Many people who suffer from migraine attacks wonder if their diet could be contributing to their headaches, pain, and nausea. The link between food and migraines is a deeply divided issue. Many people strongly believe that it is not possible for food to cause migraines and as such, make no effort to change their diets. Other people believe
vehemently that food is very much a migraine trigger and work very hard to avoid any food linked with migraines. The real truth of the matter is that many people are affected by the migraine triggering chemicals in certain foods – but it is always important to remember that as migraine triggers vary from person to person, not every food or chemical with affect every person.
The top migraine triggering chemicals found in food:
Caffeine is found in many popular beverages including coffee, tea, soda, and energy drinks. Caffeine is also found in foods containing chocolate. Many people do not tolerate caffeine well and can develop headaches shortly after consumption. Other individuals can unknowingly become dependent on their daily caffeine fixes and suffer withdrawal headaches when they miss a “dosage.”
Tyramine is an amino acid found in aged cheeses, processed/preserved meats, red wine, nuts, certain fruits, nuts, peas, and beans.Tyramine is thought to trigger migraines due to the fact that when absorbed by one’s body tyramine can closely mimic neurotransmitters like serotonin and norepinephrine – two chemical thought to affect migraines.
Theobromine is an alkaloid found primarily in chocolate. Theobromine is a vasodilator (causes blood vessels to relax and widen) known to stimulate circulation. Migraines are thought to be affected by blood vessel circulation although many people may not notice any adverse effects from consuming chocolate.
Phenylethylamine is a neurotransmitter occurring naturally within the body. Like Theobromine, Phenylethylamine is found primarily in cocoa, chocolate, and in nutritional supplements for treating depression and weight gain.
Sodium nitrite is used to prevent the growth of bacteria in fresh meats. As such this is a common treatment for many preserved or processed meats including sausages, bacon, salami, canned or smoked meats. In large doses sodium nitrite is toxic but even in smaller amounts some sensitive individuals might be bothered by headaches due to increased blood flow to the brain.
Many people have read about the risks of consuming MSG. MSG is frequently added to processed food to improve flavor and increase feelings of satisfaction. MSG is believed to act as a neuron exciter, and neuron excitement is believed to actually cause migraine attacks.
Alcohol can cause migraines through dehydration by causing the body to produce more urine than normal and by dilating one’s blood vessels.