Avoiding These 5 Types of Foods Could Help You Avoid Migraines

Avoiding These 5 Types of Foods Could Help You Avoid Migraines
Food as Medicine

About 45 million Americans deal with chronic headaches each year, but everyone has had to deal with pounding head pain at some point in their lives. But did you know that eating certain foods could actually trigger these painful episodes?

Migraines are especially intense, sometimes debilitating headaches with well-known triggers. If you suffer from migraines, you may have to give up some of the foods you love, but the good news is that you may be able to avoid spending more days lying in bed in the dark.

1. Foods with Naturally-Occurring Tannins



Tannins, also known as tannic acid, are water-soluble polyphenols found in many plant foods. Researchers believe they exist, particularly in unripe fruits and vegetables, to ward off predators and protect against parasites with their bitter, astringent taste.

Tannins have been found to prevent hardening of the arteries, but they are also known to trigger migraines, which is why sufferers should avoid:

  • Tea
  • Coffee
  • Wine (especially red)
  • Chocolate
  • Cocoa powder
  • Beer
  • Beans
  • Some fruits (grapes, apples, berries, pomegranates, persimmons)
  • Tree nuts
  • Certain grains like barley and sorghum [1]

A quick side note about coffee: tannins aren’t the only aspect of coffee that can trigger migraines. A little caffeine can help you get rid of a migraine, but if you have too much of it in your system, or you come down off of a caffeine “high,” the withdrawal symptoms can spark a killer headache.

2. Foods High in Nitrates


Foods containing high levels of nitrites and nitrates “may be highly predictable migraine triggers in some individuals.”

Cured and smoked meats, such as cold cuts, hot dogs, bacon, and sausage contain high levels of nitrates. Nitrates are also found in drinking water – both city and well water. Nitrates can also sometimes be found in canned beans and vegetables and even packaged seafood. [2]

It’s almost important to note that when nitrates are added to processed foods, they can form nitrosamines in the body, which can put you at a higher risk of cancer.

Read: 7 Natural Remedies for Migraines

3. Foods Containing Sulfites


Sulfites have been used for centuries to freshen and prevent brown discoloration of foods. They also serve as antibacterial agents in the fermentation industry and the wine industry. Dried fruits are loaded with sulfites, with the exception of raisins and prunes. [3]

Foods containing large amounts of sulfites that can trigger migraines include:

  • Dried fruits (except for prunes and raisins)
  • Lemon and lime juice
  • Wine
  • Molasses
  • Sauerkraut (and all pickled foods)
  • Grape juice

4. Foods Containing Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)



The FDA states that MSG is “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS), though the organization admits that many people identify themselves as sensitive to MSG. One of numerous studies published in the Journal of Headache Pain reveals that just a single dose of monosodium glutamate (MSG) caused headaches in healthy subjects.

The study conducted its research using double blind, placebo-controls, and found that MSG intake caused spontaneous pain, headaches, jaw aches, and other unwanted side effects including nausea, fatigue, stomach ache, tight-jaw (TMJ), dizziness, and chest pressure.

If you want to avoid MSG, avoid:

  • Fast food
  • Packaged noodles
  • Cold cuts
  • Sausage
  • Some salad dressings
  • Many other products

The best way to avoid it is to look at the ingredients label and avoid foods with the names:

  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • Glutamic Acid
  • Glutamate
  • Monopotassium Glutamate
  • Calcium Glutamate
  • Monoammonium Glutamate
  • Magnesium Glutamate
  • Natrium Glutamate
  • Yeast Extract
  • Anything hydrolyzed
  • Any hydrolyzed protein
  • Calcium Caseinate
  • Sodium Caseinate
  • Yeast Food
  • Yeast Nutrient
  • Autolyzed Yeast
  • Gelatin
  • Textured Protein
  • Vetsin
  • Ajinomoto

Related: Home Remedies for Headaches

5. Tyramine-Containing Foods


Tyramine-containing foods include aged cheeses, like cheddar, blue, and Swiss. Tyramines may trigger migraines by affecting the blood vessels in the body. According to the National Headache Foundation, people should stick to eating primarily American or processed cheese if aged cheese causes them headaches.

Wine also contains tyramine.

Additional Sources:

[1] Buzzle

[2] Healthy Child

[3] HealthCentral