Medically reviewed by Emily Maurer, NP on September 1, 2020
Any number of things can trigger a migraine, from a particularly strenuous workout to a sleepless night, but foods can be some of the most consistent triggers out there. Everyone’s reactions to certain foods will be different, but there are a few that you might want to be careful to avoid. Some of the most common include:
As painful as it may be to hear, chocolate can be a migraine trigger for many. The relationship between chocolate and migraines isn’t 100% clear, with some claiming that the tyramine found in chocolate causes headaches, while other studies suggest that it may be the presence of nitric oxide. In any case, those who suffer from migraines should be wary of indulging.
Though alcohol is one of the most commonly-cited migraine risks, its danger may be slightly overstated — a recent study showed that only 10% of people reported a frequent link between alcohol consumption and migraine activity. Regardless, overconsumption of alcohol is the last thing that someone who suffers from migraines needs: the resulting fatigue and dehydration of a hangover can easily trigger a headache.
The high levels of caffeine contained in coffee make it a particularly risky beverage for people who suffer from migraines, but that doesn’t mean your morning latte needs to be done away with entirely. Small doses of caffeine can actually help alleviate headaches — it’s large doses and regular overconsumption of coffee that can have negative impacts on headache activity.
- Processed meat
In addition to posing a number of other risks to health, the chemicals contained in processed meat have been found to increase migraine risk. Nitrates, found in foods like bacon and hot dogs, interfere with blood flow and pressure in a way that makes migraines more likely to occur — while nitrates can also be found in leafy vegetables, processed meats contain particularly high levels of them.
While there is a relatively low amount of research on the relationship between eating cheese and developing migraines, most aged cheeses contain high amounts of tyramine, a well-established migraine trigger. Unaged cheeses, such as American and queso fresco, generally don’t contain high enough tyramine levels to cause migraines.
- Certain fruits and vegetables
Along with chocolate, aged cheeses and high nitrate processed foods, some other foods can also lead to migraines. Citrus fruits, tomatoes, cultured dairy, bananas and more have been cited as triggers by many migraine sufferers. It is important to keep track of what you eat so you can determine what your specific trigger foods may be.
- Artificial sweetener
Artificial sweeteners such as sucralose or aspartame, common in diet sodas and other beverages, may have an impact on your migraine patterns. The current research surrounding artificial sweeteners and their effect on migraines suggests a link, but more studies are needed — generally speaking, migraineurs should be wary of consuming too much artificial sweetener.
Monosodium glutamate, or MSG, has a long and complicated history in the medical world, and it’s still not entirely clear if the substance causes headaches or not. While some studies suggest a connection, not enough of a trend has been established to say definitively one way or the other. Like many of the other foods on this list, MSG’s impact on migraine will likely vary highly from person to person.
It can be difficult to know exactly what the right way to combat your migraines is — we’re here to help with that. Contact one of our experts here at Nurx for your personalized treatment plan.