Monday, September 7, 2009


I had a friend who suffered with migraines. For reasons still unknown to me, she decided to cut me out her life a few months ago; but, when I saw this article it caused me to pause since it had become a bit of habit to keep my eye out for migraine help. So I decided to post it here in hope that others may find it helpful.

Foods that could trigger a nasty headache

My friend Charlene pinged me. She had a miserable headache over the weekend. It wasn't just any miserable headache -- it was a miserable headache caused by citrus.

After retracing her day, Charlene realized that the three delicious tangerines were the culprit. She thought she was just enjoying a very tasty, healthy snack, but she was also triggering pain.

Some experts say that citrus and other foods may trigger headaches because the people consuming them may have an enzyme deficiency. The enzyme they are lacking is necessary for neutralizing amines in foods. Some foods have large quantities of amines, and without the enzyme, headaches (and even migraines) can be stimulated.

Still, gobbling up an orange (or three) might seem harmless. If you are one of the 28 million Americans who suffer from migraines, taking note of how foods affect your body could be critical in preventing future headaches. One new theory is that craving certain foods could also signal a coming migraine. These kinds of migraines are also made more unpredictable because eating the food may not trigger pain every single time, and because food could team up with other triggers (like bright lights or stress) to induce a migraine.

Some other foods and beverages thought to trigger headaches include:

  • Aged cheese and those cheeses containing tyramine, a natural substance that builds up as food ages. Tyramine in high levels has been shown to cause hypertension, which is a particular concern for people who take MAO inhibitor medication to treat migraines. Blue cheese, brie, cheddar, Stilton, feta, gorgonzola, mozzarella, muenster, Parmesan, Swiss, and processed cheeses often contain high levels of tyramine.
  • Other salted, cured, processed, and canned foods that are high in tyramine. Take note of how your body reacts when you eat pickles, olives, and canned soups. Beans can also contain headache-triggering tyramine, especially fava, pinto, garbanzo, and lima beans.
  • Alcohol, which could prompt headaches as it is metabolized in the body. Pay particular attention when you drink red wine, beer, whiskey, and champagne, which have been identified as triggers.

There is a long list of foods that headache and migraine sufferers say cause their pain. Some of them might surprise you, including:

  • Peanuts and peanut butter
  • Potato chips
  • Pizza
  • Fresh fruits like kiwi, plums, and raspberries
  • Bread and crackers

Have you had a miserable headache or migraine that you thought was caused by food? What was the culprit?

Do you avoid common foods like these that could prompt pain?

Read more:
Surprising cures for migraines
5 things you didn't know about headaches
One more reason to lay off the caffeine

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Foods that trigger migraines

Migraine headaches are a disease that affects a lot of people and it is not yet known what are the exact causes of migraine headaches. A lot of research institutes identified a number of migraine headache causes and among those causes they include food as a major factor. Food can certainly play an important role for the existence of migraine headaches. This article is about foods that trigger migraines and what you can do to prevent the crisis.

The food seems to affect the frequency and intensity of migraines in some people. Often, people with migraines are sensitive to some foods. However, the exclusion of specific foods is not a formally accepted treatment for migraines.

Why do some foods trigger migraines?

One theory is that some foods may release certain chemicals, which can lead to migraines. The tyramine (found in cheese), the fainylaithylamini (found in chocolate), the tyrosine, glutamic mononatrio (used in Chinese food), aspartame, caffeine, sulphites – nitrites (found in processed meat) appears to be involved in causing migraines.

Also, different types of food cause varying degrees of vasodilatation or vasoconstriction, which can cause headaches. Another theory argues that some foods stimulate specific regions of the brain, leading to migraines. Nevertheless, the scientific literature does not lead to the formulation of clear conclusion.

What foods can trigger migraines?

A study of 577 people suffering from migraines showed that the foods more closely associated with their headaches was cheese, chocolate, red wine and beer. Another research found that the headache was common in patients with no resistance to gluten, with or without histological findings of intestinal lesions. Also other foods that trigger migraines are all nuts, the peanut butter, vinegar, prepared sauces (mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise), the avocado and animal intestines.

Second, the interruption of use of caffeine may cause headaches in some people, so consumption should not be exaggerated. The interruption of even a cup of coffee (or 2 cups of tea or 3 soft drink of type cola) can cause muscle pain, fatigue, fainting and headache.

Other established research about foods that trigger migraines showed that the following foods types are suspects for a migraine headaches crisis.

The chocolate

Many experts also believe that those who manifest migraine after consumption of these foods may have an enzyme deficiency in fainolsoulfotransferasi (PST).

This enzyme has the capacity to neutralize a group of substances called amines that exist in large quantities in the above foods. But when the enzyme is missing from the body, then the levels of amines increase, stimulating the platelet agglutination (blood) in the brain, giving a mandate to initiate migraine.

The rates with which different foods trigger migraines are:
74% chocolate
47% cheese
30% citrus
18% fat and fried
15% tea and coffee
14% meat, especially pork
10% of seafood

Supplements to help reverse the effects of foods on migraine headaches

In the treatment of migraines a lot of supplements has been used including riboflavin, magnesium, and Tanacetum parthenium. The large doses of riboflavin (400 mg / daily) were well tolerated with minimal side effects and were quite effective, since their headaches decreased significantly. The effect is maximized after taking the supplement for at least 3 months. High dose of magnesium (600 mg / daily) can reduce the frequency, intensity and duration of migraine by 40% after 12 weeks. The most secure form of the supplement is considered the magnesium citrate. Finally, the investigations so far do not lead to a safe conclusion about the effectiveness of Tanacetum parthenium in the treatment of migraine.

Furthermore, it is believed that omega-3 fatty acids of fish and ginger can help those who suffer from migraines because of antihistamines and anti-inflammatory properties.

How to do to identify which foods help trigger migraines

The first step is to keep a food diary. Record what you eat and drink, but all your natural symptoms. It is very important to note the time you eat. After a month, read your calendar and look for recurring patterns. If you believe that you have discovered a link between eating and headaches, try to restrict the food for a month and watch the progress of symptoms. Keep in mind however that the various food manufacturers add different materials e.g. chocolate, explaining why a brand can cause you headache, and another not.

Foods that help prevent migraine headaches

The salmon, spinach, the ginger, mushrooms, according to several established research could help prevent migraine headaches crisis.

Other factors that can trigger a migraine headache crisis are:

Alcohol and red wine in particular.
Stress and fatigue.
Abnormal vision, misapplication of eye glasses.
Physical and sexual activity. (The headache after orgasm is usually harmless, but if it is intense and persists may indicate bleeding)
Changes in sleeping and eating hours.
Changes of time, weather, long journeys.
Hormonal changes. Menopause. Replacement therapy with estrogen.
Strong lights, strong noise, strong perfumes, and polluted air.

There are a lot of types of foods that trigger migraines. It is important to keep a dairy and log what you eat and drink before the emerge of a migraine headache crisis. You can then remove temporarily those foods from your diet and see if the problem still exists. In any case you need to get consultation from a professional doctor to help you find the right treatment for migraine headaches.