- Over 45 million Americans experience chronic headache pain from migraine, tension, or cluster headaches.
- There are a number of headache triggers and food is one of them.
- Find out what types of food trigger headaches and should be avoided.
If you suffer from chronic headache, you are not alone. Over 45 million Americans experience chronic headache pain from migraine, tension, or cluster headaches.
Statistics says more women suffer from headaches more frequently than men. Research points to the difference in the brain chemical called serotonin — the happy hormone — which affects pain and depression. Levels of serotonin change when levels of the hormone estrogen drop.
Headaches may be caused by foods, chemicals, stress, or your hormones. You can observe if your headaches are triggered by food. Keep a food diary to document if you’ll get a headache after eating certain foods.
“It is not unusual at all for food to trigger migraines or other types of headaches,” says Noah Rosen, MD, director of the Headache Institute at North Shore–LIJ Health System in Great Neck, New York.
Here are a few classic foods that trigger headaches in many people:
“Chocolate may be getting a bad rap as a migraine trigger,” says Dr. Rosen. “Many people with migraines have increased appetite and food cravings just before their headaches start.” Craving for a chocolate bar may be the result of a migraine, rather than the cause.
Red Wine and Other Alcoholic Beverages
Sulfites, used as preservatives in red wine, can trigger migraines. Alcohol in any drink causes increased blood flow to your brain and can lead to dehydration.
“People with migraines tend to get worse hangovers from any type of alcohol,” notes Robert Daroff, MD, professor of neurology at the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine in Cleveland and past president of the American Headache Society.
Coffee Is Both Headache Trigger and a Pain Reliever
“If you sleep later on the weekend and you wake up with a headache, you probably have a caffeine withdrawal headache,” says Dr. Daroff. Too much caffeine can give you a headache when you come down from your caffeine “high.” Research shows that you need to be drinking about 200 mg of caffeine (about two to three cups of coffee) to get a withdrawal headache when you miss your “dose.”
“There is not much research on cheese as a migraine trigger, but it is generally agreed that aged cheese is more likely to cause a headache,” explains Rosen. This may due to a substance called tyramine that forms as the proteins in cheese break down over time. The older the cheese is, the more tyramine it has.
Foods That Contain Soy Sauce and MSG
Monosodium glutamate (MSG), which is found in soy sauce and as a food additive in many other dishes, has been found to cause cramps, diarrhea, and a horrible headache in 10 to 15 percent of people who get migraine headaches. “Soy sauce as a migraine trigger is probably due to MSG, but soy sauce is also very salty, which can lead to dehydration, another possible headache trigger,” says Rosen.
Ice cream can trigger a headache because it s cold. “Cold foods, like ice cream, may be migraine triggers for people who suffer from migraines, but for most people, the pain goes away quickly. The solution is to eat your ice cream or drink your cold drink more slowly,” notes Daroff.
Bananas could trigger a migraine for people who are sensitive to tyramine — the same substance found in aged cheese. Studies show that the peel has about 10 times more tyramine than the banana pulp. There are no reliable studies on this, but you might want to avoid those stringy pieces of inner peel that stick to your banana if a food diary points to it as a likely migraine trigger for you.
Nitrites used as preservatives in hot dogs, bacon, and lunch meats may dilate blood vessels and cause headaches.
Source: Everyday Health