Why I Eat Pickles When I Have a Migraine

A True story about pickles and migraines

By: Yvonne Quincey-de Guzman

Ever since I can remember, pickles were the cure for everything from brightening up dull tuna salad to being a miracle remedy for nausea during pregnancy. I knew women who used the pickle juice to clean their jewellery and gave droppers full to colicky babies.

Pickles were precious in our home, a reward for a job well done, an “adult treat” that children coveted from afar as they ate their celery filled with peanut butter, a necessary fixture on the holiday buffet table with enough for our 28 family members. Pickles were, and are, something special.

You were notable, important, worthy of impressing, if pickles were part of your visit at my house. My mother busted out little fancy plates with pickles and other marinated goodies when company came by, noon time or night time. A pickle was to a sandwich what a jewel is to a crown in my part of the world. One’s status was measured by the placement and type of pickle you were given, as we had 1st tier and 2nd tier pickles. Grocery store pickles, were for neighbourhood folks and the grease monkeys working on old cars with my dad in the garage. Deli pickles, the kind from the giant glass barrel, those were tucked away for dad, Uncle Bob, special guests and medical emergencies.

Emergencies you ask? Yes! Emergencies. If you have ever had a migraine, you know what I mean. It is a pain that will make you cry for your mommy while you vomit in the dark and channel Satan, himself. From the second you feel the onset of the first symptoms, it is a race to seek a solution before unbearable agony squeezes your head like a vice grip.

Being from a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic family, a few, proven, old wives’ tales were often invoked as the first course before going to our family GP, or in my case the Emergency Department. Both my parents were migraine sufferers and I experienced my first migraine doozie at age 7. Some say hereditary.

One such family remedy was eating pickles for migraines, especially in the beginning stages. You know the part where you start to see stars and have numbness in different areas, perhaps on your face, arm or head, but before the actual headache starts. The panic sets in to do something quick! Some people take medication, some retreat to a dark, quiet room (with or without the medication), some use lavender or peppermint oils, some go for the ice pack. And then there is me and my family, we eat pickles.

The good ones. The ones made with love, artisanship and natural ingredients. Not mass-produced by machines in a factory, but by actual humans. Using their intuition and senses, measuring ingredients and mixing up an alchemic brew of fermented magic, these custodians of all things sacred pickle, have shared, generation to generation, a perfect food that will even turn a nightmare of a migraine right around.

There is a little bit of scientific research out there on migraines and pickles and lots of anecdotal stories, similar to my own. Researchers think pickle juice helps maintain steady blood sugar levels and in some sufferers, unstable blood sugar levels can be a trigger for migraines. Stabilizing blood sugar can curb the severity of a migraine.

Others report that migraines are directly, or indirectly, related to our gut health and immune responses. Pickles help to support and maintain the growth of healthy gut flora. Imbalanced gut flora is indicated as a factor for some migraine sufferers.

And others report the following factors which may correlate to the pickle-fix for various food, stress, hormonal and environmental migraine triggers according to food.ndtv.com:

Pickles and pickle juice contain calcium chloride and vinegar and these two ensure that sodium and potassium are more readily absorbed by the body – this occurs faster through pickle juice than through other methods or liquids due to its acidic nature. Antioxidants, Vit C and calcium are more readily available to the body through pickle juice. The balance of calcium and magnesium may have a role to play for some migraine sufferers. Pickle juice is also indicated to help with menstrual cramps and hangovers.

I have, and always will, think pickles are as wonderful and tasty as fine caviar or a lovely aged French cheese. Pickles are transformative and magical, medicinal and culturally relevant. They are my personal gateway to pleasure and personal healing.

I eat pickle when I have migraines.

My go to pickles are Kosher Certified, gluten free and endorsed by Coeliac Australia. They are the only pickles in the whole wide world to be FODMAP Friendly Certified. They are naturally wild fermented cucumbers, handmade with local ingredients, a true Product of Australia, carrying the label distinction.

They are Lewis & Son’s Traditionally Pickled Cucumbers.