Here’s Why Chocolate And Wine Give Some People Migraines
Scientists think they’ve figured out why chocolates and wine can trigger migraines in some unlucky people: it’s down to gut microbes and the way they interact with chemicals in food.
This unfortunate bacteria-powered chain of events turns chemicals called nitrates – found in chocolate, wine, processed meat, and other foods – into nitric oxide byproducts. And it’s these byproducts, which have been linked to migraines in previous research, that can cause a splitting headache.
To find the link between the two, researchers from the University of California, San Diego analysed 172 oral samples and 1,996 stool samples from their American Gut Project database.
The results showed that people who experienced migraines also had higher levels of the gut microbes that can modify nitrates.
“There is this idea out there that certain foods trigger migraines – chocolate, wine, and especially foods containing nitrates,” says one of the researchers, Antonio Gonzalez. “We thought that perhaps there are connections between what people are eating, their microbiomes, and their experiences with migraines.”
When nitrates enter the body via food and drink, bacteria access them and use them as fuel. But it doesn’t end there, because the bacteria’s own waste products, called nitrites, eventually become nitric oxide in our blood.
Until then, the best advice scientists have is that you might want to take a pass on the red wine and chocolate. Sheesh… sorry, guys.
Caffeine: A Cautionary Tale
On the flip side, caffeine can cause dehydration due to its diuretic properties, which is another trigger for migraine, so its important to stay hydrated while consuming it, Petrarca says. For those who brew up a morning cup or three on the regular, try sticking to the same amount each day, and drink it at the same time of day, to help guard against migraines. Also, limit consumption to less than 200 mg if you can. Overconsumption of caffeine can result in a migraine transforming from episodic to chronic, she says.
Cancer Food Combinations Part Of Further Research
Doctors aren’t prescribing chocolate bars to heart patients or migraine sufferers yet, but Katz said he can envision a recommendation to habitually eat dark chocolate.
«It’s not just giving people a license to do what they’re already doing,» Katz said. Americans already eat about 12 pounds of chocolate per year, most of which is the less beneficial milk chocolate. «But if they need a nudge to switch over to the dark side, this is a place science provides us to go.»
No guidelines have yet been determined about how to consume dark chocolate to maximize the health benefits. It is not clear how often and how much chocolate people should eat before the excess calories, sugar and subsequent weight gain becomes a problem, and this is one area where research could move forward.
Other areas for further research include expanding on some preliminary studies on how the antioxidants in chocolate could be harnessed to fight chronic diseases and cancer, as well as how food combinations chocolate eaten with fruits and nuts might affect health.
«This is tougher because there are no surrogate markers there are with heart studies,» Katz said. «In general, foods that are good for us are really just foods that are good for us and you can’t take care of just one organ at a time. If you’re cultivating health, you are reducing the risk of all the bad stuff.»
Also Check: A Lot Of Headaches During Pregnancy
Can Food Affect Migraines
In the past, certain foods like cheese, chocolate, and caffeine were thought by many people to trigger migraine attacks. But while these foods may bring on migraines in some people, there isnt a lot of scientific evidence to suggest that this is true for a majority of people with migraine.
What experts now believe is that the food thought to trigger the migraine is sometimes a craving that is part of the pre-headache phase of the migraine. Confused? Lets look at an example.
You eat a whole bar of dark chocolate one night. The next day you wake up with a migraine. You assume the chocolate triggered it. But what is probably going on is that in your pre-headache phase, you are experiencing heightened sensations that are coming out as a craving for dark chocolate. So, the craving for dark chocolate is actually part of the migraine, not the trigger.
Heres what we know for sure about food and migraines: Skipping meals is reported as a trigger in 57% of migraines, alcohol in 38%, and food in 27%.
Tips For Eating Chocolate When Youre Not Sure If It Is A Trigger
Take notes. Make a note of when you eat chocolate and what kind and how much of it you eat. Then make note of when you get migraine attacks. After a while , you should be able to establish whether chocolate is a trigger for you.
Your notes dont need to be detailed or complicated. Just jot the basic information down on a calendar, send yourself an email with a searchable phrase that will let you pull up all your relevant notes at once, or keep a tally on a sticky note inside a cabinet.
Its important to have notes across multiple attacks because something can be a trigger one day, but not another.
Watch out for other ingredients that could be the culprit . Nuts, gluten, caffeine, sugar, and corn are all cited as migraine triggers for some people. If youre sensitive to any of these ingredients, their presence may overrule that of cocoa.
Quantity matters. You might be fine with three pieces of Halloween candy, but not four. The threshold varies from one person to the next.
Consider the context. If you eat candy as a meal or scarf it down after not eating all day, youre probably not going to feel great.
Theres not a clear scientific explanation for this, but the anecdotal evidence is strong that eating junk food can make a person feel ill. If youre prone to migraine, that ill feeling might be a migraine attack.
