HomeChronic PainIs Food Triggering Your Migraines?

Is Food Triggering Your Migraines?

You want the food you eat to nourish your body. For many migraine sufferers food has the opposite effect. Discover some common problem foods and beverages, and learn how to identify your triggers.

How Foods and Beverage Cause Headaches

Both foods and beverages contain a number of natural and artificial compounds that cause headaches. Some are more likely to lead to migraines when you consume them in excess, while others cause pain when you ingest them along with certain medications. Still, others lead to conditions that frequently cause migraines.

Common Migraine Triggers

A number of foods and beverages can trigger headaches, but not all affect migraine sufferers equally. Keep an eye out for some of the most common problem foods and beverages.


Found in everything from coffee to chocolate to soft drinks, caffeine is a common trigger for many people with migraines. Consuming more than 200 milligrams in a day can lead to headaches, as can abruptly cutting caffeine out of your diet.


Drinking alcohol leads to dehydration and increases the blood flow to your brain, two conditions that can easily trigger migraines. Preservatives like sulfites in red wine can also cause headaches, especially if you drink several glasses.

Aged Cheeses

Brie, parmesan, blue, gorgonzola, and other aged cheeses have naturally occurring tyramine, which appears as milk proteins break down. Though aged cheeses don’t affect everyone, they often trigger migraines in those who take monoamine oxidase inhibitor medications.


From chickpeas to kidney beans and string beans, legumes can cause serious headaches. Some scientists believe that the tannins in beans are the most likely cause of this pain, as they can be difficult for most people’s bodies to process. If beans are a staple of your diet, remember that those that are red in color have the highest concentration of tannins, while white beans have the lowest.

Food Additives

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Compounds added to flavor or preserve certain foods commonly cause migraines. Nitrates, which are found in hot dogs, bacon, and lunch meats, dilate blood vessels and increase blood flow. Monosodium glutamate (MSG), which can appear in soy sauce and packaged foods, often causes chest pressure, dizziness, and severe headaches.

Best Ways to Identify Foods and Beverages that Induce Migraines

Since not all foods affect everyone equally, it’s important to know which ones cause you pain. The best way to do this is to start either a paper or digital food and beverage diary. Use this to record what you eat and drink, the quantity you consume, and the time of day you indulge.

Because most migraine sufferers have a few standard triggers, it’s important not to abandon your food diary the moment you’ve pinpointed one. Continue to track your eating and drinking habits for several weeks and over the course of about two dozen migraines. Once you’ve identified some potential triggers, try removing them from your diet and continue to monitor how you feel.

Whether you’re a veteran migraine sufferer or you’re caring for a young migraineur, food can be a primary trigger. Determine your problem foods and beverages, and start taking steps to feel better.

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Phoebe Brown
Phoebe Brown is a freelance writer in the spheres of health, travel, fitness and lifestyle. She is a graduate of University of South Florida with a degree in English. She enjoys running marathons, swimming and working with community service health initiatives.

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