If you’ve read much about Migraine disease, or participated in online Migraine discussion groups, you’re bound to have come across discussions about Migraine trigger foods. As with other Migraine topics, you may find differing information. One reason for that is that Migraine trigger foods, like other issues surrounding Migraine, aren’t yet fully understood.
Below is a list of potential Migraine trigger foods. There’s a more comprehensive list in our workbook, which you can download from a link below. You may find yourself asking why the foods listed below would be Migraine trigger foods. The truth is that nobody is entirely sure, but the trigger factors seem to be chemicals in these foods — some naturally occurring, others used in processing or preserving the foods. We’ve tried to put the specific chemicals in parentheses following each of the foods listed.
It’s always helpful to identify our Migraine triggers. With Migraine trigger foods, it’s especially helpful because these are triggers we can avoid, and that can mean fewer Migraine attacks.
Not everyone has food triggers, but it’s well worth checking into. Some people with Migraine will identify trigger foods fairly easily by noticing that every time they eat something, they have a Migraine. Other people employ an elimination diet to investigate Migraine trigger foods. To do an elimination diet, you eliminate all the potential trigger foods from your diet, then add them back in one at a time, with a week between adding each food. It’s important to note that a Migraine can occur up to 48 hours after eating a trigger food. It’s also important to keep in mind that our triggers can change over time, so foods that haven’t been Migraine trigger foods can become triggers. Keeping an accurate Migraine diary is essential to identifying trigger foods.
Potential Migraine Trigger Foods:
Foods that can be Migraine triggers include:
- some beans (tannin)
- pickles (tyramine)
- chili peppers (capsaicin)
- olives (tyramine)
- dried fruits (sulfites)
- avocados (tyramine)
- red plums (tyramine)
- bananas (tyramine and histamine)
- citrus fruits (tyramine and histamine)
- Breads (tyramine and yeast)
- any fresh yeast product straight from the oven
- yeast breads
- soft pretzels
- Meats and seafood
- any preserved or processed meat (tyramine and preservatives)
- bacon (tyramine and preservatives)
- hot dogs (tyramine and preservatives)
- sausage (tyramine and preservatives)
- Dairy products
- aged cheeses (tyramine)
- sour cream (casein)
- whole milk (casein)
- alcoholic beverages, especially red wine (tyramine and sulfites)
- chocolate beverages (phenylethylamine, tannin, and caffeine)
- caffeinated beverages
- anything with MSG
- artificial sweeteners (excitotoxins)
- red vinegar (tyramine)
- balsalmic vinegar (tyramine)
Managing Migraine trigger foods an be difficult. It can seem especially difficult to eat in a restaurant or go to parties. When managing food triggers means fewer Migraines, it’s well worth it. Most Migraine patients with food triggers find that only a few foods are a problem. If you’re going to a party with food, offer to make a dish or two that you know you can safely eat.
To make things easier for you, I’ve prepared a workbook of sorts with a complete check list of potential trigger foods. You can use this to check off safe foods and foods you find to be a trigger for you.
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- Silberstein, Stephen D.; Lipton, Richard B.; Goadsby, Peter J.; Smith, Robert T. “Headache in Primary Care.” Isis Medical Media. 1999.
- Marks, David R., MD. “The Headache Prevention Cookbook.” Boston. Houghton Mifflin Company. 2000.
- Young, William B.; Silberstein, Stephen D. “Migraine and Other Headaches.” AAN Press. 2004.
- Robert, Teri. “Living Well with Migraine Disease and Headaches.” HarperCollins. 2005.