Talking Triggers: Why Certain Foods Cause Migraine

June 24, 2016

migraine food triggers

Food doesn’t cause migraine headache, but it can reduce your body’s threshold to fight one off, acting as a trigger. Up to ten percent of migraine suffers have migraines that are triggered by foods. Understanding why certain foods cause migraine can help you make good diet choices that can help you manage your migraines.

  • Aged and fermented cheeses – Picture your favorite cheese plate… brie, camembert, smoked gouda and enough crackers to get the whole thing down in a few bites. For many foodies, such a site is blissful, but for migraine sufferers, a cheese plate like this one might give you flashbacks to migraines that have kept you in bed for days. Aged and fermented cheeses like aged goat cheese, bleu cheese, brie, camembert, cantal, cheddar, edam, Emmental, feta, gorgonzola, gouda, gruyere, muenster, parmesan and Romano can be serious migraine triggers.  Ages ago, before refrigeration, cheeses had to be fermented so they could be kept at room temperature. Fermentation occurs when different types of bacteria are added during the cheese-making process. These bacteria, also called live cultures, eat the lactose in the cheese. In the aging process, two amino acids are produced in the cheese: tyramine and phenylethylamine. These are the same amino acids found in chocolate, another migraine trigger food.
  • Citrus – Citrus fruits can be hard to avoid, especially if you eat out often. Most restaurants use citrus liberally, from garnishing your ice water with a lemon to dusting your gourmet pancakes with orange zest. Even a small amount of citrus can trigger a migraine. Tyramine is also the amino acid in citrus that causes migraine. It is believed that foods high in tyramine stimulate your body to produce the hormone norepinephrine. Norepinephrine as a fight-or-flight hormone that is released during times of stress. It increases heart rate and blood flow and can lead to migraine headache.
  • Red Wine and Other Kinds of Alcohol Red wine has been responsible for many a headache, even in people who don’t suffer from migraine attacks. This grape juice for grownups also contains tyramine and phenylethylamine, but it contains a few additional ingredients that may compound their effects as well. These include histamines, sulphites, tannins, and phenols.

As many as one-third of migraine sufferers will tell you that red wine triggers a migraine. But red wine isn’t  the only bad guy – all types of alcohol can trigger migraine. Darker alcohols contain larger amounts of the offending ingredients like sulphites and tannins. Bourbon contains as much as 37 times more than vodka.







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