Is Your Diet Giving You a Headache?

December 29, 2022
Is Your Diet Giving You a Headache?

Learn which common foods may be triggering your headaches.

One of the best ways to avoid food-related headaches is to eat well-balanced meals and snacks at regular intervals throughout the day to avoid blood sugar swings. Skipping meals, not eating enough or eating high-sugar foods can trigger a headache as your blood sugar levels rise and fall.

Specific foods can also trigger a headache or migraine, although different foods are triggers for different people. Most experts recommend that you keep a food diary to make it easier to notice if there's a pattern to your headaches based on what you eat.

Here are some of the most common headache food triggers:

  • Aged cheese and nuts - The offender here is a substance called tyramine, which is produced mainly in protein foods from the natural breakdown of the amino acid tyrosine. Tyramine levels increase in foods when they are aged, fermented or stored for long periods of time. Cheesy culprits include blue cheese, Swiss, cheddar, gouda and parmesan. Most nuts and seeds also fall into this category.
  • Red wine and other alcohol - Alcohol can contain sulfites, tannins and/or tyramine, which are all potential headache triggers. Alcohol also causes increased blood flow to your brain and can result in dehydration, a known cause of headaches.
  • Nitrates and MSG - These preservatives, found in processed meats such as ham and salami, as well as in soy sauce, have been linked to the constriction of blood vessels. This may lead to headaches in some people.
  • Coffee - A little caffeine can help get rid of a migraine headache (caffeine is even included in some migraine medications), but if you consume caffeine on a regular basis and then skip your morning cup of coffee, you can wind up with a headache.

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Date Last Reviewed: August 21, 2017

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Nora Minno, RD, CDN

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