Thursday, April 16, 2009

Top 7 Headache Triggering Foods

June is National Headache Month, specific foods and dietary habits such as fasting, skipping meals or dehydration can trigger headaches in certain people. 

Some of the most common foods, beverages and additives associated with headaches include:

1. Aged Cheese — Cheeses may be a trigger in a some patients with migraines.

For people who take monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) medications, avoidance of all foods containing tyramine —including aged cheeses, red wine, alcoholic beverages and some processed meats — is essential.

Tyramine is found naturally in some foods. It is formed from the breakdown of protein as foods age. Generally, the longer a high-protein food ages the greater the tyramine content.

Types of cheeses high in tyramine:

Blue cheeses






Processed cheese


English stilton



2. Alcohol— Blood flow to your brain increases when you drink alcohol. Some scientists blame the headache on impurities in alcohol or by-products produced as your body metabolizes alcohol. Red wine (see above), beer, whiskey, Scotch and champagne are the most commonly identified headache triggers.

3. Nitrates– Nitrates and nitrites are typically preservatives found in:

Hot dogs




Lunch meats and deli-style meats


Other cured or processed meats

Or Some heart medicines

These substances dilate blood vessels, causing headaches in some people.

4. Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a food additive/flavor enhancer that may trigger headaches. MSG is one of the active ingredients in soy sauce, meat tenderizer, Asian foods and a variety of packaged foods. Be aware of labeling such as “hydrolyzed fat “ or “hydrolyzied protein” or “all natural preservatives” since these are terms used synonymously with MSG.

Most symptoms begin within 20 to 25 minutes after consuming MSG. They include:

  • Pressure in the chest
  • Tightening and pressure in the face
  • Burning sensation in the chest, neck, or shoulders
  • Facial flushing
  • Dizziness
  • Headache pain across the front or sides of the head
  • Abdominal discomfort

5. Cold foods — This condition is caused by eating cold ice cream quickly or gulping ice drinks. It’s more likely to occur if you are over-heated from exercise or hot temperatures. Pain, which is felt in the forehead, peaks 25 to 60 seconds and lasts from several seconds to one or two minutes. About one-third of people experience “head rushes,” and more than 90 percent of migraine sufferers report a sensitivity to ice cream.

6. Caffeine – found in chocolate and cocoa; beverages such as coffee, tea and colas; also found in certain medications.

7. Artificial Sweeteners

Aspartame and other artificial sweeteners are linked to headaches in some people.

Adapted from The Cleveland Clinic