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What Foods Can Cause Migraines

What Is A Migraine

Migraine Headaches : Foods Causing Migraines

A migraine is a severe type of headache that involves significant pain, which can present as throbbing or pulsing in various parts of your head. This pain can lead to other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and/or sounds. The headache is often preceded by an aura , and followed by a hangover or recovery period.

We arent sure what causes migraines. Abnormal behavior in the nerve cells of the brain, combined with inflammation in the brain is currently the best theory researchers have. Many triggers for migraines have been identified, such as lack of sleep, stress, hormones, and eating patterns.

Pay Attention To The Weather

Changes in the weather can impact your migraine patterns. High humidity and hot temperatures can stimulate headaches, as well as rainy days. If the weather becomes uncomfortable for you, you may need to step inside and take a break from the outdoors. Of course, you cant always avoid going outside, but you can minimize your time spent in certain headache-inducing weather.

What To Do If Food Triggers Your Migraines

If you suspect that certain foods may be triggering your migraines, try these tips:

  • Start a headache journal. If you arent sure whats triggering your head pain, write down potential triggers such as foods you ate or things you did shortly before your migraine started, says Berk.
  • Eliminate the most likely culprits. Whenever someone has very obvious food triggers we definitely recommend avoiding those foods, Berk says. In general, we do not recommend being on specific migraine diets, as studies have not shown any benefit in improving the frequency or severity of migraines with those diets.
  • Consider seeing a dietitian. Weight loss in general is helpful in preventing migraines, and we sometimes refer people to a dietitian for that, Berks says. Though, again, this is not to implement a specific migraine diet.

Also Check: What Type Of Migraine Do I Have Quiz

How Can You Tell If A Food Is A Trigger For Your Migraine

  • Eating a certain food should trigger a headache within 12 to at most 24 hours.
  • Limit the food of concern for four weeks and monitor your headache frequency, severity, and response to treatment using a headache diary.
  • If there is no change in your headaches, then that food alone may not be the trigger.
  • Cautiondo NOT restrict all possible trigger foods from your diet for an extended period of time. This is not likely to be helpful, and too much concern about avoiding foods may be another stress, as well as decrease your enjoyment of mealtime.
  • Restrictive diets should not be tried or followed during pregnancy. These diets are not likely to be helpful, and may prevent adequate nutrition for both mother and fetus because of the reduced consumption of calcium-rich and vitamin-rich foods.
  • Restrictive diets should NOT be used in children and adolescents because of doubtful benefit, and significant social disruption. Prohibiting the child from sharing a chocolate Easter basket with his siblings or the teenager from attending a pizza party can significantly add to the social stigma of having headaches.

Keeping a headache diary and following your lifestyle factors along with diet may help you identify patterns to your headache. Onset of menstrual cycles, work stress, sleep routine changes, and fasting may all be confounding what is thought to be a food trigger for headache.

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Sweets As A Migraine Trigger

Foods that Trigger Migraines: 5 Most Common

Sweets and desserts are one more group of food that trigger a migraine headache. Reasons for having a migraine after eating sweets are increased the level of sugar, dyes, or possible intolerance on milk. As one particular foodstuff, I would like to separate here is chocolate. Above all the main chemical trigger here is Phenylethylamine.

Recommended Reading: Can You Get A Fever With A Migraine

Aged Cheese Smoked Fish And Beer

Foods that contain the chemical tyramine, including aged cheese, smoked fish, and beer, may trigger a migraine. Tyramine is, organically produced when the amino acid tyrosine breaks down, and occurs in some types of foods when they are preserved or aged.

While these three foods commonly contain tyramine, there are others that might also be avoided, including some nuts and chicken liver.

Learn more about foods with tyramine here.

Coeliac Disease And Gluten Sensitivity

Coeliac disease is a serious condition where a persons immune system reacts when they eat gluten and causes damage to the lining of their gut. When this happens, they have symptoms such as diarrhoea, bloating, vomiting and stomach cramps. There can also be serious complications if it is not treated, such as anaemia. There is no cure for coeliac disease and people with it need to avoid gluten all their life.

There have been studies into the link between coeliac disease and migraine. There is no evidence to suggest that coeliac disease causes migraine. It is thought that if people with coeliac disease and migraine follow a gluten-free diet, this may help with both of their conditions.

Gluten sensitivity is when a person has a bad reaction if they eat gluten. They may have similar symptoms to coeliac disease, but there is no damage to the lining of their gut or the risk of serious complications that can happen with coeliac disease.

Gluten is found in foods that contain wheat, barley or rye. These include pasta, bread, cakes, some sauces and most ready meals.

