Contributed by: Rachana Arya
You may be aware of migraine triggers such as stress, lack of sleep, and even exercise, but did you realise that what you eat could be causing your migraines as well?
Is it true that certain foods cause migraines?
That’s right: There are varying degrees of evidence for specific foods to be triggers that can provoke debilitating migraine pain.
Although the link between food and migraines isn’t always evident, and no single item can be blamed for your episodes entirely, nonetheless, research findings and anecdotal evidence from migraine sufferers suggests that few likely culprits may provoke attacks.
Certain foods and additives are more likely to trigger headaches in a higher percentage of migraineurs, and avoiding the items listed below may help reduce the frequency or intensity of your migraine attacks.
So, keep reading for a rundown of the most common direct food triggers — or class of foods — that can cause or contribute to migraine episodes in some people.
The prevalence of coffee as a migraine trigger has been reported in various research papers.
Studies show that people who are prone to migraines may experience more headaches after coffee consumption.
This could perhaps be due to the effects on serotonin or brain electrical activity. Research around caffeine consumption and migraine show that caffeine can trigger migraine attacks, and cutting back on coffee can help reduce migraine frequency.
However, if you can’t start your day without coffee, try to limit the amount of caffeine consumed and the frequency of consumption.
Alcoholic beverages have long been known as a sure migraine trigger — although how big that role is still debated.
Most migraine sufferers consider wine, specifically red wine, as a leading suspect. There is an abundance of literature linking red wine to migraine triggers.
While no one is quite sure why red wine could trigger headaches, exposure to tyramine and sulphites — two ingredients frequently identified as migraine triggers — are the likely culprit behind the red wine woes.
Although there isn’t much study on cheese as a migraine trigger, it is widely agreed that aged cheese is more likely to cause a headache.
Aged cheeses are high in tyramine, a natural chemical formed when the proteins in cheese break down over time.
Blue cheese, brie, cheddar, swiss, feta, mozzarella, and most other common cheeses can cause headaches by constricting and dilating blood vessels.
Studies have found that chocolates can sabotage your chances of avoiding migraine attacks.
Neurologists point to a combination of ingredients in chocolate that may cause an attack.
Caffeine and cocoa — chocolate’s primary ingredient — does the damage. Both these key ingredients in chocolate have the potential to cause migraine and tension-type headaches in most people.
While eating a lot of fresh fruit is a fantastic strategy to avoid migraine attacks, citrus fruits should be avoided.
Citrus group of fruits — including oranges, grapefruits, lemons, and limes — all contain a compound called histamine.
Apart from being seen as the suspect in food-related allergies, Histamine has been known to cause a vascular type headache in susceptible persons for almost a hundred years.
There’s evidence from surveys of migraine sufferers and headache diary analysis that suggest that aspartame, an artificial sweetener that is used to sweeten hundreds of foods and beverages, can trigger headaches in a small percentage of people.
Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
MSG is commercially used as a seasoning and flavour enhancer in most processed foods, like frozen or canned foods, snacks, soups, and more.
Reports indicate that glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter that is likely to cause a headache or migraine within 20 minutes of ingesting.
Nuts and certain seeds
Researchers have now found evidence that almonds, peanuts, brazil nuts, avocados and many other nuts and seeds may be linked to severe, incapacitating headaches in some people.
The culinary culprit? Tyramine. Nuts contain a high level of tyramine that can potentially trigger an immune response — plus a splitting headache — in certain people who are sensitive to the amino acid.
If you find that eating or drinking certain things trigger your attacks, consider keeping a food journal to keep track of foods that may be triggering as well as foods that seem to help.
Before eliminating all of these foods from your diet, keep the following in mind: fasting or missing meals can be even more of a migraine trigger and is likely to have a deleterious effect on health.
As an add-on, make a habit of taking preventive health checkups as they can help you in getting a complete insight into your health.
This will also help you with taking measures to promote your overall well-being.
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