If you experience migraine headaches or know someone who does, you’re well aware that a migraine is more than just your average headache. Migraines can come on quickly and result in debilitating pain, nausea, dizziness and sensitivity to light, sound and smell. Migraines are difficult to prevent because the triggers are unique for every person. Research shows that even the food you eat every day can launch a sudden migraine attack. Fortunately, there are some known predictable offenders that are smart to avoid.
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Often, food additives are the culprits behind food-related migraine triggers. High levels of sodium nitrates and nitrites have been found to cause migraines, so it’s wise to steer clear of processed meats like hot dogs, bacon, salami and lunch meats. That doesn’t mean you have to avoid these tasty treats entirely. Just opt for organic, nitrate- and nitrite-free versions.
We hate to ruin your charcuterie plate, but aged cheeses are also a no-no for migraine sufferers. These cheeses can contain a significant amount of tyramine which causes blood vessels to expand and headache pain to increase. Dairy foods and calcium from animal products are also believed to trigger migraines, so you may want to cut out other forms of dairy as well.
Not all alcohol is bad for migraines. Studies show that red wine and beer seem to be the most common triggers. Fermented beverages often contain tyramine and can bring on a headache faster than you can order your second round. The sulfites in wine may also trigger headaches, so if you are going to include alcohol in your diet, try to find a sulfite-free variety.
Chocolate contains beta-phenylethylamine which may bring on a migraine when consumed. It also contains caffeine and tyramine which might make your headaches worse. If you have a sweet tooth, experiment with different types and amounts of chocolate to determine which ones cause migraine pain and how much is too much.
Many migraine treatments recommend drinking caffeinated beverages because caffeine constricts blood vessels and can reduce headache pain. But consuming too much caffeine and then abruptly cutting back, like skipping your morning cup of coffee on the weekends, leads to caffeine withdrawal. The backlash of withdrawal sends too much blood rushing to your head which can trigger a migraine or make it worse. You can try switching to decaffeinated products, but even decaf still contains a little caffeine.
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