Does Chocolate Trigger Migraines?


Shivang Joshi, MD, MPH, RPh, FAHS, headache specialist neurologist at Community Neuroscience Services, debunks common migraine myths.

More than 1 billion people worldwide experience migraines and the condition presents itself differently for each person.1 Triggers vary widely. While a cup of coffee may be helpful for some, it can worsen migraines for others. Factors like susceptibility, family history, and medication sensitivity add another layer of complexity. This prevalence, combined with the intricate nature of migraines and ongoing research, creates a landscape fraught with misconceptions.

According to Shivang Joshi, MD, MPH, RPh, FAHS, director of headache medicine and director of clinical research at Community Neuroscience Services, as well as Association of Migraine Disorders board member and Shades for Migraine medical ambassador, there is no universal trigger. Instead, overlapping triggers create a “perfect storm” that precipitates a migraine event.

“It’s really a combination of different things that can sometimes bring on a migraine,” said Joshi. “Triggers have been studied, but it’s very difficult, historically, to have a good clinical article examining triggers because of so much variability in the way it presents.”

In his interview with Drug Topics for National Migraine and Headache Awareness Month, Joshi debunks common migraine myths, such as those related to caffeine, stress, and sugary foods.

The good news is, not all people with migraine need to skip out on chocolate to avoid an attack.

“I’m sure we’ve heard that chocolate is a trigger for migraines for some patients,” said Joshi. “It turns out that sometimes people are craving something sweet….and that craving is an early sign that the migraine is coming. It’s called the prodrome phase, or early phase, of a migraine. And so, when they eat something sweet [such as] chocolate and they have a headache, they attribute that headache with that sweet food component, but the reality was it was an early sign that the migraine was coming.”

READ MORE: Headache and Migraine Resource Center

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1. Amiri P, Kazeminasab S, Nejadghaderi SA, et al. Migraine: A review on its history, global epidemiology, risk factors, and comorbidities. Front Neurol. 2022;12:800605. doi:10.3389/fneur.2021.800605
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