Foods to avoid that can cause migraines
Migraines are the worst? Am I right? For myself, I’ve been living with migraines for the better part of my life and have had quite severe attacks. Thankfully my neurologist and I worked very closely for years, and years to help me find the best way to treat and prevent migraines!
One thing I’ll start by saying is everybody is different. For years, I had family and friends offering the advice that worked for them of their close friend. They swore if I tried it, I’d feel better. As much as I appreciated the gestures, most of the time it wasn’t that simple. One of my biggest triggers that I have very little control over is humidity and migraines. For me, I can do my best to help prevent migraines brought on by humidity but in the end, mother nature has a bigger say than me in what happens neurologically.
I did learn after using my Chronic Illness Tracker for about 6 months that for me I could see patterns with my migraine attacks and certain foods. This was able to help me identify migraine food causes and help me understand what foods could be negatively affecting my health. If you suffer from migraines, do you know what migraine food triggers you have? If not, I hope this post will help provide some insight.
I am not a medical professional, and this post is not medical advice. This post is based upon my own identifications of food that can cause migraines for me. As well, I worked 1:1 with my neurologists overseeing this process. Please contact a medical professional if you have questions about migraine trigger foods.
Chocolate is one of the most known foods that cause migraines. Most people are aware of this, and this is a common one that most people who live with migraines experience. Chocolate contains a level of caffeine, as well as beta-phenylethylamine which is common in fermented/processed foods.
Many years ago, my neurologist spoke to me about caffeine and migraines, saying for some people this could help reduce the pain, while for others it was a more complicated relationship. When it comes to chocolate, I have anecdotally heard from some folks that it can help ease migraines. However, at the same time most people I speak to and research out there show this likely will trigger migraines for most people. It’s often thought of as a no food within the migraine diet.
If you take a good look in your pantry, shelves, or fridge/freezer you’ll see how easily chocolate is infused in a lot of snacks and foods. If chocolate is a trigger for you, then I would look to remove as much as you can from your house. This will help remove temptation when you’re not feeling well. Chocolate is also an often-gifted item from loved ones during the holiday season. Let them know you would prefer not to receive chocolate, so you don’t have that around your space. If you live with others who love chocolate, asking them to put it in a place you can’t get to, or in a space you know you won’t go to when hungry can also help. Chocolate can be a tough one to give up, however, give it a try for a period to see how this goes with reducing migraine attacks.
I did get into caffeine a bit when speaking about chocolate. Caffeine is a tricky one. You’re likely reading this and already dreading what the next couple of paragraphs say. Your mind is racing on how to protect your coffee, tea, and pop! I get it, I totally do. Caffeine was not an easy one when I was determining my triggers. Now caffeine is a double-edged sword, as people who stop taking it often can experience headaches as their system adjusts to not getting that caffeine fix each morning.
So, as I said it’s complicated, however, caffeine could be one of your headache triggers. One of the best ways to find out if it’s a trigger is to reduce/remove it for a period of time. I understand that this isn’t an option for everyone, some people rely on caffeine for shift work, some new parents can’t function without it, and some people just see coffee as part of their identity.
I’m not here to tell you how to live your life, however, this is a common food/drink that can cause migraines. Some family members of mine that can’t live without coffee, also recognize caffeine doesn’t help their migraines and do their absolute best to reduce it. They only drink herbal/caffeine-free tea and do not have any pop or chocolate. I don’t drink coffee however I love a good cup of tea. So for me, it was shifting to only drinking herbal, and only having beverages without caffeine. As I said, this isn’t an easy one but if your migraines are nasty, it might be worth a try to see if this helps.
Hot Dogs aren’t for everyone, so this might be one you automatically glaze over. For those of you who didn’t – hello! Hot dogs are so easy on those days were lazy, or as a nice summer dinner. Either way, they aren’t nutritious, and they can be what causes migraines for you. Hot dogs are packed with preservatives found in processed foods that can contribute to headaches, migraines, and overall pain neurologically.
