How to Recognize and Avoid Tyramines in Food


Mr. Turtledove discovered he has sensitivity to something called "tyramines." This is like an allergy, but it's not considered a true allergy. From a biochemical point of view, these are amino acids (proteins) that have experienced a certain amount of molecular breakdown. They're incomplete. In human terms, they're "aged" proteins.

The symptoms of tyramine sensitivity include headaches (sometimes so severe as to be debilitating and migraine-like), skin sensitivity, nausea, high blood pressure and, in some cases, vomiting. For those of us who struggle with this disorder, eating tyramines can easily ruin a couple of days.

So, how do we recognize and avoid tyramines in our food? Here's a primer on the subject. To fight back against the effect of tyramines.

  • See your doctor and discuss this concept with him or her. You really need the guidance of a physician in determining if this disorder does, indeed, affect you.

  • If you suspect you have a tyramine sensitivity, keep a food diary. Write down everything you eat, whether it seems suspect or not. Cross-check that list with any reactions you observe. Develop your own list of tyramine-based foods you react to.

  • When it comes to food, see the word "AGED" as your enemy, not as your friend. It's the aging of proteins that creates tyramines. Remember that a food that is consumed fresh may be fine, but not after it has sat around for a period of time. In general, in the fight against tyramines, "FRESH" is your friend!

  • Realize that what may affect one tyramine sufferer may not affect another. You'll have to use trial and error to come to build your own tyramine list. It takes time and keen observation. In the meantime.

  • Avoid aged meats. Anything pickled, aged, fermented, processed with chemicals, salted, dried or spoiled must be avoided. Remember that aging in meats can vary, so one day a certain product may seem alright but bring a lot of pain a couple of days later. Be very careful with packaged processed lunch meats. Liver can be high in tyramines. All of these are high on the list for tyramines. Research every non-fresh meat product carefully.

  • Avoid aged cheeses. Again, anything pickled, aged, fermented, processed with chemicals, salted or spoiled must be avoided. If you enjoy cheese, stick to lightly or un-aged varieties such as "mild" cheese, cottage cheese, ricotta, cream cheese and mozzarella cheese.

  • Avoid some fruits and vegetables. Avocados, bananas, fava beans, figs, some varieties of plums, soybeans and tofu should be avoided or minimized. Be careful with sauerkraut.

  • Avoid certain alcoholic beverages. Beer, wine, ale, port, vermouth, and sherry are all aged protein products. Be very careful as these can inflict a massive tyramine headache very quickly.

  • Avoid certain other foods. Bouillon cubes are high in these chemicals. Watch out for other foods containing aged cheeses, such as breads and crackers. Many soups have these ingredients in them. Read the labels. Products made from yeast extracts are high in tyramines as well, as are soy sauce based products.

Tips & Warnings

  • A good resource for research on tyramines is: Headache and Diet: Tyramine-free Recipes by Seymour Diamond, Diane Francis, Amy Diamond Vye, and others. Madison, CT: International Universities Press, 1990.
  • Please consult with your doctor to determine if you are sensitive to tyramines, and please discuss your individual sensitivities within this broad category. This article is NOT meant as a substitute for proper and licensed medical care. This is a general guide to tyramine products only, not an exhaustive list.

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