You know there is a connection between what you eat and the migraine headaches that may follow as a result of your diet. Basically, there are two types of foods to consider when talking about diet and migraines: trigger foods and fighter foods. The real trick is to know the fine lines that delineate them. Some foods are obvious - others not quite as easy to pick out.
Well-Known Trigger Foods
Trigger foods are those foods that start the migraine reaction. Even though they aren't classified as allergens, trigger foods actually do cause a type of allergic reaction in connection with migraine headaches. Most migraine sufferers can tell you without thinking about it too long which foods trigger headaches. The top offenders are cheese (except cottage, farmer's, ricotta and cream cheese), alcohol (red wine tends to be the worst but food flavorings like vanilla can also contain alcohol), caffeine, and chocolate. Aged meats and cold-cuts, including liver pate, and products that contain meat and hydrolyzed proteins like gravy and soup mixes are also problematic. Soy beans, Italian green beans, broad bean pods, MSG (that's a big one), nuts (especially peanuts), yeast, sauerkraut and other aged foods are all known food triggers.
What is Tyramine?
The big problem with foods for migraine sufferers is tyramine and tannins. Tyramine is an amine compound found in many different foods. It is produced through the natural process of breakdown of tyrosine, an amino acid. Tyramine can cause blood vessels to dilate - one of the significant steps in migraine headaches. If you know which foods you are eating contain tyramine, then you will know that you should stop eating them to avoid the food trigger effect. If you are not sure, then removing the offending foods for three to four weeks and tracking your headaches should give you some clues as to which foods are problematic.
Foods that Contain Tyramine
The foods that contain tyramine are those that are preserved or aged - that includes leftovers that you've been saving. The longer food sits and ages, the worse the trigger may be. Such foods as soy sauce, salami and sauerkraut are on the dangerously high end of the spectrum. When it comes to meats, fish, poultry and eggs, anything that is aged, dried, fermented, salted, smoked or pickled (especially pepperoni, salami and liverwurst) contain high levels of tyramine. Along with the foods listed above, pickles and olives and fermented beverages like beer and ale are all high tyramine foods.
Eat Fresh - Feel Better and Avoid Headaches
Most people will look at these lists and think it resembles their shopping list for the grocery store. The fact is that we are most often drawn to or crave foods that will hurt us. If you can't bear the craving, eat just a tiny bit of the offending food - spare yourself. One of the best tactics is to eat everything as fresh as possible and cut out prepared foods. You'll not only help yourself in terms of migraines, but you'll actually feel better and gain health in the process.