There aren’t many better swaps out there for this one, unfortunately. If you’re at a BBQ or gathering where they are being served, try to choose a different food if there is a selection. When at home, try to reduce or remove cooking hotdogs from your weekly meal plan menu. If you are making hot dogs for family members, for example, a kids birthday party where you’re feeding the masses! Try to have a different meal for yourself. Most processed meats, yes that include lunch meats, are like hot dogs. Whenever possible try to avoid them if you’re finding they’re triggering migraines. As I mentioned give it a try to remove it for a period of time and see what types of results you get!
Aged Cheese one of the most common foods that can cause migraines
Cheese is found on so much, it’s tough to think of meals that don’t involve cheese! But don’t worry there are lots! Cheese and other dairy products can be a migraine trigger food as part of cheese and dairy products process is to age over time, which contains tyramine. This can be one of the causes of migraines and dairy products. The longer a dairy product has aged, specifically cheeses, the more it can contain tyramine and therefore has more potential to spike headache pain. Aged cheeses are one of the most common foods that can cause migraines in those who live with headaches and migraines.
Try to avoid those aged cheese products, I know they taste oh so lovely, but try to avoid them when possible. You can simply cut down on lactose, or dairy products if you’re finding they’re triggering migraines.
If you are going to reduce to cut back on your dairy, switching to lactose-free isn’t always the answer. That can sometimes have the same effect depending on the product. From dairy, we get Vitamin B2 which is needed to help with migraines. To get this vitamin without dairy you can consider nuts, spinach, and mushrooms.
For myself, I use almond milk, and this doesn’t have the same concerns with tyramine and triggering migraines. As well it is made from nuts that help replenish Vitamin B2 in the body! As I mentioned before when cutting out foods to see if they’re triggering be sure to speak with a medical professional. You don’t want to cause more issues like depriving your body of much-needed vitamins and minerals without medical oversight.
I love citrus foods – when I heard they’re one of the foods that cause migraines I was devastated cutting them out. Now, not everyone loves citrus foods so I might just be alone here. Hopefully, I’m not and there’s a couple of citrus lovers like me. One of my favourite ways to incorporate citrus is to use essential oils in my house and in my water. Now, citrus foods are not a common trigger for migraine sufferers, but they still do affect a good amount of people.
Foods such as oranges, lemons, grapefruits, and limes can trigger migraines. Like cheeses, these fruits contain tyramine which can cause migraines. Most people can limit their citrus intake and see improvement. Like dairy, we get a lot of nutrition, vitamins, and minerals from fruits! So, it’s important to ensure there are other ways we’re getting these if cutting out citrus fruits.
For myself, I took a couple of weeks where I greatly reduced my citrus intake. Personally didn’t find much of a difference. However, when I do get a migraine I find while the attack is happening and during postdrome, I can’t have citruses, or it will make the pain worse. I have a similar link with eggs and migraines as well with not being able to have them during an attack or they’ll worsen it for me. As I mentioned above, each person is unique so this may or may not apply to you.
Bagels & Doughnuts are foods that can cause migraines
Last, but certainly not least yeast products! I’m talking about sourdoughs, bagels, doughnuts – you name it! Bread products are usually seen as a safe food for most folks as they’re quite bland. However, as we mentioned above several times before sneaky tyramine is in this too! It’s also in alcohol such as red wine which most often is one of the most common headache triggers for individuals. But back to bread, it’s not as common as alcohol or cheese as a migraine triggers but it still does affect quite a few people.
Cutting back or cutting out gluten can have other health benefits and implications so if you’re going to remove it make sure to do with advice from a doctor. For myself, I try to reduce my intake as eating too many bread products I know can cause me to be more prone to a migraine.
Let’s be honest when you get a migraine you already feel crummy, sluggish, and tired. Do we really need to eat bread that will just double down on most of those feelings? So next time you have an attack try to limit or reduce your intake of these types of products to see if it helps you to bounce back from your migraine quicker!
I hope this list has given you some ideas of different headache triggers and how to help reduce your migraines with food. As I mentioned, everyone is different and every migraine a person experiences can be different. If something works one time and not the other that’s okay. Don’t be hard on yourself, just track the information down. Hopefully, a pattern will appear that can help provide insightful information about your health. Please speak to a medical professional or neurologist if you have specific questions about your health, or how to remove food triggers.