Foods That Can Trigger a Migraine

13 July 2022

A migraine is a headache that can vary in intensity but is usually throbbing in one area and often accompanied by nausea and sensitivity to light and sounds. There are now medications that can help control these headaches. Another measure is to understand their triggers and avoid them if possible.

One identified trigger is certain foods or beverages. Some of the contributors include the following items:

  • Caffeine – This is a trigger that can get you in two ways. Being over caffeinated or withdrawal from it. Some people report that a reasonable amount of caffeine will actually fend off the headache.
  • Artificial sweeteners – Specifically aspartame has been shown to bring on the migraine. Sugar alternatives are frequently found in both foods and drinks.
  • Alcohol – For those who have been able to have been able to trace their attacks, alcohol is one of the top culprits. Of those who report alcohol as a potential trigger, red wine is the overwhelming star. Because red wine is made from both the pulp and skin of the grape (white wine only uses the insides), it is thought that the tannins and/or histamines may be the cause. In addition, alcohol causes dehydration, which is another contributor to headaches in general.
  • MSG – Monosodium glutamate is a sodium additive found in some foods. Other preservatives may also contribute.
  • Cured meats – Probably because of the nitrates used in the preservative process, ham, hot dogs, sausages all release nitric oxide. This, in turn, dilates blood vessels in the brain that cause migraines.
  • Aged cheeses – As cheese ages, proteins break down because of the tyramine formed in the process. This is also thought to promote migraines. Some of these cheeses are Parmesan, feta, and bleu cheese.
  • Salt – Excess salt can cause blood pressure to rise, which will cause migraines or other headaches. Processed foods that contain a lot of salt also are filled with preservatives.

If you experience chronic migraines, visit with your primary care doctor to find a prescription that fits your needs. There are pain relievers as well as preventive medications. In fact, antidepressants, even though there are no mental health issues, have been found to be helpful.

If the headaches are only occasional, you may want to try something that is over-the-counter. There are also some “alternative” remedies that have been found to be very successful. Biofeedback has been one of the top choices. This helps you deal with stress and relaxation combined with physical surroundings like a cool, dark place for even a few minutes. Massage therapy can reduce the frequency and aid in relaxation. Consider Vitamin B2 and magnesium, but consult with your medical advisor, especially if you are taking prescriptions or other supplements.

If you have the inclination, you can experiment with adding and withdrawing foods or beverages to see if you can nail your particular triggers. This can be more complex that you realize because it will require a detailed food diary and analysis.

Of course, it is always a good idea to focus on regular, healthy meals and solid rest. Scheduling in breaks from the computer screen, phone, and television.

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