Avoiding Chocolate to Prevent Migraine is Not Necessary

August 18, 2009 by dean · Leave a Comment 

Chocolate can be eaten without a migraine

Chocolate can be eaten without a migraine

Avoiding chocolate to prevent migraine is not necessary – it isn’t about the chocolate!

The thought of living without chocolate is unbearable but I know that for many of you, the experience is not worth it!

However, many of my patients are now eating chocolate, in fact this is what I ask them to do after 3-4 treatments – and you can imagine their (and mine!) delight when they do so without headache or migraine.

But why is it that I can eat chocolate without headache – I’m sure that chocolate has the same effect on me as it does on someone else who ends up with a headache. For example phenylethylamine (PEA) is a chemical in chocolate that causes blood vessels to expand and contract – this probably happens for everyone, but not everyone gets headache or migraine. Some might say that the chocolate sensitises their system, whilst some authorities suggest that their system is already sensitised before the chocolate came along.

I suspect that just as in migraine and tension headache sufferers, the brainstems of those whose headache or migraines are triggered by chocolate, are already sensitised. The normal response of the blood vessels to PEA is to expand, but the pain interpreting centres in the brain understands this (normal) increased activity to be much more than what it is and pain results.

What’s causing the sensitisation? It is easy to confirm a neck disorder because temporary reproduction and lessening of head pain occurs when examining the joints of the upper neck – it is important to confirm the source of sensitisation …

… then you can enjoy the benefits of eating (good quality and dark) chocolate:

a natural mood enhancer

a stress reliever

a memory enhancer

improves your levels of serotonin (which will desensitise your brainstem).



(Marcus DA, Scharff L, Turk D, Gourley LM. A double-blind provocative study of chocolate as a trigger of headache. Cephalalgia;17(8):855-62

Scharff L, Turk DC, Marcus DA. Triggers of Headache Episodes and Coping Responses of Headache Diagnostic Groups. Headache 1995;35:397-403 )

© 2009 & Beyond. Watson Headache Institute, All Rights Reserved.

About dean
Consultant Headache & Migraine Physiotherapist; International Teacher; Director, The Headache Clinic & Watson Headache Institute; PhD Candidate Murdoch University, Western Australia; Adjunct Lecturer, Masters Program, Physiotherapy School, University of South Australia; MAppSc(Res) GradDipAdvManipTher Experienced health practitioners trained in the Watson Headache Approach perform the examination and treatment techniques developed by Dean Watson. These techniques are based on his extensive experience of 7000 headache patients (21,000 hours) over 21 years and are now taught internationally. For your nearest practitioner who has completed training in the ‘Watson Headache Approach’ please refer to the ‘Practitioner Directory’.

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