What Foods Should You Avoid If You Suffer From Migraines
Foods that cause migraines differ from person to person, and other people may not have any migraine triggers at all.
- nitrates, nitrites, MSG, and artificial sweeteners are examples of food preservatives.
Migraines can also be exacerbated by not eating anything at all. Prolonged hunger and not eating enough are known headache triggers for certain people. This could be due to a relationship between low blood sugar and migraine headaches getting worse.
Common Food & Drink Triggers
Aged Cheese: Aged cheese contains tyramine, an analogue of catecholamines, or stress hormones, formed as proteins in the cheese break down over time. The general rule is that the older the cheese, the higher the tyramine content. Examples of cheeses to avoid cheeses include cheddar, parmesan, gouda, blue cheese, gorgonzola, brie, and swiss.
Chocolate: Chocolate can trigger headaches in some people, which is real bummer for those of us who love chocolate! Some think the responsible agent is tyramine, the same trigger that is in aged cheese. Others say that you crave chocolate during stress and hormonal changes, both which trigger headaches. When eating chocolate try reducing the amount you eat, eating enough to satisfy the craving, but not so much that it triggers a headache.
Caffeine: Coffee, black tea, green tea, soft drinks. These are problems primarily because they contain caffeine. For some people, drinking too much caffeine can trigger a migraine. Paradoxically, in small doses caffeine can actually help a headache and is even included in some migraine medications. If youre drink at least 200 mg of caffeine a day , stopping your caffeine consumption will likely result in a caffeine withdrawal headache. Try slowly decreasing the amount of caffeine you drink and then stick with drinking the same amount regularly.
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How To Do An Elimination Diet
If you suspect that certain foods or drinks trigger your migraine, an elimination diet could help. You’ll cut out foods and drinks that can trigger migraines and then slowly add them back. If your migraine symptoms return, it may be a sign that it’s because of a certain food.
Talk to your doctor before giving it a try. You’ll want to make sure that it’s safe for you and learn how to fine-tune the food plan for your needs.
Donât cut out everything that might cause a headache at once. Thatâll only make it harder to figure out which ones affect you. Also, itâs a bad idea for children and pregnant women to restrict food.
Instead, cut out one potential food trigger at a time. Keep track of how you feel over the next month. This should help you decide whether the food in question is a problem or if you can start eating it again.
Keep a food journal
A diary will help you keep track of your diet. If you get a migraine, don’t look only at what you ate that day. Go back as far as 3 days before.
Sometimes, people crave the foods that will trigger their migraine. If you suspect a certain food or drink, remove it from your diet again for at least a month.
Think about your medicines
Don’t stop or change any of your medication doses until you get the go-ahead from your doctor.
An elimination diet isn’t foolproof
Since migraines have many triggers that arenât food or drink, keep in mind that the diet may not give you all the answers.
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Red Wine And Other Alcoholic Beverages Are Foods That Trigger Migraines
Sulfites, used as preservatives in red wine, are included in the list of foods that trigger migraines. Alcohol in any drink causes increased blood flow to your brain and can also result in dehydration, both of which might be headache triggers. “People with migraines tend to get worse hangovers from any type of alcohol,” notes Robert Daroff, MD, professor of neurology at the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine in Cleveland and past president of the American Headache Society. Alcohol will also trigger a headache in someone going through a period of cluster headaches.
Common Foods And Drinks Can Trigger Migraine
Food and drink that we consume can be the straw that breaks the camels back, and become the final trigger for the migraine cascade to start.
However, these triggers usually are additive to other triggers, like sleep disorders and side and stomach sleeping, and neck problems. Many times what people thought were food triggers may no longer trigger a migraine, once the sleep and neck issues are taken care of.
Food affects people with migraines differently. If you have headaches, particularly migraine headaches, you should keep a record of what you eat, so youll know whether a particular food is one of your triggers. Along with this, you should keep a headache diary, and include sleep and sleep position, and any neck problems that seem to occur with your headache.
Some people believe that avoidance of triggers is the wrong thing to do, that we need to just let our brains get used to the trigger. These people think our brains cycle in and out of migraine susceptibility, no matter what we do. But, I believe if we take care of the big triggers, namely sleep issues and neck problems, then avoidance of obvious triggers, such a food and drink, is a good thing. Because if you do get migraines, as I do, you really want to avoid them!
The Migraine Triggers Food Wheel
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Can Certain Foods Cause Migraines
Migraines are not mere headaches: They are a serious, debilitating condition that affects 1 in 4 U.S. households. Twelve percent of the population suffers from migraines, making it the third most prevalent illness in the world, according to the Migraine Research Foundation.
