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Is there a link between migraine headaches and certain types of foods?

If you have ever experienced a migraine, you will understand the excruciating pain associated with this severe type of headache. The pain can be so terrible, many people would do anything they could to avoid it. While migraines are a complex condition, did you know there are theories that some migraines could be triggered by the foods you eat?

While some people are more prone to migraines than others, those who are susceptible to them can try to mitigate the onset of a migraine by avoiding certain foods that may be triggering the headaches.

What is a migraine headache?

A migraine headache feels different than a regular headache. Many people experience a variety of different symptoms which can include sensitivity to light, scents or noise. Other symptoms can include distorted or blurred vision and pounding pain in the head or eye areas. Some people experience nausea and may even vomit during a migraine headache.

Which foods can trigger migraines?

While foods are widely not believed to “cause” migraines per se, those with a tendency to get these strong headaches may find certain types of foods will contribute to the frequency or severity of a migraine. WebMD notes some common foods or additives believed to potentially be linked to migraines:

Aged cheese and other types of tyramine-containing foods
Alcohol, including wine, beer, whiskey and champagne
Caffeinated beverages, including coffee tea and colas
Processed meats and cheese (i.e. deli meats)
Food additives, including preservatives, food colorings, nitrates and MSG
Peanut butter, nuts and seeds
Organ meats
Certain types of fresh fruits, such as citrus, papaya, raspberries, kiwi and red plums
Sourdough bread and freshly baked yeast goods
Cultured dairy products
Artificial sweeteners
Some people find that cold foods trigger a headache, often called “brain freeze.” These sharp pains are, however, brief in nature and are usually gone within minute. Migraines that are more severe in nature can last a few hours and, in some scenarios, up to several days.

How to prevent triggers

Experts recommend keeping a food diary for several weeks to see if you can detect any patterns between food consumption and migraines. It is a good idea to track other daily habits as well because there are typically a number of contributors to migraines, and if you can successfully eliminate foods that appear to be part of the equation, it might help give some reprieve. But if the foods do not seem to increase the frequency or severity of your headaches, there is no reason to, for instance, skip on peanut butter or aged cheeses. Instead, you might want to look towards other contributors which may include sleep routines, stress levels, body weight or even hormonal patterns. Some experts suggest skipping meals may even be a contributor.

Keep in mind, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to controlling migraines, and food triggers can be tough to identify. According to WebMD, scientific evidence linking migraines and certain types of foods is either sparse or non-existent. However, if after keeping track of your diet and you find there is a relationship between a particular type of food and your headache, it is probably a good idea to try and avoid those foods. Sometimes an adjustment of dietary habits can provide much desired relief from painful migraines for some people.

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