Migraines are an intense form of headache that are characterized by severe pain within the head, throbbing sensations, nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light, sound, or odors. Since the brain doesn’t have any pain receptors itself, migraines occur when the structures surrounding the brain are irritated or inflamed. Even though we know this, there is still some uncertainty about the exact cause of migraines.

Many people who suffer from migraines, however, have found that eating certain foods can trigger migraine symptoms. 

It does vary from person to person, but the foods most often associated with migraine headaches include:

  • Aged cheeses: Aged cheeses, such as blue cheese and Gorgonzola, contain higher levels of a substance called tyramine. This substance is a naturally occurring by-product of the aging process of high-protein foods. Scientists are still researching this compound’s effects on migraines, but for the time being, many migraine doctors recommend a tyramine-free diet for their patients.
  • Alcohol: Alcohol, especially red wine and champagne, is often indicated as a migraine trigger. Whether from the increased blood flow to the brain or the by-products the body produces as it metabolizes alcohol, many point to it as a specific trigger for their migraine symptoms.
  • Food additives: Food additives, like MSG, and other preservatives can wreak havoc in the body. Many people with migraines find that their symptoms are triggered when they eat overly processed foods containing these additives.
  • Cold food: Many migraine sufferers find that they are more sensitive to cold foods, such as ice cream, and that eating them can even trigger symptoms.

As you can see, the foods that may cause migraines are varied. What may trigger migraines in one person may not trigger them in another. Foods like caffeine and chocolate are often mentioned as causing migraines, though there is little evidence that this is true. (In fact, some studies have actually shown that caffeine can help relieve caffeine withdrawal headaches.)

Therefore, if you suffer from migraine headaches it’s best to track your symptoms and your diet in order to tease out the foods that are causing issues. That sprinkle of blue cheese may not be a problem for you, but the glass of red wine might signal future pain. Many mobile apps, like My Pain Diary, allow you to track your symptoms alongside diet, weather, stress, sleep patterns, and other factors that may be triggering your symptoms.

Do you suffer from migraines? Have you noticed any foods in particular that seem to trigger your symptoms? 

Image by r. nial bradshaw via Flicker



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