Can Food Cause Migraines?

Migraine

Unfortunately I’ve had quite a lot of experience with migraines over the past few years, and I know a surprising number of people who suffer from them.  I suspect my husband (who is lucky enough to have never had a migraine) is still slightly skeptical that they’re any different to a regular headache, but he knows by now that even if he doesn’t understand it, that’s an opinion to keep to himself.

My migraines always start with the vision in my left eye becoming really blurry (I have weaker vision in my left eye anyway) and then it gradually becomes a more and more debilitating headache. Happily I’ve found out my trigger is, it seems to stem from neck tension which is brought on my stress which helps me to avoid them coming on. I have started to wonder whether certain foods can trigger migraines too. I don’t think it’s the case with me, but certainly drinking coffee and eating sugary food will make an oncoming migraine worse.

Migraines seem to be different for everyone though. One of my friends has vision distortions (she can see ‘half’ of what she normally sees) and the movement on that side of her body is also affected. Another friend is physically sick when she has migraines. The most important thing (once you’ve ruled out that there’s nothing sinister causing your headaches) is to try and discover what your trigger is (oh, and to keep a backup supply of Migraine medicines too). I tend to buy mine online in advance.

Some people say that keeping a migraine diary is a good idea, so that you can try and see if there is some kind of pattern in your migraines appearing. This includes writing down what you eat, as food can be one of the triggers.

As far as I can tell, this can be partly down to dehydration, but can also be a reaction to foods you might be sensitive to.

Some of the most common foods which can trigger migraines are:

  • Aged cheese and other food containing tyramine. Cheeses which have high levels of tryamine include: blue cheeses, brie, cheddar, stilton, feta, gorgonzola, mozzarella, muenster, parmesan, Swiss cheese, processed cheese.
  • Alcohol (although my mum swears that if she gulps down a glass of wine when a migraine is starting it can often stop it in its tracks)
  • Food additives
  • Cold foods

Other foods which can trigger migraines in some people are:

  • Peanuts, peanut butter, other nuts and seeds
  • Pizza
  • Potato chip products
  • Chicken livers and other organ meats
  • Smoked or dried fish
  • Sourdough bread, fresh baked yeast goods (donuts, cakes, homemade breads, and rolls)
  • Bread, crackers, and desserts containing cheese
  • Certain fresh fruits including ripe bananas, citrus fruits, papaya, red plums, raspberries, kiwi, pineapple
  • Dried fruits (figs, raisins, dates)
  • Soups made from meat extracts or bouillon (not homemade broth)
  • Cultured dairy products, sour cream, buttermilk, yogurt
  • Caffeine found in chocolate and cocoa; beverages such as coffee, tea and colas; also found in certain medications
  • Aspartame and other artificial sweeteners

The key probably isn’t to try and avoid all these foods (that would be pretty restrictive diet), but it would be a good idea to note down what you’ve eaten in the previous 24 hours whenever you start to get a Migraine. That way you can work out whether one of these foods could be the cause of your headache.

Image source and copyright: This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

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4 thoughts on “Can Food Cause Migraines?

  1. I used to suffer really badly with migraine and I noticed that certain smells could trigger one for me.
    Much as I adore the mouth watering aroma of chicken roasting, at the time when I suffered badly with migraines, just the slightest hint of a sniff of chicken roasting, would have me throwing up big time, leaving me with a pounding head that would last for days.
    Migraine can also be caused by hormones, at the onset of puberty, before menstruation, and when women are going through the menopause.

  2. I never used to be able to eat cheese, citrus fruit,or drink coffee as they caused severe migraine which caused me to collapse, and projectile vomit.
    I must have been hell to live with back then, because when I did have one, my two brothers were sternly warned by my dad to keep quiet, as a pin dropping would sound like a bomb going off to my sense heightened ears, and mum wouldn’t cook anything as smells would only prolong my migraine, and make it worse.

    But on a brighter note, I very rarely get a migraine now……… touch wood.

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