Migraine headaches are relatively common in our population. According to the Migraine Research Foundation, 12% of the population experience migraines. They tend to run in families and most commonly in women between the ages of 18- through 44-years old. Although throbbing headaches are the most common sign, other symptoms include sensitivities to light and sound, tingling in the extremities, nausea and vomiting, and pulsating pain on one side of the face or head.
Along with environmental factors (i.e., smells and weather), there are many different foods that may also trigger migraines:
Caffeine is a common trigger for many people with migraines. For those who do not regularly consume caffeinated drinks such as coffee, a large amount of caffeine can bring on a migraine. However, the opposite is also true. For people who do drink coffee daily and then skip a day, caffeine withdrawal can also cause migraines. Some migraine medications contain caffeine as it helps the medication get into the bloodstream faster. It is also known to reduce inflammation.
Nitrates are naturally-occurring chemicals in the body. However, synthetic nitrates are chemical preservatives contained in many foods. When added to processed meat, nitrates keep it from turning brown, and it also blocks the growth of bacteria. Cured meats that contain nitrates include bacon, sausage, hot dogs and deli meat. It’s also found in common foods such as chocolate, wine and beer. Many people report those foods as triggers. The body turns the nitrates into a byproduct called nitric oxide, which is thought to trigger the migraine.
3. Yeast products
Yeast products are also on the list of foods that trigger migraines. Dairy products such as yogurt, aged cheese, sour cream and buttermilk are made using a culture of yeasts and bacteria. Yeast is also added to wheat to make bread. It’s thought the fermentation process to make those foods causes an imbalance of our gut bacteria. Some people experience migraines after consuming those products.
Alcohol can also cause migraines. Mild headaches are a well-known symptom of drinking too much alcohol. For migraine sufferers, that simple headache often turns into a migraine. Alcohol is a vasodilator that can irritate the blood vessels in the brain and cause headaches. Alcohol also causes dehydration, which can add to the problem. Red wine, champagne and beer are the most common culprits. Red wine contains tannins and flavonoids, which could also be a cause.
Aspartame is an artificial sugar substitute used for sweetening. It’s sold under the names NutraSweet and Equal. Some foods that can contain aspartame include diet soda, pudding, gelatin and breakfast cereal. Many people report aspartame as a trigger for their migraines. It’s worth noting that many people without a migraine diagnosis also complain of headaches after consuming aspartame.
Migraine triggers are highly personalized. These foods do not cause migraines in everyone because every patient is different. If you suffer from migraines, it’s a good idea to keep a daily food diary, so you can track those foods that cause symptoms. Identifying triggers helps many people keep control of their migraines by eliminating these trigger foods from your diet.