Headaches: Is it What You Are Eating?

Headaches- Woman with a headacheNearly 28 million Americans suffer from regular headaches, and an estimated one-third of those are triggered by food. Many of the foods that you eat or certain chemicals in those foods trigger headaches or the more severe migraines. 

If you suffer from headaches, consider limiting or eliminating the following foods:

  1. Cheese – Aged cheeses contain the chemical tyramine, the older the cheese, the greater its tyramine content. Dried or aged meats also contain tyramine. Increased levels of tyramine also cause an increase in blood pressure and may contribute to migraines and headaches.
  1. Hot Dogs – Hot dogs, bacon and deli (luncheon) meats contain high levels of nitrates and nitrites which dilate blood vessels and trigger them by lowering blood pressure and reducing blood flow to the brain. Avoid hot dogs and similar processed meats including salami, pepperoni, bologna, ham, bacon and SPAM as they all contain sodium nitrate.
  1. Chinese Food – Specifically any foods high in monosodium glutamate or MSG. Miso, soy sauce and teriyaki sauce are also high in sodium and contain tyramine (see cheese above). MSG can cause cramps, diarrhea, and headaches and is a known migraine trigger in 10 to 15 percent of migraine sufferers.
  1. Beer and Wine – Wine contains sulfites which are used as preservatives and are often linked to migraine. Alcohol in beer, wine or liquor cause increased blood flow to your brain and later lead to dehydration, both of which trigger headaches or a hangover. Dark beers and red wines contain tyramine as a result of fermentation.
  1. Caffeine – Caffeine from coffee, sodas and to a lesser extent, chocolate, can cause them. In some, the consumption leads to headaches, in those addicted to caffeine (a stimulant) the lack of caffeine triggers it..
  1. Artificial Sweeteners – Chemical sweeteners including Aspartame, NutraSweet, Equal or Splenda, and often found in chewing gums, and “sugar-free” candies, have a direct negative effect on brain receptors. Artificial sweeteners are also linked to insulin insensitivity, obesity, inflammation, and depression.
  1. Artificial Colors – Foods containing artificial colors, specifically “Blue #1” “Red #3” or “Red #40” trigger migraines and headaches and may be associated with other chronic conditions. These artificial colors are used frequently in condiments, dressings and sauces.

Not all of these foods trigger headaches or migraines in all people. To identify those foods that trigger your headaches, keep a food and lifestyle diary of what you eat, when you eat, and how you feel after particular foods. Are there also activities that trigger your headaches?

Once you learn which foods or activities to avoid, it’s just a matter of being sensible. Living a healthy lifestyle, and ensuring adequate water intake, combined with good nutrition, restful sleep and moderate exercise are good preventive measures to avoid the occurrence of headaches and migraines.

Leave A Response »