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What Foods Trigger Headaches And Migraines

Identifying Foods That Trigger Headaches

Migraine Headaches : Foods That Trigger Migraine Attacks

It is not commonly known that certain foods and dietary habits can trigger migraines and other headaches. As such, your patients may be unaware that the foods they are eating, or their eating habits, may be the cause of their pain.

Informing them of the foods and dietary habits that are associated with headaches should become part of your management routine. If your patient does experience food-related headaches, keep in mind that food triggers will vary from patient to patient.

It is also possible that certain foods in isolation will not provoke a headache, but when coupled with other triggers or stressors, a headache will result. For instance, eating a trigger food when a patient is already experiencing stress may increase the likelihood of getting a headache.

Figure 1. Certain foods in isolation will not provoke a headache, but when coupled with other triggers or stressors, a headache will result. Examples include food, dietary habits, stress, and poor sleep.

Some foods that commonly trigger headaches include:

  • Aged cheeses
  • Cured meats and smoked fish
  • Food preservatives
  • Certain vegetables
  • Alcohol
  • Yeast extracts and baked goods made with yeast
  • Certain fruits

Figure 2. Common foods that trigger headaches.

Food And Migraine: A Personal Connection

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At a Harvard Medical School talk on migraine and food, a nutritionist from Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center delivered a message that people in the audience probably didnt want to hear: There are no specific dietary recommendations for migraine sufferers, said Sandra Allonen. But she did have some advice to offerand she emphasized that the connection between food and migraine is a very individual one.

Several foods have been associated with triggering migraine. None of them has been scientifically proven to cause migraines, explained Allonen, but many people report a link between eating these foods and getting a migraine. Possible migraine triggers include:

  • Aspartame
  • Caffeine
  • Chocolate
  • Nitrates and nitrites, which are found in processed meats such as bacon and cold cuts
  • Sulfites, which are found in wine
  • Tyramine, which is found in aged cheeses and meats, and fermented beverages
  • Yellow Dye Number 6, which is used in Doritos, Mountain Dew, and Peeps

Gutbrain Axis And Probiotics

Several studies have shown different gastrointestinal diseases to be associated with migraine . Migraine is often accompanied by gastrointestinal symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, dyspepsia, and bowel disturbances . A link has also been found that headaches occur at a higher rate in patients with gastrointestinal disorders . Abdominal migraine is an entity affecting children . Studies have also suggested that migraine is associated with inflammatory bowel disease and celiac disease .

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Changes In The Weather

Storms, excessive heat and changes in barometric pressure are common weather-related migraine triggers that can lead to a migraine attack. High humidity and heat can easily lead to dehydration, another common trigger.

How to cope: We cant control the weather, so if the current conditions are not favorable for your migraine, stay inside or adjust your schedule accordingly. If theres an errand you need to run and its the middle of July in Arizona, take care of it in the morning before it gets too hot!

Nine Sneaky Foods That Trigger Your Headaches And Migraines

Foods you least expect to be migraine triggers! Repin to ...

Do you suffer from chronic headaches or migraines? Are you regularly grabbing or Advil or Tylenol to get through your day? Do you feel exhausted from being in chronic pain?

People who suffer from headaches and migraines may find relief from over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen. While these medications may help you decrease the pain of your headaches and migraines, they do not address the underlying cause and can create additional health issues. Our goal in functional medicine is to find the root cause of headaches and migraines so that patients will not have to load up on these pain medications. I want you to be able to be both medication and headache-free.

As a functional medicine practitioner, I regularly work with patients to do just that. Together, we identify and eliminate possible trigger foods and other underlying causes of their migraines.

If you are suffering from headaches and migraines, your diet may not be doing you any favors. Read on to learn more about the nine foods that trigger headaches and migraines.

1. High histamine-containing foods: Histamine has a few purposes. It tells the stomach to release acid to aid indigestion, sends messages to the brain, and is part of the body’s immune response. Unfortunately, it also may be the cause of headaches and migraines. Foods such as eggplant, shellfish, spinach, fermented foods , and aged cheese are all histamine rich.

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Diet And Headache Control

Merle L. Diamond, MD and Dawn A. Marcus, MD

Perhaps the best migraine prevention diet is one that is as wholesome, fresh and unprocessed as possiblethereby eliminating many of the supposed chemical triggers for migraine. In addition, eat these foods in small portions spread throughout the day averaging five to six calorie controlled portions. This eating behavior assists in preventing headache due to hunger, avoids large amounts of any supposed chemical trigger at any given time, and finally, fires up ones metabolismpreventing weight gain, which is a likely factor contributing to risk of headache progression.

Patients who suffer from migraine attacks try to determine what they did wrong each time that a headache occursthat is, they try to identify the triggers that put them at risk of having another episode. For many years, headache specialists have debated the possibility that certain foods cause the so-called migraine threshold to drop, which allows a window of opportunity for migraine to start.