Read Also: Migraine Factor X
Does Chocolate Trigger Migraine
At the recent annual meeting of the American Headache Society, a study was presented that may overcome the deeply rooted myth of migraine.
Prepare a piece of chocolate and read on!
Dietary triggers are commonly reported by patients with a variety of headaches, particularly those with migraines.
The presence of any specific dietary trigger in migraine patients varies from 10 to 64 percent depending on study population and methodology.
Some foods triggerheadache within an hour while others develop within 12 h post ingestion. Alcohol, especially red wine and beer, chocolate, caffeine, dairy products such as aged cheese, food preservatives with nitrates and nitrites, monosodium glutamate, and artificial sweeteners such as aspartame have all been studied as migraine triggers in the past.
Does Caffeine Cause Or Treat Migraines
Caffeine can be confusing to people with migraines. On the one hand, people report caffeine to be a common migraine trigger, and daily drinkers of coffee are more likely to have chronic migraines than people who dont consume caffeine regularly.
On the other hand, caffeine has long been used in combination with aspirin and acetaminophen to effectively treat all kinds of headaches including migraines.
What experts believe is that it may not be the caffeine itself that triggers migraines, but rather the caffeine withdrawal. However, not all coffee drinkers will get withdrawal symptoms. So if you are a regular coffee drinker who also gets migraines, make sure you are consistent with when you drink your daily cup. And if you are looking to cut back on your caffeine consumption, try to do it gradually over the course of a week.
Read Also: Migraine Headaches Medication List
Myth: Lifestyle Choices Wont Affect An Attack
Theres no known cause for migraine, apart from being genetically predisposed, but its thought it can be triggered by some aspect of change.
The migrainous brain doesnt like change as it has a problem processing sensory information.
Triggers can include hunger , travel, stress and relaxation after a stressful time and too much or too little sleep.
A migrainous brain likes someone to have a nice routine, get up at the same time, have breakfast and go to bed at the same time too, etc.
Catching Triggers In Their Tracks
Is a food responsible for triggering your migraines? Pay attention to how soon after consumption a migraine occurssymptoms tend to come on quickly, even as soon as 30 minutes after eating, says Merle Diamond, M.D., president and medical director of the Diamond Headache Clinic in Chicago and spokesperson for the National Headache Foundation. If you eliminate the food for a few weeks and the migraines continue, its likely not the food to blame. Dr. Diamond cautions against being too restrictive with your diets, which can cause more stressanother migraine trigger.
You May Like: Tylenol Caffeine Migraine
Is The Caffeine An Issue
Caffeine is a known migraine trigger. It blocks the action of a neurotransmitter known as adenosine, which has an impact on blood vessel dilation. It seems that for most patients, its caffeine withdrawal thats most likely to trigger a migraine. Youre used to consuming caffeinated beverages every day, and then suddenly you dont, and you develop a migraine.
The common recommendation is that migraine patients avoid caffeine so they do not build a dependency and then suffer migraines when they withdraw from the substance. But how much caffeine does it take to build dependence? Is there enough caffeine in dark chocolate to trigger this response?
A standard, 8-ounce cup of coffee contains between 50 to 90 mg of caffeine, and most people drink more than 8 ounces in one shot. This is not a good idea for migraine sufferers dependency develops quickly at these levels of caffeine intake. The average dark chocolate contains 12 mg of caffeine per ounce. A Ghirardelli square weighs 14 grams, which is about a half ounce, which means one of these squares contains about 6 mg of caffeine. Thats less than the 15+ mg of caffeine found in some decaffeinated coffee drinks.
How To Determine Your Food Triggers
Similarly to how peoples bodies can respond differently to various medications, they often respond differently to foods as well. So while alcohol and nitrates may trigger migraines in many people, different types of foods may trigger migraines in other people.
If you have certain food sensitivities, then eating those foods can also trigger migraines. The food intolerance isnt the cause of the migraine, but it can make the migraine worse, or bring it on.
For some people, figuring out what foods if any trigger a migraine can be very obvious. For others, it might be trickier. The good news is that with a little determination and patience, you can get to the bottom of whether certain food triggers are a feature of your migraines or not.
The most common way of doing this is to keep a food and symptom diary. This involves carefully tracking factors that may have been at play when a migraine hit. When you feel it coming on, try logging what you ate or drank, how much sleep you got, if you were on your menstrual cycle, and how often you were eating in the days leading up to it. This is detective work: Recording everything in as much detail as possible will help you determine potential associations and culprits. The longer you keep a food and symptom diary, the more likely you are to get the answers you seek.
The downside of this method is that it can be tedious, and it may take several months to notice a pattern, especially if your migraines are not very frequent.
