Foods that may be triggering your migraine

There is no mistaking if you are having a migraine. The excruciating, throbbing head pain usually occurring on one side, extreme sensitivity to light, touch, sounds or smells, blurred vision along with nausea or vomiting can go on for hours.  The draining experience of one can be so exhausting that after the migraine has passed, a person may suffer from a “migraine hangover.”

It is estimated that 12 percent of Americans endure migraines according to the Migraine Research Foundation.  Almost one in four households has someone with migraine – up to 90% of migraine sufferers have a family history of this condition.

There are several medications that if taken once a person notices a migraine gearing up, that can halt the severe headache in its tracks. 

What sets off a migraine headache is usually referred to as a trigger – triggers can be anything that sets into motion of why a migraine develops.  What may be a migraine trigger for one person can be different for someone else.  Triggers are like a risk factor and there can be several factors that start a migraine attack.  Keeping a migraine diary can be useful for spotting patterns in what may be triggering a migraine.  Determining the cause of migraines can be helpful for reducing the number and severity of them.

Even though there is no universal triggers of what exactly causes a migraine, common ones can include lifestyle, environmental, weather-related, hormonal, and medications.  One other trigger that has been suggested to be migraine triggers in up to 30 percent of people is specific foods. 

Food triggers can differ from one person to the next and some food may become triggers only when combined with other triggers.  Here are some common foods that have been known to possibly be one part of the problem for with people who have migraines:


People who are sensitive to caffeine may be prone to developing a migraine after drinking coffee, black tea, green tea, cola soft drinks, or other caffeinated beverages.  But for some people caffeine can actually help stop a migraine from getting worse which is one of the reasons why many over-the-counter medications contain the substance.  If you believe caffeine could be a culprit, avoid it.


For those who find alcohol to be a trigger for migraines, may need to become more of a teetotaler.  Beer, wine, sherry, and vermouth contain large amounts of tyramine, one of the most powerful migraine triggers around.  Alcohol can also cause dehydration which is another major cause of migraines. 


If you love cheese but hate your migraines, guess which one has got to go. Some migraine victims will find that the more aged the cheese, the worse their migraine is due to the high tyramine content they contain.  Other cheeses that might not have the same migraine-triggering effect include cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, cream cheese, and American cheeses. Unfortunately, yogurt, including frozen yogurt, sour cream, and buttermilk are also potential migraine triggers.

·Citrus fruits

Citrus fruits and their juices, as well as bananas and raisins may also need to be avoided. Dried fruit that is preserved with sulfites can also get a migraine going.


This artificial sweetener can result in migraines for some people.  Many diet beverages along with light yogurts, sugar-free candies, low-calorie desserts, and other foods may contain aspartame which is also known as NutraSweet and Equal.  Read the ingredient labels and avoid foods that contain it if aspartame is a migraine trigger.


This preservative often used for flavoring common foods may also be a migraine trigger for some people.  Hot dogs, deli meats, sausage, beef jerky, corned beef, and pepperoni all contain nitrites.  Other food sources can include foods that have been cured, smoked, pickled, or canned.  To stay safe, look for nitrite-free varieties of these items at the grocery store and avoid them when possible.

Another trigger theory is that histamines – most often related to allergies – may result in a migraine.  Foods rich in histamines include nuts, aged cheese, red wine, pickled foods, and smoked meats like salami.  The theory is that the enzyme needed to break down histamine is low or absent in some people who get migraines.  Some research suggests that vitamins C and B6 may increase the ability of the enzyme to break down histamine, potentially decreasing the risk for a migraine.

Whether a food or cluster of foods could be causing migraines for those who suffer from them remains to be seen.  But for anyone who keeps a migraine diary and who discovers a pattern that is associated with their food choices, should discuss this with their physician for further advice.