Are There Foods to Avoid?Search "migraine food triggers" on the Internet, and you are bound to find a long list of foods to avoid. Some well-known migraine food triggers include:
- Cheeses that contain tyramine
- Other foods high in tyramine, such as nuts, beans, and yogurt
- Meats with nitrate preservatives, such as hot dogs or bacon
- Foods with monosodium glutamate (MSG), a commonly used flavor enhancer found in Asian cuisine and snack foods
- Dairy foods for those with lactose intolerance
- Chocolate containing phenylethylamine
- Red wine and beer
While it is not known how many people have migraines that are, in fact, triggered by food, researchers think it is the minority.
What should you do if you think certain foods are triggering migraines? The key is to take a systematic approach. Everyone is different, and many things besides food are thought to trigger migraine headaches.
The first thing you should do is keep a migraine diary. After several months, you may have some idea about foods that could be provoking migraine symptoms. Make sure that when documenting your food intake you are also writing down other possible factors, such as stress, time of the day, whether you missed any meals, etc. This will allow you to have a better understanding of all potential migraine triggers and to see if there is a correlation between food and these factors. For example, many women experience migraines around the time of their menstrual cycle. Documenting food intake around this time will help you see if there is a relationship between your menstrual cycle, certain foods, and migraines.
Once you have documented information for several months, you could then try eliminating any problem foods from your diet for several weeks to see what happens. Don't cut out a whole food category, and make sure you are getting the vitamins and minerals that this food provides from other sources. It is also important to let your healthcare provider know that you are doing this.
You may be wondering, "Why not just cut out the food and see if my symptoms get better?" It may be tempting to conclude that the frequency of migraine headaches gets better or worse because of what was added to, or eliminated from, the diet the day or week before. However, the unpredictable ups and downs of migraines can make it hard to establish a relationship between diet and migraines.