Food triggers appear to be important in a minority of migraine sufferers, but other factors may be complicating an understanding of food triggers. For example, so many foods and beverages have caffeine, which has clearly been associated as a trigger for headache in individuals with high caffeine consumption.

Why Does Food Trigger Migraine

Doctors and researchers dont know the exact cause for migraine. Most doctors agree that when brain activity briefly changes, it can lead to an attack. What prompts these changes is not entirely clear. However, numerous studies, have found potential links to certain environmental and behavioral factors that are consistent enough in migraine patients to be considered triggers. This includes certain foods that seem to cause migraine attacks in about 10% of the migraine population.

Research indicates that certain elements in food such as sulfites, nitrites, histamine, phenylethylamine, and tyramine are have a significant role in migraines caused by food. It is believed that these foods and elements in them affect certain migraine phases by prompting the release of norepinephrine and serotonin. This can elicit several responses, all of which can cause headache or migraine:

  • The blood vessels dilate , causing the blood pressure to decrease
  • The blood vessels constrict , causing the blood pressure to increase
  • Directly stimulate the brainstem, trigeminal ganglia, and cortical neuronal pathways.

Therefore, it stands to reason that when these foods or food additives are eliminated from the diet, the head pain will not be triggered, thus allowing the patient to avoid or prevent food-triggered migraine.

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Is It A Trigger Or A Warning

We know that the brain of someone with migraine likes balance, like regular sleep and meal patterns. We also know that migraine can be triggered by alcohol and the menstrual cycle. The evidence for other triggers, such as exercise, eating chocolate and bright light, is less certain.

It can sometimes be difficult to tell if something is really a trigger, or if what youre experiencing is an early symptom of a migraine attack.

Studies have found that sometimes what you may think is a trigger is actually to do with the premonitory or warning stage of a migraine attack.

During this stage, you may get symptoms such as changes in your mood or emotions, cravings for certain foods, and being more sensitive to light, sound or smells.

These symptoms can lead to you think that something is triggering your migraine attack. For example, at the beginning of a migraine attack, you may start to crave sweet foods. You may then eat some chocolate to satisfy the craving. When you then get a headache, you may think that eating chocolate was the trigger. But actually you were starting to have a migraine attack when the cravings started and the cravings were the warning sign.

The same could be true for other triggers. If you are more sensitive to light in the warning stage, you might think bright lights are a trigger. If you are more sensitive to smells, you might think certain scents are a trigger.

Dietary Supplements For Migraine Prevention

Foods That Trigger Headaches/Migraines Natural Remedies

A majority of patients with migraine have tried using minerals, herbs, and vitamins to treat their headaches. Patients have different reasons for using supplements, including the idea that they are more natural or do not require a prescription. Because these complementary and alternative treatments can affect pain pathways and other body functions similar to prescription medications, it is important to be aware of the nature of these supplements, including potential side effects and the quality of evidence supporting their use for migraine prevention.

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Eating Habits That Can Trigger Migraine

Your body needs consistency. It needs regular meals to avoid fluctuations in blood sugar. It needs regular sleep, exercise, diet, everything. When you deviate from the norm, that is when you run into problems. A late-night, having a few drinks, or skipping a meal can all make you more susceptible to a migraine attack. Eating regular meals and snacks about every two to three hours apart will help keep your blood sugar stable and can help keep your migraines at bay.

Food Drink And Additive Triggers

Perhaps because of the genetic variations, no studies exist that prove a particular food or drink ingredient triggers attacks in all migraine sufferers. There have been studies that show certain ingredients trigger attacks in some people. Theres also evidence from surveys of migraine sufferers and headache diary analysis that these triggers exist. From those research findings and anecdotal evidence from migraine sufferers a few likely culprits emerge:

Tyramine-Rich Foods

It appears that some migraine sufferers dont process foods containing the amino acid tyramine in the same way that people without migraines do. A few examples of tyramine-rich foods include:

  • Aged cheeses blue, Swiss, Parmesan, feta, aged cheddar
  • Cured meats salami, summer sausages, pepperoni, corned beef
  • Pickled foods olives, sauerkraut, kimchee
  • Broad beans fava beans, snow peas
  • Fermented soy products soy sauce, tofu, miso soup, teriyaki sauce

A slice of cheese in your sandwich wont necessarily trigger a migraine, says Stephen F. Knox, M.D., a neurologist with Sutter Medical Group neurologist who treats patients with migraine, but a platter of cheese, olives and salami at the party certainly could especially if you add a glass of red wine.


Food Additives

Some studies refute the idea that these additives trigger migraines, but the consensus seems to be that certain additives affect subgroups of migraine sufferers.


Citrus Fruits


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Using A Headache Diary To Uncover Dietary Habits That May Trigger Headaches

There are dietary triggers that are unreliable, even deceptive. For instance, some dietary triggers may sometimes help headaches, but at other times may trigger a headache. Caffeine is one such trigger. Your patient may notice that caffeine helps them get rid of a headache but increasing caffeine intake may lead to an increase in headaches.

