A migraine is, quite literally, a pain. It’s not like your normal headache. The pain is strong, severe, and sudden. It also affects one side of the head. Even then, doing everyday activities is nearly impossible.1
If you’re prone to migraines, play it safe. Know the common dietary triggers and keep migraines at bay.
About 33 percent of migraines are caused by alcohol.4 There’s a reason why hangovers hurt! Other times, migraines attack within a few hours of drinking.
Alcohol causes vasodilation or the widening of blood vessels. It might also act on neurotransmitters that control pain. One example is serotonin.
Different people are affected by different drinks. Most people think red wine is a common trigger. Yet, according to the American Migraine Foundation, other drinks have just much potential.
Migraine patients tend to drink less than others. But, if a specific alcohol doesn’t bother you, it’s OK to drink in moderation. Otherwise, stay away from anything that sparks migraines.5
Caffeine is another migraine trigger. But unlike alcohol, it is vasoconstrictive. This means that it makes your blood vessels narrow and tight.
In the brain, caffeine blocks adenosine receptors. Adenosine is a neurotransmitter that makes you feel sleepy. It’s also a vasodilator, but with caffeine, adenosine won’t stand a chance.
The trouble comes when you overdo caffeine. It blocks receptors so much that the body makes more adenosine. The result? Vasodilation with a side of migraines.
To prevent chronic headaches, cut back on caffeine. You don’t need to ditch it completely. According to The Journal of Headache and Pain, decreasing your intake can greatly help.6
Remember, coffee isn’t the only caffeinated drink. Tea, chocolate, and soda all contain caffeine.7
3. Aged Cheese
It sounds strange, but aged cheese can cause migraines. You can thank the tyramine.
This amino acid causes vasodilation – an early step in migraine development. Tyramine is also found in yogurt, nuts, beans, citrus fruits, and bananas. Some or all these foods may be a trigger.
Research has flip-flopped on tyramine’s role on migraines.8 Yet, everyone is different, so listen to your body. If aged cheese bothers you, avoid it.
4. Processed Meats
Do you like bacon, bologna, or ham? You might want to skip them. Processed meats are full of nitrates – a common migraine trigger.
In high amounts, nitrates increase nitric oxide stress. It’s the perfect migraine set-up!9 To avoid this, limit your intake of processed meat. Nitrates are often added as food additives to enhance flavor, color, and shelf life.
Chocolate is responsible for 22 percent of migraines.10 It contains phenylethylamine – a compound that readily crosses the blood-brain barrier. From there, it messes with blood flow and sparks a headache.11
This sweet treat even contains tyramine – the amino acid found in aged cheese.12 No wonder chocolate is a common culprit.
Listen to your body. What bothers someone else might not affect you. At the same time, reduce common triggers like stress, anxiety, and sleep deprivation. You’ll feel so much better.
|↑1||Migraine. U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑3||Zaeem, Zoya, Lily Zhou, and Esma Dilli. “Headaches: a review of the role of dietary factors.” Current neurology and neuroscience reports 16, no. 11 (2016): 101.|
|↑4, ↑10||Diet. American Migraine Association.|
|↑5||Alcohol and Migraine. American Migraine Foundation.|
|↑6||Lee, Mi Ji, Hyun Ah Choi, Hanna Choi, and Chin-Sang Chung. “Caffeine discontinuation improves acute migraine treatment: a prospective clinic-based study.” The Journal of Headache and Pain 17, no. 1 (2016): 71.|
|↑8||Diet. American Migraine Foundation.|
|↑9||Gruber, H. J., C. Bernecker, A. Lechner, S. Weiss, M. Wallner-Blazek, A. Meinitzer, G. Höbarth et al. “Increased nitric oxide stress is associated with migraine.” Cephalalgia 30, no. 4 (2010): 486-492.|
|↑11||McCULLOCH, J. A. M. E. S., and A. Murray Harper. “Phenylethylamine and cerebral blood flow Possible involvement of phenylethylamine in migraine.” Neurology 27, no. 9 (1977): 817-817.|
|↑12||Dark Chocolate. University of Michigan, Integrative Medicine.|