Migraines are a pain, but knowing your triggers can keep them away. These include stress, weather changes, skipped meals and lack of sleep. For some, high-tyramine foods are bad news. Often, these foods also contain histamine, a compound that causes inflammation. If you’re sensitive to these substances, adopting a low tyramine diet will be a game changer.
Causes Of Migraines: Tyramine and Histamine
By definition, migraine is a recurring headache disorder. The pain is intense and sharp, often staying on one side. It can be so bad that it causes nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light or sound. Over 25 percent of women and 8 percent of men suffer from migraines. While it’s not life-threatening, it can be hard to do daily tasks like driving or doing work.1
Tyramine is a common trigger. This substance, which is made from the amino acid tyrosine, promotes oxidative stress.2 It can easily snowball into a migraine if you’re sensitive to it.3 Tyramine also affects the central nervous system.4
Histamine, on the other hand, is made from the amino acid histidine. This substance releases nitrate monoxide, which affects the arteries and blood flow. Hello, migraine! Additionally, histamine is normally metabolized by an enzyme called diamine oxidase, or DAO. If your body’s DAO activity is low, histamine will build up and spark a headache.5
Thankfully, you don’t need expensive medicine to prevent migraines. Avoiding high-tyramine foods – which often have histamine – will do the trick. Here’s what you need to skip.
1. Smoked Meats
Smoking meat might add flavor, but it also increases tyramine.. Pulled pork, brisket, and ribs are often smoked, so be careful.
Instead, opt for other cooking methods like baking. Spice things up with fresh herbs, but stay away from salt and flavorings with MSG.
2. Processed Meats
Avoid salted meats like pepperoni, salami, and liverwurst. Luncheon meats are alright occasionally, but don’t overdo it. Examples include bacon, sausage, hot dogs, corned beef, ham, and bologna. These foods may have small amounts of tyramine.
Basically, any meat or liver that isn’t freshly made should be skipped.
3. Pickled Products
Sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, and olives are a no-go. Don’t eat pickled herring, either. Pickled products are fermented and have very high tyramine levels.
4. Aged Cheese
Like smoking, aging food brings on lots of flavor…and tyramine. A perfect example is aged cheese, like blue, brie, cheddar, Swiss, Stilton, provolone, and mozzarella. To enjoy cheese, opt for American, cottage, ricotta, or cream cheese. Other low-fat processed cheeses are also fine.
Parmesan and Romano is alright in small doses. As for yogurt and sour cream? Don’t eat more than ½ cup per day.
5. Fermented Soy
Miso, soy sauce, and teriyaki should be restricted. Soy beans, however, are safe. It’s the fermentation process that’s bad news for migraines.
6. Fava Beans
Ditch the fava beans for other types, like navy or kidney. Fava beans are also called broad, faba, bell, and horse beans, so always check the label. String beans are alright to eat.
7. Nut Products
It’s also best to skip all nuts and nut butters. This includes peanuts, peanut butter, walnuts, pecans, and cashews. Even seeds like pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower seeds make the list.
If you like granola or trail mix, make your own. Most kinds contain one of the above.
8. Fermented Alcohol
Beer, sherry, and ale should not be consumed. Chianti wine is restricted, but most wines can be consumed at one serving a day. The same goes for vodka and scotch.
9. Dried Fruits
Dried fruits aren’t allowed in a low-tyramine diet. This includes mincemeat pie, which is made with dried fruits. Jelly and jam are also not allowed. Go for fresh fruits, but limit bananas, figs, avocados, raisins, papaya, and citrus fruits.
It doesn’t just stop at tyramine and histamine. Monosodium glutamate (MSG), nitrates, nitrites, aspartame, alcohol, and caffeine are known to cause migraines, too.7 Pay attention to how food affects you and adjust accordingly.
|↑1||Hildreth, Carolyn J., Cassio Lynm, and Richard M. Glass. “Migraine headache.” Jama 301, no. 24 (2009): 2608-2608.|
|↑2||Tyramine. PubChem, National Center for Biotechnology Information.|
|↑3||Borkum, Jonathan M. “Migraine triggers and oxidative stress: a narrative review and synthesis.” Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain 56, no. 1 (2016): 12-35.|
|↑4||Moffett, Adrienne, Michael Swash, and D. F. Scott. “Effect of tyramine in migraine: a double-blind study.” Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry 35, no. 4 (1972): 496-499.|
|↑5||Maintz, Laura, and Natalija Novak. “Histamine and histamine intolerance.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 85, no. 5 (2007): 1185-1196.|
|↑6||Low Tyramine Diet For Migraine. National Headache Foundation.|
|↑7||Sun-Edelstein, Christina, and Alexander Mauskop. “Foods and supplements in the management of migraine headaches.” The Clinical journal of pain 25, no. 5 (2009): 446-452.|