the greatest control.” Not by avoiding certain chemicals in food, which Dr. Galland says has not been proven to reduce migraine frequency, but by avoiding foods that trigger our individual immune systems. But, how do we identify those foods? Dr. Galland and other experts say IgG testing may be the answer.
IgG testing is a particular kind of food allergy testing. The premise behind the tests, according to Sheryl B. Miller, Clinical Laboratory Director at Bastyr University Natural Health Clinic, “is that high circulating levels of IgG antibodies are correlated with clinical food allergy signs and symptoms.”
“These tests, one might extrapolate, would help the physician pinpoint food allergies in their patients so that patients might avoid these foods and their associated signs and symptoms,” wrote Miller in an essay. “The ELISA/EIA test itself involves coating a 96 well plate with food antigens, adding a patient’s sera and looking for a classic antigen/antibody interaction. In addition to the IgG antibody detected in most of the newer commercial assays, some companies also detect IgE.”
Despite various experts’ enthusiasm about IgG testing, however, little scientific evidence existed to suggest that using the tests for migraine prevention actually made a difference in patients’ experiences. Recently, that changed.
A 2010 Turkish clinical double-blind, randomised, cross-over trial was conducted on 30 participants diagnosed with migraine without aura. The trial aimed to discover “the effect of diet restriction, based on IgG antibodies against food antigens, on the course of migraine attacks.” The researchers found that eliminating specific foods with raised IgG antibodies significantly reduced the number of migraine attacks experienced by the participants over a six-week period.
“These findings make evident that food can trigger or worsen migraine attacks in susceptible individuals, and also that it is an individual-specific problem,” wrote the American Migraine Foundation in a statement about the study. “Given that migraineurs can have different foods provoking their attacks, and the extent to which food plays a role in migraine varies between persons, this study also demonstrates that blanket recommendations that all individuals with migraine follow the same diet are not very helpful.”
Unfortunately, many insurance companies won’t pay for the IgG Food Allergy Test because they claim it isn’t “medically necessary.” Without insurance coverage or reimbursement, the tests can be quite expensive. If any of you readers have taken this test, did your insurance company cover it? If not, why did you decide to shell out the bucks? And, most importantly, was it worth it?