How Food Triggers Headaches & What to Do

By Annette GallagherMarch 29, 2016October 4th, 2021No Comments

At the New Jersey Headache Institute, we know that some headaches can be debilitating and their causes are not always known. Millions of people suffer from migraines, and a number of known migraine triggers are foods.


Headache Triggers

1) Smoked Meats: The nitrates and nitrites that are typically used in packaged meats, such as bacon, lunch meat and hot dogs, can cause headaches. These are preservatives that are used to give the meats a longer shelf life.


2) Red Wine and Aged Cheese: While wine and cheese may sound like a wonderful evening snack, the tyramine content in certain aged cheeses and red wines can bring on a migraine. This includes cheeses such as cheddar and blue cheese. Tyramine is a substance that results from protein breakdown. It restricts our blood vessels, which can trigger headaches. Additionally, the polyphenols in red wine might also trigger headaches as they could interfere with serotonin metabolism in the brain.


3) Caffeine: While caffeine is often used to get rid of a migraine, caffeine withdrawal can also trigger a headache. Research shows that drinking about 200 milligrams of caffeine, or two to three cups of coffee, will help get rid of a withdrawal headache.


4) Soy Sauce and MSG: Both soy sauce and MSG have been found to cause migraines in as many as 15 percent of those who suffer from migraine headaches. Monosodium glutamate, or MSG, is found in a number of food additives, as well as in soy sauce. In addition to headaches, MSG can also cause cramps and diarrhea.


5) Bananas: While bananas do not typically appear on the list of foods that trigger headaches, they may be a trigger food for anyone who finds that red wine and cheese trigger their headaches. This is because bananas also contain tyramine. Studies have shown that the peel of the banana has more than 10 times the amount of tyramine in the pulp of the banana. It’s a good reason to either avoid bananas all together, or at least get rid of the stringy pieces of peel that stick to the banana.


New Jersey Headache Institute

Anyone who suffers from recurring headaches should consider keeping a food journal as this will help track possible headache triggers and will be help a headache specialist diagnose your headaches and treat them. If you suffer from headaches, of any kind, please contact us at the New Jersey Headache Institute today and schedule a consultation with our headache specialists.