Foods to Avoid With Migraine Headaches

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An estimated 8 million people in the United States suffer from migraine headaches. Migraine triggers can include emotional stress, changes in your sleep pattern, fasting and changes in your diet, smoking and caffeine withdrawal. Eating certain foods can also cause migraine headaches. Avoiding these foods can help you take control and minimize the suffering from these debilitating headaches.


  • To reduce the frequency of migraine headaches, avoid foods that contain tyramine---a naturally occurring substance that is found in aged cheeses, alcoholic drinks, red wine and processed meats. Tyramine increases blood pressure, causes dull headaches, and increases the chances of getting a migraine.

    Generally, the longer that high-protein foods such as aged cheeses--like blue, provolone, Swiss, Parmesan, Romano, Roquefort and Gruyere---age, the higher their tyramine content. If possible, avoid these foods to lessen the frequency of migraine headaches. Other foods known for their high tyramine content include fermented soybean products (including soy sauce and miso), Marmite yeast extract, draft beers and sauerkraut. Normally, the fresher the food, the lower its tyramine content.

Alcohol and Caffeine

  • If you suffer from migraine headaches, avoid alcohol. Alcoholic drinks can cause dehydration and increase blood flow to the brain. As a result, migraines are not uncommon after alcohol consumption. Beer, sherry, vermouth, red wine, champagne and whiskey can all trigger migraine headaches.

    Migraine headache sufferers who are sensitive to caffeine should avoid it. Caffeine is found in many popular foods and drinks, such as coffee, chocolate and cocoa products, black and green teas, and soft drinks.

Food Additives

  • Migraine headache sufferers should also avoid consuming foods with preservatives or additives. These include foods that contain MSG (monosodium glutamate), kombu extract, hydrolyzed plant proteins or products with labels that mention "natural flavorings." When you purchase food, carefully check the ingredients list for these preservatives.

    Also, stay away from foods that contain nitrates and nitrites. These include processed and cured meats, hot dogs, sausage and ham. These preservatives and additives dilate your blood vessels and can cause headaches and migraine headaches.

    If you are a migraine sufferer, you should also avoid food that contain sulfites, a preservative that often found in white wines, dried fruits such as apricots, prunes and figs, canned vegetables and processed foods.



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