Natural Health and Wellness for the Whole Family

Top 7 Food Triggers for Migraines

By Sarah Axtell, ND January 6, 2019

If you or someone you know suffers from migraines, you know that they significantly affect quality of life. In fact, the World Health Organization ranks migraines among the world’s most disabling medical illnesses. They can send you straight to bed and may be associated with other symptoms, such as visual disturbances, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivities to smells and sounds.

Some migraines are triggered by changes in humidity or weather changes. Nutritional deficiencies can also play a role (magnesium, B vitamins, CoQ10, and vitamin D) in addition to electrolyte imbalances. Also, hormonal changes and food sensitivities are other contributing factors.

In this post we will explore trigger foods for migraines.  If you suffer from migraines, I encourage you to keep a migraine journal or a diet diary to identify trends, including what you ate immediately preceding the migraine, and in the hours before that.

1. Alcohol-Alcohol has the highest prevalence as a trigger for migraines. Wine especially tends to be a trigger.

2. Gluten- For people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, even a small amount of gluten can cause neurological symptoms, such as migraines.

3. Aged cheeses- A substance in aged cheeses called “tyramine: has been linked to increase migraines. Tyramine is found naturally in some foods and is formed from the breakdown of protein as foods age. Generally, the longer a high-protein food ages, the greater the tyramine content. The amount of tyramine in cheeses differs greatly due to the variations in processing, fermenting, aging, degradation or even bacterial contamination. The following types of cheeses have been reported to be high in tyramine:

  • Blue cheeses
  • Brie
  • Cheddar
  • Feta
  • Gorgonzola
  • Mozzarella
  • Muenster
  • Parmesan
  • Swiss
  • Processed cheese

Other foods containing tyramine, include aged, canned, cured or processed meats, certain beans (fava, broad, garbanzo, lima, pinto), onions, olives, pickles, avocados, raisins, canned soups, and nuts.

4. MSG- Monosodium glutamate can cause migraines as well as other neurological symptoms, such as hyperactivity and anxiety. MSG is notoriously found in Asian cuisine. It is often disguised as “natural flavoring” or “hydrolyzed plant protein” and can be in any processed foods.

5. Citrus fruits– Citrus fruits, such as lemons, oranges, grapefruit, and limes, contain a called called “octopamine.” For some sensitive individuals, this compound can trigger a migraine.

6. Artificial sweeteners– Artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame or sucralose, are known neurotoxins and for many can cause a migraine. Avoid “diet” food products. Best sweeteners are honey, maple syrup, stevia and monk fruit.

7. Processed meats- Hot dogs, sausages, bacon, deli meats and smoked fish all commonly contain nitrates and nitrites as a preservative. Nitrates and nitrites break down into nitric acid, which has been linked to an increase in migraines.

If a diet diary did not provide much help, see your naturopathic doctor for food sensitivity testing to identify trigger foods. We offer a food panel that tests your immune response to 96 different foods. In addition to this helpful laboratory assessment, hormone testing in women can also provide a lot of insight as to the underlying cause of migraines.

Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.


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