migraine food
Health & Wellness

These 4 Foods May Be Making Your Head Hurt

By on 06/18/2018

If you get headaches or migraines after eating or drinking certain foods, it may be the food that’s triggering your symptoms. Although there aren’t universal headache food triggers, determining if things you eat or drink cause your symptoms can help you avoid the misery.

One way to figure out if your headaches are affected by what you eat is to keep a food diary. Write down what you ate or drank before each time you have a headache or migraine, as soon as symptoms start so you don’t forget. Think back to what you consumed during the entire day because some foods may trigger headaches quickly while others take awhile to cause symptoms. Look over this diary to see if you notice a pattern between certain foods and symptom onset so you know what to avoid.

Different foods are triggers for different people but here are 4 common headache food triggers:

  • Alcohol – Alcohol can contain sulfites, tannins and/or tyramine, which are all potential headache triggers. Alcohol also causes increased blood flow to your brain and can result in dehydration, a known cause of headaches. The most common alcoholic triggers tend to be red wine, beer, champagne, whiskey and Scotch.
  • Aged cheese – The offender here is a substance called tyramine, which is produced mainly in protein foods from the natural breakdown of the amino acid tyrosine. Tyramine levels increase in foods when they are aged, fermented or stored for long periods of time. Cheesy culprits include blue cheese, Swiss, cheddar, gouda and parmesan.
  • Preservatives – Nitrates and nitrites found in processed meats such as hot dogs, sausage, ham and salami have been linked to the dilation of blood vessels, which can cause headaches. MSG, a flavor enhancer commonly used in soy sauce and other Asian foods, may also lead to headaches.
  • Caffeine – A little caffeine can help get rid of a headache (caffeine is even included in some migraine medications), but if you consume caffeine on a regular basis and then skip your morning cup of coffee, you can wind up with a headache. Too much caffeine can also trigger headaches. Caffeine is most commonly found in coffee, tea, soda and chocolate.


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Date Last Reviewed: March 27, 2018

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Nora Minno, RD, CDN

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