Migraine Triggering Foods

Wisconsin Migraine Neurologist Helps You Determine Which Foods Trigger Your Migraines

There are many common foods thought to trigger migraine headaches. Each person is unique so not all foods will trigger a migraine in you. However when you do get a migraine it would be beneficial to take note which foods you have eaten that day and also the day before. Some foods can cause an immediate effect in causing a migraine, while other foods may take up to a day to trigger a migraine.

Two Most Common Migraine Triggers

Two of the most common foods triggering migraines are not actually foods, but rather two amino acids commonly found in certain foods. These two amino acids are tyramine and phenylethylamine. These two amino acids are produced primarily from breakdown products of other amino acids during spoiling or decay.

Both amino acids, tyramine and phenylethylamine, are catecholamines releasing agents. Catecholamines are essentially epinephrine (adrenaline), norepinephrine (noradrenaline) and dopamine. These are known as stress hormones and are responsible for the good feeling you experience during periods of stress. For example in runner's high or the great feelings and cognitive enhancement one will experience on a deprivation diet. Other stressful events including restriction of certain foods or metabolic issues causing low blood sugar can trigger catecholamine release. 

While it is not known why these foods can sometimes trigger migraines, when experiencing a migraine you should review the foods you’ve eaten to see if any of them fall in this category.

You should also avoid leftovers, as the tyramine content increases overtime. Also be careful when eating at parties or the office, as both are places where unrefrigerated food is typically left out for long periods. 

Foods Containing Nitrites Can Trigger Migraine Headaches

Foods with nitrates in them can cause migraine headaches. These foods include most processed meat including:

  • Hot Dogs
  • Pepperoni
  • Deli Meats
  • Sausages
    • Turkey Sausage
    • Chicken Sausage
    • Soy Sausage
  • Jerky (Beef and Turkey)

Water Triggering Migraine Headaches

While dehydration can cause migraine headaches, so can drinking too much water or losing too much salt. Drinking too much water can trigger hyponatremia which is too little salt causing an electrolyte imbalance. The amount of water one needs is based on a person's activity levels and also metabolic rate. While it important to drink adequate water, too much of a good thing can be problematic and induce migraine headaches.

Tannins Causing Migraine Headaches

Tannins appear to be a consistent migraine trigger for many individuals. Tannins are found in plant compounds, such as red-skinned apples, pears, apple juice, and some teas. You should be aware of eating any of these before the onset of your migraine headache.

Sulfites Causing Migraine Headaches

This is another preservative found most commonly in dried fruits (prunes, figs, and apricots, wine (red and white), and many other processed foods. Check the labels to see if this is in the foods you are eating.

Aspartame is a Migraine Trigger.

Aspartame is a common artificial sweetener most commonly known in diet sodas. But it can also be found in light yogurts, sugar-free candy, low-calorie desserts, and other foods or drinks made with artificial sweeteners. Make sure to check labels to see if aspartame has been added. There is ample evidence to suggest aspartame is a migraine trigger for many.

Caffeine Can Cause Migraines

Caffeine can trigger migraines. Caffeine can be found in drinking coffee, sodas, black tea, green tea, etc. It is also known caffeine can prevent a headache if taken during the early stages of the migraine. Many over-the-counter migraine medications even contain caffeine. See how your body reacts to caffeine. If caffeine triggers migraines for you, then you should avoid it. 

Knowing which foods cause migraines is a good place to start in preventing this debilitating condition.

Contact migraine headache specialist, Dr. Traci Purath to help you reduce and even eliminate migraines from your life.