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Watch What You Drink Too
You may have heard that red wine causes migraines, but other alcoholic drinks like beer, champagne, and hard liquor can also make your head pound. Certain ingredients in alcohol cause chemicals and blood vessels in your brain to act in an unusual way. You donât need to spend all night at a bar for this to happen. For some people, one boozy drink can be enough to trigger a headache.
Caffeine can cause headaches. But it isnât wise to go cold turkey on your favorite drinks. That could lead to a withdrawal headache. Instead, you may need to limit your caffeine intake to no more than 200 milligrams a day. Thatâs about one small cup of coffee. Remember, it isnât just hot drinks and some sodas that have caffeine. Chocolate has some, too.
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Pinpointing Problem Ingredients: Can Cheese Cause Migraines
Unless you are lactose intolerant or have a dairy allergy, it is not the milk in cheese that will cause you problems. Instead, your cheese-related migraine comes down to a couple of compounds known as vasodilators, which dilate the blood vessels in your brain.
Most experts point to tyramine as the major culprit behind cheese-triggered migraines. Tyramine is an amino acid belonging to a family of compounds called amines. Amines cause blood vessels to constrict, then dilate, and if you are vulnerable to migraines, this constriction and dilation can lead straight to a pounding headache.
Tyramine develops in food as it ages or ferments. Different cheeses contain different amounts of the troublesome compound, and it can be difficult to measure each precisely. Alcohol and chocolate are also loaded with amines, so you will want to keep them out of your diet too.
Like amines, nitrates cause your blood vessels to dilate, which can bring on a migraine. The term hot dog headaches has been used to describe the aftermath of eating processed meats treated with nitrates. Although nitrates occur naturally in a variety of foods, the amount in processed, smoked or preserved foods is much higher and problematic for migraine sufferers.
Cured meats are the biggest offenders when it comes to nitrates, but smoked cheeses are not far behind. Get in the habit of reading ingredient labels closely to make sure there are no additives that could cause problems.
How To Tell If A Certain Food Is Triggering A Migraine
Its important to note that a great range of factors can set off migraines, and what youre eating or drinking may not always be the culprit. Often recommended for migraine management is keeping a migraine diary to track what may be setting off attacks. This means recording:
- When attacks are happening
- Your levels of stress
- Exposure to bright lighting, screens, or other stimuli
If you suspect a particular food and drink is triggering your migraines, consider that other factors, such as dehydration, stress, hormonal changes, and sleep disruptions, can always be factors. So how can you tell? Heres a breakdown:
- Track the timing: Drinks or foods are considered triggers when they set off an attack within 12 to 24 hours of consumption. The onset of attack can be as quick as 20 minutes.
- Elimination: If you suspect a food item to be a trigger, avoid it for four weeks and see how your migraines are. If theres no change, then likely it isnt one.
- A focused approach: Be careful when eliminating foods or drinks from your diet it actually may be worse to avoid all of your triggers at the same time. Try one at a time and go from there.
- Special considerations: The elimination of foods from the diet should not be attempted in children or if youre pregnant without professional medical advice.
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Common Foods That Trigger Migraines
Some specific foods appear to trigger migraines. Weve listed some of the most commonly reported ones below, as well as suggestions on what to eat to relieve migraines, which, fingers crossed, will help you manage your condition.
1. Artificial sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners are synthetic sugar substitutes used to sweeten foods and drinks. They have virtually zero calories and can be found in desserts, ready meals, canned foods, chewing gum and more. The artificial sweetener aspartame has been identified as a migraine trigger for some people, and so has sucralose.
What to try instead: Natural sweeteners include fruit juices and nectars, honey, molasses and maple syrup. Honey offers a range of health benefits and is incredibly versatile add it to your caffeine-free tea, drizzle it over your cereal and use it as an ingredient in an array of dishes.
2. Aged cheeses
As cheese ages, its proteins break down and form tyramine a natural substance that some experts believe is linked to migraine and headache pain. Some examples of aged cheeses include blue cheese, Swiss cheese, parmesan, brie and cheddar.
What to try instead: Luckily, we have a huge variety of cheese at our fingertips so you can substitute aged ones with fresh, soft, spreadable options such as cream cheese, ricotta and goats cheese. A lot of dairy products do, however, contain high levels of saturated fats so enjoy them in moderation.
4. Foods containing MSG
5. Processed and cured meats
How To Prepare Blue Cheese
Although blue cheese is available throughout the year in most grocery stores and many specialty shops, its taste and quality depend on the type of milk used to make it and the time of production. Enthusiasts believe blue cheese tastes best during the summer, after it has aged for a few months.
When selecting blue cheese, be sure to smell it. While most varieties will have a strong scent, cheese should never smell like ammonia. Soft cheese will typically have a pungent odor, while firm varieties may smell nutty or smoky.
Here are a few of the best ways to add blue cheese to your favorite meals:
- Toss blue cheese in with romaine lettuce and cherry tomatoes to create a delicious salad.
