Can Some Foods Trigger Migraines?

June 25, 2018

If you’ve ever experienced a migraine, you know just how debilitating they can be. Migraines are a neurological disease, which can significantly diminish a person’s quality of life. That’s why so many sufferers try to pinpoint their triggers to help prevent a migraine attack from happening in the first place – and oftentimes certain foods are believed to cause the symptoms.

In fact, a variety of studies have suggested that anywhere between 7% and 44% of migraine sufferers have linked their symptoms to certain foods. Experts still don’t fully understand the intricacies of migraines, so understanding their connection to food can also be tricky. Exactly what causes migraines largely remains a mystery.

While some people are able to pinpoint a certain food as a trigger, they may not be able to pinpoint which ingredient in that food is the underlying culprit. Many people are sensitive to additives or food coloring, but they may have a difficult time tracking down which one is causing an issue.

Other people may feel a migraine coming on if they’ve gone too long without eating. Studies have shown that up to half of migraine sufferers will induce a migraine if they haven’t eaten in roughly 16 hours. Researchers think this could be due to a release in the stress hormone, cortisol, during periods of fasting.

Common Food Triggers

If you think food may be a factor in your migraines and you want to start tracking your symptoms, you may want to start by eliminating these common foods thought to trigger migraines first:

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Beans
  • Chocolate
  • Corn
  • Citrus fruits
  • Cultured dairy products
  • Nuts/nut butters
  • Onions
  • Tomatoes

Some cheeses are high in tyramine, a natural compound found in some aged protein-packed foods. This compound has also been linked to migraines for many people.

  • Blue cheese
  • Brie
  • Cheddar
  • Feta
  • Mozzarella
  • Muenster
  • Parmesan
  • Swiss cheese

Additionally, try to avoid some common additives like aspartame, MSG (monosodium glutamate), nitrates and nitrites. It’s not entirely understood how or why some additives can cause migraines, but it’s believed that some can cause blood vessels to swell, which can be headache-inducing.

While foods are a great place to start, some beverages should be avoided as well. Caffeine and alcohol are two common triggers that should be monitored.

You may find that cutting caffeine out entirely can cause a withdrawal headache, so gradually cutting back may be a better option. You might also find that different types of alcohol affect you differently. While you’re investigating your triggers, try to stick with one type of alcohol in a given night. This will help you pinpoint how different types of alcohol affect you.

How to Identify Foods or Drinks that Trigger Migraines

It can be all too easy to forget something that you ate or drank, making it difficult to accurately track possible triggers. Try keeping a journal or download a migraine tracking app to monitor what you eat and drink each day, and how you feel.

In order to be considered a trigger, a food or drink should regularly cause symptoms within 12 to 24 hours. So, you may feel fine while drinking that glass of wine with dinner, but if you always wake up with a headache, there’s probably a connection.

In addition to monitoring diet, there are many different treatments options for migraines as well. If you’d like to learn more about Neurocore’s med-free migraine program, visit our website or give us a call at 800.600.4096 – we’d be happy to discuss how our program may be able to help.

Miles, Otesa. (2010, November). “Food and Drinks.” Retrieved from https://migraine.com/migraine-triggers/food-and-drinks/
Newman, Lawrence. (2018). “Food Triggers for Migraines.” Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/migraines-headaches/migraine-smart-17/migraine-trigger-foods
Repinski, Karyn & Ward, Elizabeth. (2015, December 22). “Get Migraines? Find Your Food Triggers.” Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/migraines-headaches/features/get-migraines-find-your-food-triggers#2