Foods That Affect Migraine Headaches

Written by virginia franco
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Although much about the science of migraine headaches remains a mystery, changes in serotonin-influenced chemical levels appears to play a role. Serotonin level fluctuations can cause blood vessels to shrink and swell, which can lead to migraine pain, according to In addition to blood sugar levels and hormonal changes, certain foods are suspected of releasing chemicals which can affect serotonin levels and lead to migraines.

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Drinks (or foods, for that matter) with chocolate or cocoa should be avoided because it is suspected the contained ingredient fainylaithylamini triggers migraines. Alcoholic beverages--particularly those that contain nitrites (such as red wine and sherry) or yeast (such as beer) can lead to migraines. Caffeine is a trigger for some people as well, which means that caffeinated beverages such as soda or coffee should be kept to a minimum or avoided.

Fruits, Beans and Vegetables

The University of California-Berkeley's University Health Services lists most all beans under its list of foods to avoid in order to minimize migraine occurrence. The list includes broad, fava, garbanzo, Italian, lima, navy, pinto and pole. Vegetables that are pickled tend to contain sulfites--foods such as sauerkraut, string beans and olives. The site also lists overripe fruits, especially avocados and papayas, as well as red plums, raisins and figs.

Breads and Grains

Breads and grains that contain yeast should be avoided. Yeast is a suspected migraine trigger, according to and the University of California website. This means that most fresh-baked breads should be avoided, along with fresh yeast coffee cake, doughnuts and sourdough bread. Breads and crackers containing cheese, including pizza, should be avoided, along with any product containing chocolate or nuts.

Dairy Products

The ingredient tyramine is found in several cheeses and can cause migraines, according to the University of California website. The list is long and includes gouda, brie, camembert, blue, provolone, romano, roquefort, cheddar, swiss, guyere, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Cultured dairy products such as buttermilk and sour cream can also trigger migraine headaches.


Meats that are aged, processed, cured or canned tend to contain nitrites that can trigger migraine headaches. They can also contain meat tenderizer, which can also lead to migraines, according to the University of California site. Meats that may include these ingredients include ham, dried fish, sausage, bologna, pepperoni, salami, hot dogs, sausage, caviar and pate.


Certain additives used to flavor foods can trigger migraines, according to and The list includes food prepared with MSG or monosodium glutamate, the sweetener Nutrasweet, and seasoned salt. Foods containing high amounts of niacin and consumption of foods that cumulatively contain over 25,000 IU of vitamin A should also be avoided.

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