One of the symptoms of gluten sensitivity is headache. But there is no evidence that gluten sensitivity causes migraine. However, if you are sensitive to gluten, you may find that if you eat food containing gluten, it makes migraine attacks more likely or the symptoms more painful.

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What Type Of Food Causes Migraines

The type of food you eat could also cause migraines to happen. Some of the biggest migraine triggers are:


Preserved meat

Fermented food

While they vary in how and why they cause migraines, most of the time its because these foods cause your blood vessels to dilate. Many of these items also contain high amounts of tyramine which can adjust your brain chemicals and lead to migraines.

How To Do An Elimination Diet

Woman’s Doctor: Certain foods can trigger migraines

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.

Go slow

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.

Recommended Reading: Does Cream Of Tartar Help With Migraines

With So Many Complicating Factors Whats The Best Approach To Reduce My Chance Of Getting A Headache

Being aware of foods, drinks and most importantly, the ingredients and chemicals that have been reported as headache triggers can be a helpful tool, a good starting point. Keep in mind that headache triggers vary from person to person. Also understand that pinpointing a headache trigger goes far beyond food/drink products that may have been consumed in the hours or even days before the headache started. So many other factors influence the occurrence of a headache.

So then, what can you do to lower your chance of headache? The best approach may be to begin to control known influencers of headache. A family history of headaches is something you cannot control. However, getting a good nights sleep, not skipping meals, drinking enough water to stay hydrated, and exercising regularly are some of the other things you can control.

As far as foods, drinks, and ingredients are concerned, it certainly doesnt hurt to try to figure out if one or more food items might be triggering your headache. Eliminate one item at a time over weeks or months and record this information in a headache diary. Only cut out a food if you have a high suspicion it causes headaches, otherwise you might remove foods you enjoy! In this diary, also track other factors that occurred within 24 hours of the headache . With all of this information in hand, you can begin to sort out and discover for yourself the factors that provoke your headache.


Salad Dressings And Sauces

If you get a headache after eating Chinese food, barbecued chicken or beef, or even salads, the culprit causing your headache might be monosodium glutamate . This ingredient is used as a flavor enhancer in soy sauce, barbecue sauces and salad dressings, as well as potato chips, lunchmeat and more. This one can be tricky to track because MSG also shows up on ingredient lists as hydrolyzed vegetable protein, hydrolyzed oat flour, glutamic acid, autolyzed yeast, sodium or calcium caseinate and other terms.

Even though many people can consume nitrates, nitrites, sulfites, tyramine and MSG without problems, some people are sensitive to certain ingredient triggers, especially migraine sufferers. If you think your headaches are food related, thats why tracking what you eat each time you have a headache can be so helpful. Share your concerns and your tracking notes with your doctor to find out the best ways to avoid or relieve food and drink related headaches.

Be sure to keep our convenient, on-the-go stick packs of BC® Original pain relief powder on hand for quick pain relief whenever a headache pops up.

Read Also: What Type Of Migraine Do I Have Quiz

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.

Examples include:

  • 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

What Foods Have Been Considered To Trigger Migraine In Susceptible People

8 Foods That Trigger Migraines â SheKnows

There are multiple foods that are thought to possibly trigger a migraine attack. Nearly all foods have been generated by patient self report and almost none have any scientifically valid backing from high quality studies.

The most commonly reported food triggers are alcohol and chocolate . Although the majority of headache sufferers cannot identify specific food triggers, headache patients are often given a broad recommendation to monitor their headaches after eating foods that historically have been thought to contain possible headache-triggering chemicals, such as tyramine , beta-phenylethylamine , and nitrates . In actuality, there have been no studies or only negative trials for headache provocation for cheeses, chocolate, dairy products, soy isoflavones and vegetables.

Processed meats containing high levels of nitrites and nitrates may be highly predictable migraine triggers in some individuals. Yet, only one patient has actually been studied with the result suggesting very pure nitrates, at high dose , induce attacks while dietary nitrates and nititrites may in susceptible individuals. Some foods can cause the blood vessels to dilate and so create the early changes seen in migraine attacks. Some foods contain a significant amount of tyraminean amino acid that can provoke the early blood vessel changes typical of migraine.

Read Also: Migraine Vs Headache Quiz

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.

How To Avoid Food

“Migraine disease is complex and affected by many factors,” says Simy Parikh, MD, program director of Thomas Jefferson University’s Post-Graduate Certificate Program in Advanced Headache Diagnosis and Management and Assistant Professor in the Department of Neurology at Thomas Jefferson University.

