Foods Which Can Trigger Migraines

If you’re one of the millions of people across the country who has suffered from a migraine at some stage, you’ll know that dealing with one is not only incredibly painful, but also tiring and a big interruption to life.

To avoid having to deal with migraines, particularly if you get them often, it’s wise to consider likely triggers. In particular, many foods can play a part in making a migraine come on, although people don’t actually always realize this.

Read on for the lowdown on some of the most common substances which may trigger migraines, which you could cut back or eliminate from your diet this year.

woman migraine
Migraine; Image source:

Certain Meats

We know that meat is harder for the body to digest, particularly heavier red meat, but did you know that certain meats also happen to be a migraine-inducing food for some people?

It is cured, smoked, processed meats which are the ones to look out for if you suffer from migraines.

It’s thought that the nitrates and nitrites which are found in these types of meats (they’re added as preservatives to prevent bacteria growth and to help keep food fresher) can lead to migraines.

This may be because nitrates and nitrites can convert into nitric acid and affect gut bacteria, but there isn’t enough conclusive evidence on this topic yet to be sure. However, people who get migraines should test the theory by noticing if eating things like bacon, hot dogs, sausages, deli meat and the like acts as a trigger.

Foods Containing MSG

For many years there have been warnings that monosodium glutamate, which is more commonly referred to as MSG, is a substance which should be avoided. The flavor enhancer, which can also be called things like “all-natural preservatives”, “hydrolyzed protein” and “hydrolyzed fat” on ingredient labels, is said to be linked to health issues such as allergies, hormonal imbalances, weight gain and more. However, it is also believed to potentially trigger migraines.

MGS is often found in food items like some canned vegetables, soy sauce, meat tenderizer, many processed foods and generally a lot of Asian restaurant meals. It is thought that the issue with MSG for migraine sufferers may be that glutamate is seen as an excitatory neurotransmitter and may impair or destroy some brain receptors. This has not been proven as yet, though.

Aged Cheeses

Cheese is another food which can trigger a migraine. However, not all cheeses are linked to this type of headache; just the aged ones. Aged cheeses include things like Swiss, blue, cheddar, Gouda, parmesan, gruyere, brie and, sometimes, mozzarella.

Cheeses which go through an aging process typically have higher levels of tyramine in them than fresh cheeses. Tyramine comes from the amino acid tyrosine, and forms in foods as they age or are fermented. It is believed that this substance is what triggers migraines for many people.

Don’t feel like you need to give up all cheeses, though. Do some testing to see what affects you personally, but you’ll hopefully find you can still eat fresh cheeses like American, cottage, ricotta and cream without issue.


Dark chocolate; image source:

When it comes to lists of foods to avoid that cause migraines, chocolate is something which seems to always be at the top. The research seems to conflict about whether it definitely does act as a trigger (some people think it’s not the chocolate that’s the trigger but the fact that many women tend to crave it more when they’re tired and hormonal, which are the actual triggers!), and if so, why. However, there are enough warnings out there that migraine sufferers should test the theory and see if it’s something which upsets their body.

Some researchers think the tyramine in chocolate is the issue, while others think that since chocolate often contains preservatives, they can be the problem. Others have reported that the beta-phenylethylamine in chocolate is to blame. Either way, many people find they do get a migraine after consuming chocolate, so it’s best not to eat it when you’re in a situation where other triggers could compound with the sugary treat and lead to a nasty headache.

Apart from the foods mentioned above, other items to watch out for are legumes, foods with yeast, some nuts, certain spices, some overripe fruits, and artificially-sweetened foods. Furthermore, keep in mind that your likelihood of getting a migraine also increases if you add other triggers into the mix.

For example, other types of triggers are lack of sleep, too much stress, drinking alcohol or caffeine, taking drugs, sudden vigorous exercise, use of oral contraceptives, significant changes in routine, not eating regularly, dehydration, and hormonal changes. If you’re careful with your diet and your lifestyle, though, you should be able to reduce your risk of getting migraines and hopefully have fewer of them each year.




Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here