Foods to Avoid During Migraine Headache And The Science Behind It

migraine triggering foods

The role of any specific diet is not yet proven; however, certain studies have found connections between migraine and certain foods. Apparently, there are a few migraine triggering foods that we should be aware of.

“Millions of people throughout the world are always on the lookout for a way to fight migraine.”

Women are more likely to develop headaches because of different mechanisms of handling pain and depression. Being under depression can cause variations in the serotonin hormone, which also changes with any change in estrogen. However, migraines are equally common in men, and it is believed that migraines are hereditary. But more often than not, a lack of sleep, stress, hormonal changes, alcohol, diet, and dehydration play a major role in triggering migraine headaches.

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Here are some foods you should avoid when you have migraine or currently dealing with a severe headache.


Coffee boosts and stimulates brain activity and a person feels fresh. It is believed to reduce stress and headache due to the presence of caffeine. However, it may not be the case with everyone –

  • Migraine trigger: Overdose of caffeine can trigger migraines in some people
  • Migraine treatment: When combined with paracetamol and aspirin, coffee (caffeine) works well to treat migraine.
  • Caffeine withdrawal headache: If you are a regular coffee drinker or are somewhat addicted to it, skipping a dose or two may cause withdrawal symptoms like nausea, headache, restlessness and anxiety. Headaches due to withdrawal of caffeine often result in nausea and other symptoms that are similar to migraine.

Aged Cheese

Around 10-18% of people who have migraines are sensitive to aged cheese. During aging process of cheese, a compound called Tyramine is formed because of bacteria breaking down the amino acid ‘Tyrosine’.

“This high tyramine content can cause migraine.”

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Tyramine is also sourced in wine, yeast, chocolate, processed meat and its products, but aged cheese is the richest source of them all. When compared with healthy people or those having other types of headaches, levels of Tyramine are higher in those who suffer from migraine headaches. However, there is no established result to concretely prove this theory and studies have shown mixed results as well.

Alcoholic Beverages

One of the common migraine triggering foods is alcoholic beverages. With excessive drinking, you’re going to experience a hangover, and that is when you have to deal with a severe headache. In some people, alcoholic beverages trigger migraine, that too within few hours (typically 3 hours) of taking such drinks. Approximately 30-35% of people having migraine are of the opinion that alcohol may activate a migraine attack. Studies, however, indicate that different types of alcoholic beverages have different effects. For example, people having red wine are more prone to have an attack than others are.

This, as per few evidence-based theories could be because of the histamine content of red wine. Histamine is also found in processed meat and their products, some types of fish, cheese and other fermented foods. Our body produces histamine as well. It acts as a neurotransmitter and is involved in immune responses. A person who is intolerant to histamine can have other symptoms like flushing, sneezing, wheezing, skin rashes and itching, and fatigue along with headaches.

Cold foods

If you have the habit of gobbling down ice drinks or eating ice creams when you feel very hot, you may be prone to migraines, though this is not the only reason. This condition occurs when you over-exert your body and it is over-heated due to exercise. It may lead to a pinching pain in the forehead for 25-60 seconds that can last up to two minutes.

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About one-third of the people complain of ‘head rushes’ or ‘ice-cream headache’ and about 90 percent of patients with migraine headache seem to have increased vulnerability to ice creams and extremely cold drinks.

The bottom line is that while more research is needed to establish a direct connection between migraines/headaches and migraine triggering foods, some studies have flagged certain foods for people with migraines. It would never hurt to tweak your diet a little and see if eliminating these foods from your diet helps you with your migraine or not.


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