A migraine is, “throbbing pain or a pulsing sensation, usually on one side of the head. Some migraine symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound.” Migraine attacks can be extremely debilitating and may last for hours or even days.
While it was once believed that blood vessels and “fluctuations in blood flow to the brain” were the cause of migraines, it now seems that they are only contributors to the pain of a migraine.
According to the American Migraine Foundation, migraines can be triggered by a number of external and internal factors, including:
- Hormonal changes
- Sensory stimuli
- Changes in sleep or sleep issues
However, what many migraine sufferers are unaware of is that food and food additives can also trigger headaches and migraines. Food triggers may differ from person to person, so you’ll need to test different foods and come up with your own food plan to avoid migraines. In fact, for many sufferers, a personalized migraine diet is necessary to avoid migraines as much as possible.
Here are some of the most common triggers that involve foods and food additives.
Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
A recent study found that monosodium glutamate is a potential trigger for migraines, though the study did mention that it was premature to conclude that MSG causes headaches. Because of this uncertainty, it may still be a good idea to avoid foods that contain MSG. Some common foods that include MSG are:
- Fast food
- Chips and snacks
- Some seasonings
- Frozen meals
- Some soups
- Processed meats
- Instant noodles
An artificial sweetener like aspartame may increase the incidence of migraine headaches. In fact, “The data indicate that aspartame, which is used to sweeten hundreds of products, can trigger headaches in a small percentage of people.”
Just like with MSG, to be safe, it may be a good idea to avoid artificial sweeteners and instead only use natural sugars to sweeten foods or eat foods with natural sugars.
Aged Cheese, Smoked Fish, and Beer
Foods that contain the chemical tyramine, including aged cheese, smoked fish, and beer, may trigger a migraine. Tyramine is, “organically produced when the amino acid tyrosine breaks down,” and occurs in some types of foods when they are preserved or aged.
While these three foods commonly contain tyramine, there are others that might also be avoided, including some nuts and chicken liver.
Learn more about foods with tyramine here.
It’s believed that chemicals found in red wine known as tannins, which are a type of flavonoid, may cause migraines and other types of headaches.
It may be the case that some types of red wine are worse than others, mostly because they contain more tannins than other types of red wine.
When you consider that beer can also be a trigger for migraines, it may be a good idea to avoid alcohol altogether if you suffer from migraines.
Some studies have shown that citrus fruits can be a significant food trigger for migraines.
Fruits that contain citrus include:
Citrus is found in a number of foods that are made with citrus fruits, so it’s important to carefully check ingredients before ingesting anything with citrus.
Follow Medical Advice About Migraines
For many migraine sufferers, the best advice for avoiding migraines is medical advice. Working with a board-certified dietitian can help you figure out exactly what foods to avoid and what foods to eat more of to manage your migraines.
Learn More About Clinical Studies in Boston for Migraines
Have you been diagnosed with migraines? You may qualify for a clinical study on migraines.