about tannins, phenolics,
migraines, and health
Why can't I find any information about tannins and migraines in health-related books or websites?
Very little research has been done. It would be difficult to find someone willing to pay for such research. Unbiased and thorough research on the effects diet has on certain medical conditions would be difficult and costly. Additionally, studies done on diet often fail to take into account the many, many variables that cannot be controlled in human daily life -- stress, weather, hormones, sleep, mental and physical activity, emotions, eyestrain, etc.
Many doctors don't even know what tannins are, or they think tannins are only in tea and chocolate. Doctors do know that tannins bind with iron, so they tell anemic patients to drink less tea. But tannins bind with more minerals than iron, as well as carbohydrates, enzymes and other nutrients.
What about other migraine triggers?
It seems other triggers may well play a part in migraines. An accumulation of several triggers may be necessary to start the migraine process. Certain other triggers may be difficult to control (weather, hormones, emotions, stress, eyestrain) but diet is relatively easy to control.
Tannins may explain some of the other migraine triggers. Read my thoughts here.
One of the worst triggers for me (now that I don't eat tannins) is going too long without eating. If I start to get the shakes from not eating enough, I can pretty much expect a migraine in just a few minutes.
What do you mean by "stress"?
Stress could be physical, emotional or perhaps biochemical. It seems that when the body is trying to take care of other stressful activities, migraines appear more frequently. Physical stress may deplete energy stores. Emotional stress makes biochemical changes in the body, and these changes may deplete energy stores. When a woman has a period, it's often assumed that "hormones" play a role in the increased frequency and severity of migraine. However, perhaps there is so much going on in a woman's body on a biochemical level that the migraine comes about because energy is being used for period-related activities. Less energy, therefore, is available to ward off migraine. If energy is needed to ameliorate the effects of toxins in the body, then energy, or a lack of it, may play a large role in migraine.
What other health-related problems have been helped with a tannin-free diet?
I personally have found that the following problems cleared up or been reduced since I've stopped eating tannin-containing foods:
Rosacea and other minor skin problems
I've also found that my nails grow stronger and faster, my hair grows faster and seems healthier. My mood has improved so much I think coworkers who knew me before November 1997 probably think I started taking Prozac.
Other people have found that reduced tannins or phenolics have helped various problems:
I have no idea if a tannin-free diet might be good for other health-related problems (cancer, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, depression, etc.) but IF a high-tannin diet IS responsible for blocking nutrient absorption or depleting energy stores, than it seems to me that a tannin-free diet could possibly help. That is a big if, I know, but the logic seems to make sense.
You're not saying tannins cause colds, are you??
No, and frankly I'm not sure they actually trigger migraines. I believe there is a connection between tannins and the immune system somehow, but I don't know how. I think the connection may be in energy (mitochondrial energy), but I don't know. What I am saying is that it seems that, just like in all the animals ever tested, tannins reduce the level of overall health. Could it be that tannins block nutrition? Probably. Could it be that tannins create toxic reactions. Perhaps. Could it be that the body's efforts to reduce the toxic effects of tannins reduce the energy necessary to take care of other problems? Most likely. I don't know. I wish researchers with the means and education would look into this and find out.
Are there any health-related problems that you've found haven't been reduced on a tannin-free diet?
I can only speak for myself, of course, and I didn't have many other health problems to begin with (except the Marfan syndrome, which effects all areas of the body!) But I had been hoping a tannin-free diet might help lessen the severe cramps and inability to concentrate I'd always had with my period. This did not happen. Cramps DID go away, though, when I also stopped eating sugar and I started taking Multi-Billion Dophilus supplements. Inability to concentrate on the first day of my period still torments me.
For those of you visiting this page because of Marfan syndrome, there is no way for me to tell if a tannin-free diet has helped strengthen my connective tissue. I fractured my foot a year into my tannin-free diet, so osteoporosis didn't miraculously go away overnight, but I'm hoping in the long run my diet will help. Arrhythmia may have lessened, but I think taking CoQ10 capsules was what finally set my heartbeat right
Everyone eats tannins, but not everyone gets migraines. If tannins decrease nutrition, why doesn't everyone who eats tannins get migraines?
I believe some people are more susceptible to migraines. Either they are susceptible to them because of a genetic tendency, or perhaps something in their life has made them susceptible to migraines. Perhaps taking certain medicines or other pills (birth control pills comes to mind, but other pills) has created a chemical sensitivity to phenolics. Perhaps being fed soy formula as babies has created a chemical sensitivity to phenolics.
Perhaps some people are susceptible to decreased nutrient absorption or utilization.
Perhaps some people have decreased levels of particular enzymes (including phenol sulfur transferase)
Do I have to stop eating ALL tannin-containing foods?
I have found that I have to, but others who have contacted me have said that simply decreasing some of the more tannin-rich foods (red wine, tea, chocolate) has helped them tremendously.
So what are you saying? How do tannins trigger migraines? Is it a chemical sensitivity? Do they decrease nutrients? Do they interfere with enzymes? Make up your mind!
I hope a researcher out there somewhere can figure it out! I don't know. Researchers have been studying migraines for decades and decades, and still they haven't figured out what is going on. It seems to be a VERY complex process, not easy to figure out. I wish the answer were simple. The simplest thing I can say, though, is that if you try to decrease or eliminate tannins from your diet, you may very well find that you have fewer migraines and other health problems than before.
Last updated Tuesday, January 08, 2002