The Top10 Migraines Trigger Foods

Migraines are severe headaches that can be debilitating for those who experience them. While there are many potential triggers, foods are one of the most common. Understanding which foods may set off migraines can help sufferers better manage their diets and reduce headache frequency and severity. In this blog post, we’ll explore the top 10 foods that can trigger migraines.


Migraine headaches afflict over 37 million Americans. These painful headaches are often accompanied by symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. While migraines can sometimes occur without an obvious trigger, diet is one of the most commonly reported factors.

Certain foods contain compounds that can set off the cascade of neurological events that result in a migraine attack. Tyramine, MSG, nitrites, and phenylethylamine are some of the most problematic chemicals found in foods. Food sensitivities and allergies may also contribute to migraine onset.

Identifying and avoiding potential food triggers is an important part of managing migraines. Here are 10 of the most common culinary migraine triggers and tips for limiting exposure.

Aged Cheeses

Aged cheeses like cheddar, Swiss, parmesan, and blue cheese are frequent migraine triggers. As cheeses age, they contain higher levels of tyramine. This compound can cause blood vessels to constrict and dilate, which can initiate migraines. To reduce tyramine intake, limit aged cheese consumption to no more than 1 ounce per serving a few times a week.

Cured Meats

Bacon, hot dogs, salami, and other processed meats are packed with nitrates and nitrites. These compounds are commonly reported headache triggers. The preservatives are used to prevent bacterial growth and enhance color and flavor. But in sensitive people, they enlarge blood vessels, enabling migraines. Skipping the bacon and choosing uncured turkey or chicken sausage and deli meats can help avoid problems.


Many alcoholic beverages including wine, beer, and liquor appear on lists of common migraine triggers. Alcohol dilates blood vessels, alters serotonin levels, and dehydrates the body, all of which can instigate migraines. Red wine and dark liquors like whiskey, which contain congeners to enhance color and flavor, tend to be the biggest culprits. Limiting alcohol intake to occasional moderate amounts may reduce migraines.


Caffeine is a double-edged sword when it comes to migraines. While caffeine may relieve headaches or enhance pain medications short-term, regular intake can cause headaches when withdrawn. Excess caffeine consumption from coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks, chocolate and certain drugs can overstimulate the body and trigger migraines. Gradually reducing caffeine intake can help minimize symptoms.

Artificial Sweeteners

Sugar substitutes like aspartame and saccharin are added to many diet or sugar-free foods. For some sensitive people, these chemical sweeteners provoke headaches. Research suggests that the sweet taste of artificial sweeteners enhances desire for the real thing. When the anticipated sugar doesn’t arrive, it may activate parts of the nervous system involved in migraines. Cutting back on artificially sweetened foods and drinks may help.


Monosodium glutamate, or MSG, is a flavor enhancer added to many processed foods like frozen dinners, snacks, and Chinese dishes. MSG can overstimulate nerve cells and trigger headaches. It may also prompt the release of nitric oxide, which can dilate blood vessels. Reading food labels and avoiding products with MSG can reduce exposure to this potential trigger.


Many people report getting headaches or migraines after eating chocolate. Cocoa and other ingredients like phenylethylamine and tyramine elevate serotonin levels, which can initiate migraines. Chocolate also contains caffeine, which has an ambiguous effect on headaches. Enjoying chocolate in moderation and choosing dark chocolate, which has less added sugar, may enable you to indulge without the migraine.

Citrus Fruits

Citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruit, lemons and limes are rich in vitamin C but also natural headache triggers for some. Citric and ascorbic acids appear to provoke headaches in sensitive people. The tart flavor also stimulates the trigeminal nerve involved in migraines. Enjoying these fruits in small portions or switching to lower acid fruits may help prevent problems.


Bananas are packed with beneficial nutrients like vitamin B6, magnesium, and potassium. But they also contain tyramine, which can dilate blood vessels and lead to migraines. Riper bananas contain more tyramine, so opting for greener fruit and eating only part of a banana may allow you to enjoy them without issue.


Beans supply protein, fiber and vitamins. But these legumes also provide modest amounts of tyramine, especially when fermented soybean products like soy sauce, miso and tempeh are consumed. Individual tolerance varies dramatically, however. Keeping portions moderate and limiting intake of fermented soy may help reduce migraines.


Migraines Trigger Foods play a significant role in many migraines. While responses are highly individualized, being aware of common foods. Avoiding aged cheese, cured meats, alcohol, caffeine, artificial sweeteners, MSG, chocolate, citrus fruits, bananas and beans may provide relief for some migraine patients. Working with a doctor or dietitian to sleuth out personal triggers and modify your diet can lead to better migraine management and more headache-free days.

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