Don’t Miss: Migraine Equivalent Symptoms
Chocolate Is Pure Bliss Really
Chocolate doesnt just taste good it also makes you feel good. Chocolate contains significant amounts of anandamide, a cannabinoid akin to THC , a chemical found in . Anandamide, a transmitter that the brain produces naturally to create feelings of well-being, comes from the word ananda, Sanskrit for bliss.
How To Identify Triggers
If you have migraine, almost anything can be a trigger. This means it can be very difficult to identify your potential triggers. It may also be a combination of a few things that seems to lead to a migraine attack. And a trigger may not lead to a migraine attack every time, which can confuse things even more.
Here is an example of how combinations of triggers can work: A young woman has identified that her migraine attacks appear to be triggered when she skips meals, is feeling stressed and when she is about to have her period. If she comes home late from a very stressful day at work, her period is just about to start, and she goes straight to bed without eating a proper meal, she will almost certainly have a migraine attack. However, if she skips dinner another time, when the other triggers did not happen, she will probably not have migraine attack.
Many people find that they sometimes go a long time without having a migraine attack. During this time, your body may seem to be less sensitive to triggers and you may find that even the combination of your usual triggers doesnt result in a migraine attack.
Read Also: Prefrontal Cortex Headache
Does Chocolate Trigger Migraines Maybe Not
Eating chocolate is often cited as a migraine trigger. In the past, some migraine sufferers have been advised to avoid eating chocolate in case it brings on an attack. Some migraine sufferers have also noticed that they suffer from a migraine attack after eating it, and so have concluded themselves that it is a trigger for them and have chosen to avoid it.
While every migraine sufferer is different and will have different migraine triggers, it has been claimed that chocolate could be a trigger for a great proportion of those migraine sufferers. The American Migraine Foundation has said that it is thought to be the second most common trigger for migraines , with 22% of migraine sufferers feeling that it is a trigger. However, in more recent years following greater levels of research, the evidence doesnt seem to support the chocolate=migraine attack hypothesis.
Now researchers believe that eating chocolate and the onset of a migraine attack may be linked, but more in terms of bodily cravings which occur just before an attack , rather than cause-and-effect.
The reason the body may crave chocolate before an attack has been suggested as being to do with a need to boost its level of serotonin. Some migraines medications are based on this serotonin deficit the drug sumatriptan acts like serotonin in the brain and this is one reason why it can help to relieve some migraines.
Myth: Bright And Flickering Light Can Cause Them
People often mention that bright and flickering light can cause migraine, but this is complicated by the fact that if a person is about to have a migraine attack, or the migraine has already started, they might feel the light seems very bright anyway. You cant always tell the difference between migraine triggers and early symptoms.
Also Check: Tylenol And Migraines
How Can I Modify My Diet To Prevent Migraines
If youre not sure whether or not certain foods trigger your migraines or what those foods might be it doesnt hurt to opt for healthy, natural foods that are beneficial to everyones health.
Natural, whole, and minimally processed foods without preservatives or artificial flavorings such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and eggs
Fresh meats, fish, and poultry like chicken breast, salmon, and lean beef or ham
Natural sweeteners like maple syrup and raw honey
Anti-inflammatory foods and supplements like omega-3s and turmeric
Whats The Story With Chocolate And Migraines
Is wanting to eat chocolate just a craving we have because of chocolates incredible flavor, or is there a deeper reason that our body cries out for it? Why do you crave chocolate more right before your period? And how do you reconcile the paradox of wanting to eat something that gives you so much joy and pleasure with the probability that doing so may land you back in bed with a migraine? Finally, how can you get to a place where you can once again partake of this nourishing and sacred ancient plant theobroma cacao?Well explore these questions today.
Perhaps you already have a handle on your chocolate cravings because youve paid the price too many times. Or perhaps your short-term need for gratification in eating chocolate continuously trumps your knowledge that it doesnt support you. It could be that, having read many of the health benefits of chocolate, youve convinced yourself its not a trigger. Or perhaps, if youre lucky, you actually are someone who isnt stuck in chronic migraines and chocolate is not even an issue for you or a major contributor to the few migraines you do get. In that case, this article might still explain why you crave chocolate so much.
You May Like: Migraines Side Effects
Other Reasons Why Chocolate Can Trigger Migraine
There are additional factors aside from biogenic amine content that contribute to chocolate being a migraine trigger.
If the chocolate quality is poor, the sugar content is too high, or the chocolate contains dairy, nuts, oxidized oils, wheat, glutamate, soy, or corn syrup, chocolate can act as a trigger for reasons that have nothing to do with the biogenic amine content of the cacao itself.
Waxes in cacao butter may also be hard for those with a sluggish gallbladder to break down. The caffeine content of chocolate is also a consideration, though the levels of caffeine in chocolate are relatively low and should not pose a problem for most people unless they happen to be highly sensitive to caffeine.