If you suffer from frequent migraine headaches, you know just how debilitating they can be. If you take prescription medicine for them, it isn’t uncommon for them not to work all the time, or to find that they have some uncomfortable side-effects.
Have you ever wondered if certain foods you eat are making your migraines worse? If so, you might be onto something. Several studies suggest that there are foods that contain certain additives that may cause or aggravate migraine pain. The debate is still up in the air for some of them; however, it isn’t a bad idea to avoid them while we wait for scientists to come to a final verdict.
In this article, we will first review the causes of migraines, and then we will examine what research says about which food additives may cause or aggravate migraine pain.
What Causes Migraines?
A migraine is a type of headache that causes severe throbbing or pulsing sensations, often on one side of the head. In some cases, the person may also experience vomiting, nausea and sensitivity to light and sound.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the direct causes of migraines aren’t completely understood, but it seems that there might be a hereditary factor to migraines in some people. In other words, if one of your parents suffered from migraine attacks, it is more likely that you will as well. Other factors that increase your risk of migraines include: age (peaking in your 30s), being a woman and going through menopause or your period.
Researchers also think these are related to the appearance of migraines:
- Imbalances in brain chemicals, including those that help to regulate pain in the nervous system
- Hormonal changes in women, particularly fluctuations in estrogen levels
- Drinks, including alcoholic drinks and caffeinated beverages
- Over-stimulation with bright light and glare
- Changes in sleeping patterns
- Certain foods and food additives
Food Additives that May Cause Migraines
Next time to eat a pre-packaged food, make sure to scan the ingredient label for these names.
- Sodium nitrate: this additive is often used in meat products as a preservative and color enhancer. It is believed that sodium nitrate causes alterations in vascular tone, causing migraines in some people. Avoid processed meats if you want to avoid consuming sodium nitrate.
- Monosodium Glutamate (MSG): This additive has had a bad reputation for years. Similar to sodium nitrate, it is believed it might cause vascular alterations in people who have an MSG sensitivity. MSG is commonly found in Chinese food, so it might be a cuisine you would want to avoid.
- Aspartame: This infamous artificial sweetener might be making your headaches worse. When we consume aspartame, it is broken down, converted, and oxidized into formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is difficult to remove from the body, so accumulation and migraines may occur.
In conclusion, while we may not naturally connect migraine headaches to the foods we eat, studies suggest that there is a connection. Plenty of evidence shows that certain chemicals in pre-packaged and processed foods may be the culprits of your headache woes, especially in people who are hypersensitive. If you tend to experience frequent migraines, the next time you get a snack craving, make sure to check the label for any of the ingredients mentioned above so you can make a better decision.