What Foods Trigger Migraines?

Reviewed on 4/9/2021

Migraines

Migraine is a chronic neurological disorder that features intense headaches on one or both sides of the head.
Migraine is a chronic neurological disorder that features intense headaches on one or both sides of the head.

Migraine is a chronic neurological disorder that features intense headaches on one or both sides of the head. Migraine attacks may resolve in few hours or may take as long as several days. They are most often triggered by factors such as your menstrual periods, stress, lack of sleep, and even some medications. Certain foods have also been identified as triggers for migraines. These include:

  • Chocolate: Chocolate is the most popular trigger for migraines as per many studies. Some experts think the tyramine content of chocolate is the culprit.
  • Caffeine: Some people drink regular (caffeine-containing) coffee to relieve their headaches, whereas for some people with migraines, coffee can bring on migraine attacks. This is because coffee affects the level of a substance called adenosine in the blood. Caffeine addiction and its withdrawal are often a migraine trigger. A person addicted to coffee who wants to cut back on the caffeine content should do so gradually and not stop it all at once. This gives time for the body to acclimatize to the decrease in coffee intake. Look for the labels. Caffeine is not only present in coffee but also present in other drinks such as sodas.
  • Alcohol: Red wine is known to trigger migraine attacks in some. However, there are reports of people getting migraine attacks after consuming alcoholic drinks such as beer, champagne, beer, and whisky. A single peg can also trigger migraines.
  • Food additives:
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG): A common additive in Chinese cuisine and the main ingredient in soy sauce and meat tenderizer, MSG is primarily used to enhance the taste of the food.
  • Nitrates and nitrites: These are used as food preservatives in processed food items such as hot dogs, bacon, ham, sausage, lunch meats, and some types of cheese. These can cause the blood vessels to dilate (expand) and trigger migraine headaches.
  • Aspartame: A sugar substitute, aspartame is 150 times sweeter than sugar. It is not known how it triggers a headache.
  • Spicy foods: These can irritate your stomach and cause hyperacidity. Hyperacidity can give rise to a migraine attack.
  • Cheese: Tyramine present in certain types of cheese can trigger migraines. These include:
  • Parmesan
  • Cheddar
  • Mozzarella
  • Swiss
  • Blue
  • Brie
  • Feta
  • Muenster

Other food triggers include:

  • Baked foods
  • Nuts and nut butter (such as peanuts and peanut butter)
  • Citrus fruits
  • Other fruits such as:
  • Bananas
  • Raspberries
  • Red plums
  • Papayas
  • Passion fruit
  • Figs
  • Dates
  • Avocados

Soy products such as:

  • Soy milk
  • Soy sauce
  • Miso
  • Tempeh

Vegetables such as:

  • Onions
  • Tomatoes
  • Peapods
  • Some beans
  • Corn
  • Sauerkraut

Not all these foods will trigger your migraine headache. The food that triggers some other person with a migraine might not be the food trigger for you.

To identify what foods are responsible for triggering your migraines, maintaining a food journal is a good idea. Whenever you get a migraine attack, note whatever food items you had at least 2 hours before. Try avoiding that particular food or drink to prevent migraine attacks.

You may also get migraine attacks when you skip meals or drink less water. Consuming a heavy meal at a time and long intervals between two meals can also cause migraine attacks. Hence, instead of having three large meals a day, you should have small five to six meals spread throughout the day.

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References
Common triggers. https://www.migrainetrust.org/about-migraine/trigger-factors/common-triggers/

Food Triggers for Migraines. https://www.webmd.com/migraines-headaches/migraine-trigger-foods

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