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7 Foods That Trigger Migraine


7 Foods That Trigger Migraine

A migraine is an intense throbbing headache capable of causing severe throbbing or a pulsing sensation usually on one side of the head for hours or even days. They are often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound.

Migraine has no universal cause as various factors, including your diet, can trigger it. This article explores seven foods commonly known to trigger migraine and the science behind why they might do so.


What Foods Trigger Migraine?



Caffeine can have paradoxical effects on migraine. In small amounts, caffeine can help relieve migraine pain. This is why it is an active ingredient in some migraine medications. However, excessive caffeine consumption or withdrawal from caffeine can trigger migraine. Caffeine narrows blood vessels, and when consumption is abruptly reduced, blood vessels can widen, leading to headache and migraine symptoms.

According to a study, individuals who consume three or more caffeinated beverages per day are at a higher risk of developing migraine than those who take less. Moderation is key; maintaining a consistent level of caffeine intake might help avoid these headaches.


Alcohol, particularly red wine is a well-known migraine trigger. It contains histamine and tyramine, compounds that can cause blood vessels to dilate and potentially lead to migraine. Alcohol also dehydrates the body, and dehydration is a known migraine trigger.

A study by the European Journal of Neurology noted that 78 % of migraine sufferers reported alcohol, especially red wine as a trigger for their headaches. It's advised that those prone to migraine should limit their alcohol intake and stay well-hydrated.


Chocolate is often blamed for migraine because it contains caffeine and beta-phenylethylamine, which can affect blood flow to the brain. Additionally, chocolate contains theobromine, which can contribute to its triggering effects.

Studies found that chocolate is a potential trigger for migraine in certain individuals, though this is not universal. 

Aged Cheeses

Aged cheeses, such as cheddar, feta, blue cheese, and parmesan contain high levels of tyramine. This naturally occurring amino acid can induce migraine by increasing blood pressure and causing headaches.

Research indicates that tyramine can interfere with blood pressure regulation leading to migraine. Avoiding aged cheeses and opting for fresh varieties may reduce the risk.

Processed Meats

Processed meats like sausages, hot dogs, and deli meats often contain preservatives such as nitrates and nitrites. These compounds are believed to dilate blood vessels, potentially leading to migraine.  A study found a significant association between nitrate-containing foods and migraine frequency.

Moreover, processed meats are high in sodium, which can contribute to dehydration and subsequently trigger migraine. It is advisable to reduce the consumption of processed meats and opt for fresh, unprocessed proteins instead.

Artificial Sweeteners

Aspartame and other artificial sweeteners can trigger migraine in some individuals. Some studies reported that artificial sweeteners, especially aspartame can trigger migraine in sensitive individuals. While the exact mechanism is not well understood, it's believed that these sweeteners may interfere with neurotransmitter function, leading to headaches.

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

MSG is a flavor enhancer commonly used in processed foods, soups, and Asian cuisine. It can cause a condition known as "Chinese restaurant syndrome," characterized by headache, flushing, and sweating. MSG is thought to trigger migraine by altering the neurotransmitter glutamate in the brain.


Tips to Avoid Migraine 

  • Keep a Food Diary: Record everything you eat and drink, along with the timing and severity of your migraine, to identify patterns and triggers.
  • Stay Hydrated: Dehydration is a common migraine trigger, so drink plenty of water throughout the day.
  • Eat Regular Meals: Skipping meals can lead to low blood sugar, a known migraine trigger. Eating balanced meals at regular intervals helps maintain stable blood sugar levels.
  • Limit Processed Foods: Many processed foods contain additives and preservatives that can trigger migraines. Choose whole, unprocessed foods as much as possible.
  • Read Labels: Cautiously check food labels for potential migraine triggers like MSG, artificial sweeteners, and nitrates.



Understanding and managing dietary triggers is a crucial aspect of migraine prevention. While not everyone will be affected by the same foods, keeping a detailed food diary can help identify personal triggers. Consulting with a healthcare provider or a nutritionist can also provide personalized guidance on managing migraine through diet. Remember, moderation and mindful eating are key strategies for reducing the frequency and severity of migraine.


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