The more nausea you have, the less you want to eat. But if you do eat, you might be surprised that food tastes different after a migraine.
“When I get a migraine, I can’t taste food as much, so if I eat it, I get a lot of nausea. Then I just want to run to the bathroom, so I can throw up,” said Kelli, who has experienced migraine symptoms for almost 10 years.
“When I’m not experiencing a migraine, I can eat a lot better, and I can actually enjoy food. I can eat a big meal at once, and I can taste the food a lot better. I can put things in my mouth without feeling sick. I know I’m going to have a good meal.”
A 2014 study found that people who were experiencing migraine symptoms had a decreased sense of taste. The researchers theorized that this might be because taste receptors are overactive during migraine episodes.
“When you think about the taste receptors, they are quite small and they are located in the back of the tongue. When you have a migraine, you have a lot more sensitivity to those sensations and those receptors are activated more often,” said study author Dr. Christopher S. Yancy, of the University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, New York.
But not all agree that taste receptors are overactive.
“There’s a couple of studies that have indicated that there is an over-activity of taste receptors. I think it’s an oversimplification,” said Dr. Jeffrey R. Miller, a headache specialist in Pittsburgh.
Miller, who is board-certified in neurology, says that the study authors have not taken into account the different ways that people with migraine perceive the taste of food.
“There are many potential mediators of taste changes that are related to the headache itself, and so I think that it’s difficult to draw any firm conclusions from those studies,” Miller said.
Miller notes that the study did not differentiate between foods, so it’s not clear if the taste changes were due to the food or to the migraine medication.
“But I do think it’s important to remember that the taste changes are not a result of the medication itself,” he said. “It’s the headache that’s causing the taste changes.”
Food tastes different after a migraine
Kelli has had migraines for almost 10 years. She says that the food tastes different after a migraine.
“I can’t taste food at all now. It’s usually a lot harder to eat than it is before a migraine. I can’t taste the food the same as I do before I get a migraine. I can’t taste it as well.”
She and her husband, who is a medical doctor, are used to eating a large meal in one sitting. But after a migraine, it is difficult to eat that much food.
“I can’t eat a lot of food at once, and I can’t taste it the way I can before. My husband can eat a lot of food, and he can still taste it, but it doesn’t taste as good. It’s a lot more difficult to eat,” Kelli said.
“I can’t eat a lot at once, and it’s hard for me to taste food as well. It’s more difficult to taste the food than it is before a migraine. I have to eat a lot of smaller meals to get the food down,” she said.
Kelli says that her husband sometimes has to be the meal provider for her. But she says he also finds that it’s more difficult to have a good meal after a migraine.
“My husband usually eats a lot of food, and I can usually find something to eat with a little bit of flavor. But after a migraine, it’s really difficult to eat much,” she said.
Another option is to eat on your own. But Kelli says that’s not easy, because she is used to eating on her own.
“I used to eat a lot of food at once. I can’t do that anymore. I can’t take on that much food, and I can’t eat a lot at once. I’ve got to take small bites. I can’t just take a big bite of a whole meal. I get so nauseous that I can’t eat.”
Miller says that it’s important to note that the researchers in the study didn’t mention the effect of medication on taste.
“I think it’s fair to say that the effects of medications on taste were not measured in the study, and it’s possible that the taste receptors were being activated by migraine, but that those effects were not being measured,” he said.
Miller says that the study authors didn’t measure the amount of food eaten, so it’s not known if there was a decrease in food or not.
Miller also says that it’s difficult to know if the taste changes were due to the food or the medication.
“It could be a combination of both. You could be eating something that has a low amount of food and you don’t have a lot of sensation in your mouth, and therefore you’re not noticing the food as well,” he said.
Miller recommends that people with migraine avoid sweet, salty, spicy, and sour foods.
“I think it’s really important to understand that the changes in the taste of your food are likely not caused by the food, but are caused by the headache,” he said.
If you experience a change in how your food tastes, it’s important to talk to your doctor about it.
“It’s never a good idea to take on more food than you can chew, but it’s also not a good idea to eat more than you can chew, because then you’re getting more nutrition than you need so much of it,” Miller said.
It’s also important to talk to your doctor if you have a headache that doesn’t go away.
“A headache that doesn’t go away is not really a normal headache,” Miller said.
Miller says that people with migraine have a higher risk of having a headache or migraine that doesn’t go away.
“We know that the risk of migraine is higher in people who have chronic headaches than in people who only have episodic headaches,” Miller said.
“It’s one of those things where there’s no easy answer, and it comes down to a discussion between you and your physician.”
Taste receptors and food cravings
Kelli says that the last time she had a migraine, she started craving salty foods.
“I was craving, literally, just about anything that was salty saltier than I can usually eat and I was craving it so much that I couldn’t eat much at all. I can’t eat much at all, and it was just a terrible, terrible, terrible feeling.”
But Kelli says that it’s not a big problem.
“It’s not a big deal. I just can’t eat much. I can’t eat a lot at once, and it’s the worst part about it. It’s just a terrible feeling.”
Miller says that people with migraine should avoid salty and sour foods.
“I think that a lot of the things that people with migraine crave, like salty and sour, are just really the worst for migraine,” he said.
Miller says it’s very important to talk to your doctor about any changes in your taste or smell.
“Anxiety and depression are also risk factors for migraine. So if something is making you feel worse, it’s important to talk to your doctor about it,” he said.
Miller says it’s important to understand that there is no one-size-fits-all for this.
“A lot of people don’t have a taste sensitivity, and so they’ll eat a lot of food and it won’t bother them. But it’s not the case with everybody, and it’s important to understand that there’s no one-size-fits-all for this,” he said.
Miller says people should also consider that there could be other reasons for the change in taste.
“Sometimes a particular food that you are used to will taste different when you have a migraine because of the medications you’ve been taking. So it’s important to talk to your doctor and to understand the whole picture,” he said.
If you have any changes in your taste or smell, it’s also important to talk to your doctor.
“Sometimes, if your doctor doesn’t know what’s causing it, they’re not going to be able to help you. They might just be able to give you a medication that will help you feel better, but it won’t really stop the migraine from happening,” he said.
Miller says it’s important to talk to your doctor if you are having a change in your taste.
“Migraine is very difficult to treat. It often means that people stop getting the medication that they need,” Miller said.
“It’s important to think about the foods that you eat, and it’s important to talk to your doctor about any changes to your taste or smell.”
If you have any changes in your taste or smell, it’s important to talk to your doctor.
“It might be a sign of a larger problem and you need to talk to your doctor about it,” he said.
Miller says it’s important to know that there are a lot of options for treating migraine.
“There are a lot of things that you can do to help with migraine, and it might take a little bit of experimenting to find the right ones for you,” he said.
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