Here Parikh offers some steps you can take to potentially reduce migraine triggers:

Eat healthily and consistently. You may have noticed that the migraine trigger list was lacking a few major food groups “healthy” foods such as fruits, vegetables, and protein, in particular. A 2020 review showed that most “migraine-friendly” healthy eating plans, such as low-fat diets, provided a decrease in the frequency of migraine attacks.

In addition to eating healthy foods, it’s important to keep a consistent eating schedule to avoid migraines.

Low blood glucose can trigger headaches,” says Parikh. To keep your blood sugar steady, eat at roughly the same time every day without an extended amount of time between meals, she says. Parikh also suggests to all of her patients to maintain a healthy diet and weight.

Track food triggers and eliminate them from your diet. Since multiple factors contribute to migraines, many sufferers keep a headache diary. This is where they can list the frequency, duration, and intensity of migraines, as well as possible triggers, including food and drink.

Also Check: Can You Get A Sick Note For Migraines

Tips To Identify Trigger Foods

Some doctors may recommend that people with migraines keep a food journal to track what they eat and any headache symptoms that they experience.

It is worth noting that some people may have an immediate reaction to a food, while others may not react until 24 hours after eating it.

The next step is to try removing one potential trigger food from the diet to see if migraines still occur. For example, a person may decide to avoid all products that contain red wine for a week, including red wine vinegar and the wine itself.

This approach can ensure that people do not remove foods from their diet unnecessarily.

Doctors have identified five main trigger categories for migraines, one of which is different food types. The other four categories are:

  • Changes in the environment. Changes in atmospheric pressure, the season, and even storms may trigger migraines.
  • Hormones. Changes in hormone levels that occur due to the menstrual cycle can trigger migraines, as can some hormonal changes during pregnancy.
  • Sensory stimulation. Bright lights, certain smells, smoke, and excessive and repetitive noises can all trigger migraines in some people.
  • Stress. Stress, intensive exercise, illness, or unusual sleep habits may trigger migraines.

Sometimes, a combination of migraine triggers can lead to a migraine headache. For example, a person could be very stressed, miss a meal, and reduce their hours of sleep.

Making dietary changes is not the only option for treating migraines.

Top 10 Common Foods That Cause Headaches And Migraines

Migraine Headaches : Foods That Trigger Migraine Attacks
1. Wine

This is the first common food in the list of top 10 common foods that cause headaches and migraines. Wine, especially red wine, is considered one of the leading migraine agents. According to a review of Brazilian researchers, migraine patients reported that alcohol may have played a role in 30% of headaches and more .

Reasons of headaches when drinking wine are:

These reasons are still being debated some experts believe that there are substances in wine, like tannins and flavonoids. A 2014 study suggested that red wine containing high amounts of tannins such as cabernet sauvignon is even more likely to trigger migraines. In addition, alcoholic beverages also cause dehydration, which can also contribute to a headache as a migraine.

2. Caffeine

Among common foods that cause headaches, caffeine is one of the most noticeable foods. Caffeine has the effect of causing headaches and migraines by over-using. If you are prone to migraines, it may be necessary to review the amount of caffeine or caffeine a day: Too many of these can cause migraines. The cause is that caffeine acts on some brain receptors that are associated with migraines, according to a 2009 review. Limit caffeine drinks to 240-360ml / day .

Caffeine is a substance that stimulates the central nervous system. Frequent use of caffeine will cause mild physical dependence. But caffeine does not threaten the physical, social or economic health of the way other drugs do.

3. Cheese
4. Monosodium Glutamate

Recommended Reading: Migraine Medications Without Caffeine

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  • Secondary Headache Cause

Secondary headaches include symptoms such as sinusitis and high blood pressure. This is also the cause of a secondary headache. There are many serious causes such as brain tumors, brain injury, meningitis, and subarachnoid hemorrhage. The milder causes are due to giving up coffee, hypertension, sinusitis, ear infections, gingivitis

  • Causes From Outside Impact

Weather changes: Weather impacts on human health. Whenever the weather changes, such as the season is delivered, the storm is prepared the airflow in the atmosphere will change markedly. This change affects our bodies, especially the nervous and circulatory system, which causes the brain signals to become disordered, the blood vessels contracting abruptly leading to pain in the body and headaches. People with low blood pressure, high blood pressure, chronic sinusitis, and chronic arthritis will feel this change most clearly.

Sleepless: Sleep deprivation, sleeplessnesscan cause the number of serotonin hormones in the body decreased. When serotonin decreases, blood vessels dilate, at the same time, it is aggressive stimulation of the nerves associated with headaches, especially migraines, causes the nerves to release painful chemicals.

  • Other Causes

Headache Classification

  • Migraine
  • Cluster Headache
  • Headaches Due To Stress
  • Chronic Daily Headaches


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