Your Diet Could Be The Key To Managing Your Migraines

foods that cause migraines

Unsplash/Annie Spratt

Anyone who has ever experienced a migraine headache before understands just how brutal the throbbing pain can be. And while atypical (out of nowhere) migraines do occur in some people, most episodes are triggered by something. It could a particular style of strobe light, it could be poorly handled stress levels and it could even be the foods you eat.

Plenty of people experience migraines triggered by foods that they are in no way allergic to or intolerant of as well, which left us curious to explore this diet-brain connection further. So we spoke with Susan Hutchinson, MD, who is a medical advisor for MigraineX, a revolutionary earplug that stops weather-related migraines in their tracks, to get her insight into foods that cause migraines.

First and foremost, a migraine is an “inflammatory” event, Dr. Hutchinson explained, so those generally more prone to inflammation are more at risk of experiencing these piercing headaches. And our diets can be a major source of inflammation if we aren’t careful.

foods that cause migraines

Unsplash/Vitchakorn Koonyosying

Foods high in tyramine, which is derived from naturally-occurring amino acid tyrosine in the digestive process, have been found to trigger migraines. Fermented meats, aged cheeses, herring, peanut butter and some nuts all contain considerable amounts of tyramine.

And, unsurprisingly, foods containing additives like nitrates and nitrites (hot dogs and preserved bacon products), MSG (Chinese takeout) and aspartame (diet sodas) can trigger migraines due to how they affect blood flow and release chemicals like nitrous oxide and histamines in the brain.

On the plus side, there are also foods out there that can act as migraine preventatives, thanks to their anti-inflammatory properties. While the exact response does depend on the individual, said Dr. Hutchinson, foods like ginger, dark leafy greens, turmeric and some nuts and seeds can help keep those killer headaches at bay.

The best way to determine if food is the true culprit of your migraine problems is to keep a headache diary so you can track the relationship between your episodes and meals eaten beforehand that could be triggering. Another major component to think about is the weather. So many people are actually sensitive to the drastic shifts in barometric pressure that come along with approaching storm events — thunderstorms, blizzards, you name it. So it’s worth tracking those kinds of details in your headache journal as well.