In this case, it might be useful to look more deeply into factors leading to the increase of caffeine. Perhaps your patient increased the amount of caffeine they consumed to overcome fatigue? This kind of information can be obtained from an observant patient using a headache diary.

A headache diary can help your patients discover and explore the relationships between certain foods, their dietary habits, and the appearance of headaches.

Figure 4. A headache diary can help your patients discover and explore the relationships between certain foods, their dietary habits, and the appearance of headaches.

When your patient maintains a diary, and you review it with them diligently, you can discover a lot about their possible migraine causes and triggers.

Thats it for now. If you want to improve your understanding of key concepts in medicine, and improve your clinical skills, make sure to register for a free trial account, which will give you access to free videos and downloads. Well help you make the right decisions for yourself and your patients.

Top Triggers Of Migraine Headaches

These foods are common migraine triggers. Any more to add ...

Migraines can come on at any time causing a significant amount of discomfort. From severe throbbing and pain to nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound, migraine attacks can last for hours, even days.10%-15% of the U.S. population, mostly women, suffer from repeated migraines. Medications are available, but preventing the onset of a migraine can be difficult. While there are a number of different things that can cause migraine headaches, below are seven of the more common triggers people may experience.

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Does Food Really Trigger Migraines

Of course, the relationship between food and migraine isnât clear-cut, and unfortunately, no single factor can be directly tied to your attacks. That said, there’s scientific evidence that suggests migraines may be triggered by certain foods. Additionally, 27% of those who experience migraines believe that particular foods are personally triggering.

According to Dr. Sara Crystal, clinical neurologist and Cove Medical Director, certain foods and additives are more likely to trigger headaches in a higher percentage of migraineurs, but even among individuals, other factors like stress, hormonal changes, and lack of sleep can increase the likelihood of an attack after consuming a known trigger.

So, without further ado, hereâs a list of the most common food triggers for migraine sufferers, in no particular order.

What You Should Know About Msg

MSG is a well-known migraine trigger and is found in a number of foods, many of which you may not even be aware. What many people dont realize is that glutamic acid is a naturally occurring amino acid that is found naturally in most foods. It is essential for life.

There are two types of glutamate. Bound glutamate which is bound to other amino acids. It is whole, unmodified and the body digests and absorbs it slowly. Then theres free glutamate which is not bound to amino acids making its absorption rate much faster. Monosodium glutamate, or MSG, is a synthetic form of free glutamate that is added to most processed and manufactured foods. Basically, it makes food taste better, more savory. The problem is, this synthetic glutamate has contaminants and unwanted, even harmful byproducts that can seriously impact your health.

MSG is found in so many foods that unless you are eating clean and only choosing fresh foods you will find it extremely difficult to avoid. It is used at many buffet restaurants and is notorious for being used at many Asian or Chinese restaurants. What you may not know is that it is in many prepared salad dressings, commercial spices and spice blends, cured meats, cured cheeses like Roquefort and Parmesan, soy sauce, just about any prepared or processed food, and many store bought broths .

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Foods That Trigger Headaches

Headaches and migraines are often triggered by certain foods. But not all headache triggers deserve their bad rap.

Theres nothing like a pounding headache to make you seek refuge in a dark, quiet room and hide from the world. If you suffer with chronic headache pain, you have great company. More than 45 million Americans have chronic headache pain from migraine, tension, or cluster headaches.

Women suffer headaches more frequently than men, perhaps because of variations in the brain chemical called serotonin, which plays a role in pain and depression. When levels of the hormone estrogen plummet, levels of serotonin change as well.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the most common headaches include:

  • Cluster headache
  • Trigeminal autonomic cephalalgia , cluster headache and paroxysmal hemicranias

Whether you suffer with migraines, tension or sinus headaches, or headaches from arthritis or jaw pain, all headaches have one central thread that weaves them together: inner or outer triggers cause the body to react with pain thats felt in the head. These triggers may stem from foods, tobacco, chemicals, stress, environment, or your hormones, among other things, and may vary from one person to the next.

More Headache Diet Tips

The 10 Most Common Food Triggers For Migraines And Headaches Video

How you eat, in addition to what you eat, can also have an effect on headaches. The following tips can help you avoid headaches in general:

  • Don’t skip meals.
  • Make sure to eat breakfast every day.
  • Eat plenty of vegetables.
  • Eat a generally balanced diet.
  • Limit your intake of processed foods.
  • Avoid eating foods with labels that have ingredients you don’t recognize.

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Should I Give Up Alcohol

The most common dietary migraine trigger is alcohol. In one study, 29% percent of people with migraine reported alcohol as a trigger for attacks, compared to 19% reporting chocolate, and 18% reporting cheese. Certain types of alcohol contain chemicals that can, in sufficiently large doses, cause headache in anyone: which leads to migraine in those who are predisposed to migraine. Alcohol hangover is very similar to migraine. Some alcoholic drinks such as vodka or champagne contain fewer chemicals matching each alcoholic drink, with an equal amount of water can help avoid dehydration, which contributes to alcohol-related headache and migraine.


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