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22 Foods That Often Trigger Migraines

Updated 6 months ago on April 1, 2020
By Lifehack Lane

The pain a migraine brings can be excruciating but what triggers them is something that is still up for debate. However, nutritionists and doctors are usually in agreement that migraine sufferers can significantly reduce the likelihood of further attacks simply by eradicating certain foods from their diet.

Here are 22 such foods that many medical professionals believe are migraine triggers.

1. Processed Meats

While red meat is known to increase the likelihood of a range of cancers, red meats are also packed full of tyramine, a known migraine-inducing chemical. As Susan Buckley, nutrition manager at South Denver Cardiology Associates in Littleton, Colorado explains, "“Generally, the longer a high-protein food ages, the greater the tyramine content." 

2. Olives

Just like with red meats, olives are another food laden in tyramine. 

3. Caffeine

Caffeine is a substance 99.% of the world consumes yet few know of its migraine side-effects. For instance, too many trips to Starbucks can spawn migraines if you're new to drinking caffeine while more seasoned drinkers can also suffer from migraines if they attempt to decrease their consumption.

4. Dried Fruits

Often hailed as 'health foods', the head can often take a battering in the form of a blistering migraine if dried fruits are regularly consumed due to the high-level of sulphite.

5. Alcohol 

This may be a no-brainer, but unlike a hangover, a migraine-hangover combo is far worse. The reason migraines often occur after drinking is due to the body turning the alcohol into acetate, which many doctors believe leads to migraines. Spirits like whisky and bourbon are thought to be the worst triggers although the research isn't conclusive.

The list continues on the next page.

6. Soda

Aspartame is used as an artificial sweetener for many fizzy drinks. Because of this, health professionals have long labelled sodas no-go drinks for migraine sufferers.

7. Pizza

This may be a hard one to stomach (excuse the pun), but the yeast in the crust and tyramine in any potential meat toppings can create a vomit-inducing migraine.

8. Bread

Another commonly consumed food that causes migraines is bread, due primarily to the occurring chemical called coumarin found in yeast.

9. Hot Dogs

As a red meat. Hot dogs are full of tyramine while the preservative-laden sauces won't help, either. 

10. Candy

Bright coloured candy can play havoc with your head due to the additives (E Numbers) used to brighten and make the food appear more attractive to consumers.

This applies more to children than adults, however, due to their organs being less adept at removing certain toxins from the body that such additives create.

11. Bacon

Just like with hot dogs, the tyramine and preservatives in bacon are also known migraine culprits although it's worth noting at this stage that not all migraine sufferers are affected by tyramine.

12. Chilli peppers

Chilli peppers aren't just known for burning your tongue- they can also cause rip-roaring migraines. In fact, they are one of the most commonly known triggers and are even used in research when analysing migraines. 

13. Beans

If you're prone to migraines, it's perhaps best to exclude beans from your next burrito order. After all, all beans contain tannins which can be a migraine- trigger for some. 

14. Aged cheeses

Aged cheeses are full of tyramine and as we've stated before, are best to be avoided if your migraines are regular occurrences. 

15. Sour Cream  

Sour cream is a dip we all love, but you may want to swap to salsa if your migraines are perpetual due to the choline. 

16. Whole Milk

Choline is also found in whole-fat milk, so it's better for sufferers to purchase semi or fully skimmed milk as an alternative.

17. Any MSG foods  

MSG, an abbreviation of Monosodium Glutamate is a flavour enhancer used by many fast food joints, and in recent years doctors have speculated it to be a migraine trigger.

18. Avocados

While avocados are healthy sources of protein, they're a strict no-no for migraine sufferers due to their tyramine properties.

19. Bananas

As well as tyramine, histamine is another compound found in this popular fruit which can sometimes cause significant pains around the cranium.

20. Red plums 

Red plums, while often only consumed in the summer are another fruit with high levels of tyramine.

21. Vinegar

Yes, you guessed it, the seemingly ubiquitous compound tyramine is also found in balsamic vinegar although white vinegar is usually safe as it contains no tyramine.

22. Skipping meals

And finally, the most important thing to remember is that while there are plenty of foods to avoid, sticking to a correct eating routine is just as vital. Irregular eating patterns are never good for migraine sufferers, and a full stomach is often the best way to combat the early stages of a migraine.

But while doing any of the listed recommendations, it should never take the place of professional medical attention. Be sure to consult with your doctor before changing your diet or trying any home remedies, and continue to take any prescriptions your doctor recommends.

For guidance and further reading about the best foods to eat, we recommend you read Karren Appold's article in Today's Dietitian.

You may also like the video with the lifehack on getting rid of a headache.

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