- Add blue cheese crumbles as a pizza topping.
- Include it with chicken and lettuce in a wrap.
- Fold it into an omelet with bacon or mushrooms.
- Make blue cheese tacos with sirloin steak.
- Add it to a charcuterie board with various types of meat, nuts, or fruits.
- Combine blue cheese and white cheddar to make the ultimate grilled cheese sandwich.
- Top salmon filets with crumbled blue cheese and chives.
- Enjoy it with pecans and cranberries on roasted acorn squash.
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Skipping Meals/low Blood Sugar: An Underestimated Trigger
- Limit high-sugar foods like candy, cookies, cakes, etc.
- Replace refined grains with whole grain alternatives
- Try to have breakfast within one hour of waking up, or at least some protein and slow carbs
- Do not skip meals
- Carry low-sugar / high protein snacks in your purse, bag, or car
- Try to eat some fat and protein with each meal and snack
YES we are aware that some of the healthy snacks proposed are in the trigger list.
Whats The Link Between Tyramine And Headaches
Because of its chemical structure, tyramine is called a monoamine. Thereâs an enzyme in our bodies that breaks down monoamines called monoamine oxidase . This enzyme helps process tyramine.
Scientists made the connection after anti-depression drugs that inhibit MAO went on the market in the 1950s. People taking the drugs began to get headaches and high blood pressure when they ate foods containing tyramine.
Experts are still trying to understand how tyramine triggers migraines. One explanation is that it causes nerve cells in your brain to release the chemical norepinephrine. Having higher levels of tyramine in your system — along with an unusual level of brain chemicals — can cause changes in the brain that lead to headaches.
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What Is Gastric Headache
The gut and the brain are linked, and some people suffer from headaches as a result of gastrointestinal dysfunction or problems.
These migraines are sometimes referred to as stomach headaches. The term gastric headache is sometimes used interchangeably with abdominal migraine.
However, this name is inaccurate, as stomach headache is not a medically recognized illness. However, some study has provided light on how gastrointestinal disorders might cause headache symptoms.
The gut-brain axis is discussed in this article, as well as how gastrointestinal disorders may be linked to headaches. It also goes through the symptoms that someone might have and the therapies that are accessible.
How Does Light Sensitivity Affect Migraines
refers to an abnormal and extreme sensitivity to light.2 The term may be used interchangeably with photosensitivity and is a common symptom of a migraine attack that is frequently used to diagnose a migraine.1,2 Everyone has some level of light sensitivity or discomfort. Consider how your eyes need to adjust from going from a dark room into the bright sunlight. This is usually a quick adjustment but for those who are hypersensitive, abrupt changes in light levels, bright fluorescent lights, and even natural sunlight can exacerbate a pounding migraine headache.2 Many people who suffer from these debilitating headaches mention that bright lights serve as a trigger for their migraines.2
The brighter the light is, the more discomfort can be felt by those who are experiencing photophobia.1 The wavelength or color of the light may also be a factor of discomfort blue light can cause more trouble for individuals than other colors of light.1
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Chocolate: Is It Really A Migraine Trigger
Research recently presented at the International Headache Society suggests that cocoa may actually protect the nerve cells that cause migraine headaches. But 22 percent of headache sufferers identify chocolate on the list of foods that trigger migraines or headaches. “Chocolate may be getting a bad rap as a migraine trigger,” says Dr. Rosen. “Many people with migraines have increased appetite and food cravings just before their headaches start.” Reaching for a chocolate bar may be the result of a migraine, rather than the cause.
Get The Answers You Need
Headaches, neck pain, back pain, sleep disorders, and multiple sclerosis. As the founder and a top neurologist at a major neurology center, I have seen a lot of tough cases of each of these conditions. Theyre complex and disruptive to your quality of life. But, what most dont realize is that they can all be connected. In this guide, I dissect each of these neurological conditions and show you how the symptoms youre experiencing may all be related.
I have created free online video series to help you better understand your symptoms and disorder and take back control of your life.
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At The Sushi Spot: Skip The Teriyaki Try Steamed
This one might hurt, but its true: Fermented soy products, such as miso, soy sauce, and teriyaki sauce are foods that can trigger migraines thanks to their high tyramine levels. So if this compound is a trigger for you, the sushi or teriyaki place around the corner might not be your idea of a nice lunch out. Never fear: Ask for a steamed or grilled entree instead, and learn to love your sushi without dousing it in sauce. The National Headache Foundation suggests limiting these sauces to one ounce per day.
Not sure if tyramine is a trigger for you? Keeping track of what you do and dont eat in a migraine diary can help you determine which foods are migraine triggers. And once you have an idea of your triggers, restaurants can become less of a headache landmine and more of the enjoyable destination theyre meant to be.
See a doctor for diagnosis of migraines and migraine relief options.