What Foods Cause Headaches?

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Headaches–from mild to debilitating–affect almost everyone at one time or another. There are two types of headaches, tension and migraine. Migraine headaches affect far more women than men. According to the Mayo Clinic, headaches can be caused by food allergies and sensitivities. Some foods are common headache triggers. Learn what yours are by keeping a food diary.

MSG

Read labels carefully; MSG is not just a Chinese food additive. MSG is a calcium channel opener—it constricts blood vessels, a primary cause of headaches.

Copper

Wheat germ, shellfish and nuts contain high levels of copper that can cause headaches in sensitive people. Beware of citrus fruits—they increase copper absorption.

Caffeine

Too much caffeine can cause headaches, but too little—if you’re a coffee fiend—can cause them, too. Don’t overdo it with the coffee, and cut back slowly if you’re trying to quit.

Tryptophan

Tryptophan is an amino acid that is found in high protein foods. It is converted by the body to serotonin, a process that can trigger a migraine.

Tyramine

Tyramine is a substance found in many foods including cheese, yogurt and smoked fish. Some people cannot break this substance down fully, and it can cause headaches.

Nitrates

Hot dogs and cured meats contain nitrates. Nitrates can dilate blood vessels, causing—you guessed it—a headache.

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