Six Foods That Can Trigger a Migraine

Six Foods That Can Trigger a Migraine

We’re all aware of the common triggers for migraines: stress, bright lights or sounds, and changes in sleep patterns.

Well, we can add food to the list.

Food triggers vary from person to person, so one food may cause headaches for one person, and have no effect on another. Also, keep in mind that skipping food altogether or ‘fasting’ is an even bigger migraine trigger, meaning you don’t have to avoid these foods completely.

Having said that, keep these (migraine) trigger-friendly foods in mind if you’re trying to steer clear of headaches.


Wine, red in particular, is believed to be a migraine trigger. According to a review by researchers in Brazil, migraine sufferers say that alcohol may play a role in their attacks about 30% of the time or more. They’re not sure why, but experts think compounds found in wine, like tannins and flavonoids, are the cause. Drinking can also lead to dehydration, another cause of migraines.

Aged cheeses

Gorgonzola. Camembert. Cheddar. You know, the good stuff. Well, it’s not so good for you, as aged cheeses are another trigger to migraines. This one’s another mystery for researchers, but they believe compounds called tyramines could be the culprit, as they interact with the neurotransmitters in the body that leads to migraines. Personally, a good cheese has always solved any headaches of mine.

Cured or processed meats

Another category that’s painful to see on this list, hot dogs, sausages, and other cured or processed meats can lead to migraines too. These sandwich staples can contain the preservative sodium nitrate, which causes changes in brain chemistry that contribute to a headache. Stay away from those charcuterie boards!


As if aspartame didn’t have a tarnished reputation, the artificial sweetener is also suspected of triggering migraines.

“It’s one of the first items I ask my patients to cut out of their diets,” says Louise Klebanoff, MD, a neurologist with the Headache Center at Weill Cornell Medical College, in an interview with Time.

If you want to dodge aspartame, keep an eye out for diet sodas, breakfast cereals, puddings, and gelatins.


Nutritionally sound, legumes could be a surprising addition on this list. Beans, peas, and lentils aren’t as common triggers as alcohol or aspartame, but have been known to be a cause.

Interestingly, other research points to the importance of plant foods in warding off headaches. From a study in The Journal of Headache and Pain in 2014, people who went on a vegan diet experienced less pain during their headaches than they had on their normal diet. Some subjects did lose weight however, and obesity has been linked to migraines, so it could go either way.

Anyone else getting a headache?


Carefully consider your coffee or soda intake if you’re getting frequent migraines, because caffeine is one of the most common causes. Caffeine acts on certain receptors in the brain that are linked with migraines.

If you can’t cut caffeine, limit intake to 8 to 12 ounces a day.

And In a twist of irony, since caffeine has a pain relieving effect, consuming a small amount of it during a headache may actually help that “just-kill-me-now feeling” subside faster.

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