April 2012

Headache-Inducing Foods

From tension headaches to migraines, there are many varieties of head-pounding pain. And although several different triggers may be to blame, like stress and allergies, some experts believe that certain foods can cause headaches in some people. "It is not unusual at all for food to trigger migraines or other types of headaches," says Noah Rosen, MD, Director of the Headache Institute at North Shore-LIJ Health System in Long Island, New York.
 
Many migraine sufferers are willing to try an array of methods to get rid of the pain. In addition to other remedies, the Mayo Clinic suggests pinpointing foods that may be triggering the migraines. Common culprits include the sulfites commonly found in alcohol (especially beer and red wine) and chocolate. While sometimes used as a migraine treatment, too much caffeine, and even caffeine withdrawal, can cause headaches in many people. The artificial sweetener aspartame can also bring on a migraine.
 
Dr. Chris Iliades, MD, notes that aged cheese can cause your head to start hurting thanks to tyramine, a substance that forms as the proteins in cheese break down over time. The longer a cheese ages, the more tyramine it has. You may want to avoid blue cheese, Swiss, cheddar, Gouda and parmesan if you find you are among those sensitive to tyramine.
 
While bananas are a healthy snack, people sensitive to tyramine may want to avoid them also. Dr. Iliades notes that, like aged cheese, banana peels contain a significant amount of tyramine, around 10 times more than does the banana pulp. If you don’t want to avoid bananas altogether, try weeding out those stringy pieces of inner peel. Dr. Iliades also points to monosodium glutamate (MSG), which can be found in soy sauce and as an additive in many other foods.
 
The Mayo Clinic notes that skipping meals can cause a headache or migraine, so if you want to avoid one of the above foods, try to find a better alternative rather than missing out on a snack or meal. The best way to tell if specific foods are causing you headaches is to keep a food and headache diary. Keeping track of what you eat and when you suffer from headaches can help you and your doctor detect possible food reactions.
 
For more information about headache prevention, visit the Mayo Clinic at www.mayoclinic.com/health/chronic-daily-headaches/DS00646/DSECTION=prevention.