10 Foods That Can Trigger Headaches

If you are suffering from frequent headaches but unsure what is causing them, it may be the foods you are eating. Keep reading to learn more about 10 foods that trigger headaches.

There is nothing more annoying than a pounding or throbbing headache. Although common, headaches can disrupt your sleep or productivity. 

According to the World Health Organization, “almost half of the adult population have experienced a headache at least once within the last year.”

If you are suffering from frequent headaches but are unsure what’s causing them, it may be the foods you are eating. Certain foods trigger headaches due to the chemicals and ingredients in the foods such as tyramine and histamine. Foods that give you headaches range from chocolate and alcohol to citrus fruits and aged cheese.

 Not all headaches are triggered by foods but if your headaches are, it is important to know your triggers and how to avoid them. 

Here are 10 foods that can trigger headaches according to the National Headache Foundation

 10 Foods That Trigger Headaches 

1. Excess Caffeine 

Some of the most common reasons people experience headaches are drinking excess caffeine and caffeine withdrawals. Although a healthy amount of caffeine can treat oncoming migraines, too much caffeine can trigger a headache according to the American Migraine Foundation

2. Alcohol 

Studies show that two chemicals, tyramine, and histamine, which are found in alcohol, especially red wine, trigger headaches and migraines. According to the American Migraine Foundation, about 1/3 of migraine sufferers reported alcohol to be a trigger for their occasional migraines.  

3. Milk chocolate 

The second most common trigger after alcohol is chocolate according to the American Migraine Foundation. Chocolate contains both caffeine and phenylethylamine which are both known to be headache and migraine triggers. 

4. Citrus fruits 

Although not a common trigger, citrus fruits have been known to trigger headaches occasionally. Fruits such as oranges, grapefruits, lemons, and limes could be responsible for triggering your headaches therefore you may want to limit the number of citrus fruits that you consume. 

5. Artificial sweeteners 

Found in many calorie-free drinks, artificial sweeteners have shown to increase your risk of migraines. Aspartame which is one of the most popular artificial sweeteners is 200 times sweeter than natural sugar and is a common trigger for migraines. 

6. Yeast 

Foods that contain yeast such as donuts, cakes, and certain bread contain high amounts of tyramine, a natural compound found in foods. Tyramine-rich foods are known to significantly trigger headaches and migraines. 

7. Cured meats 

Bacon, pepperoni, and deli meats are all cured meats. Cured meats contain preservatives called nitrites which release nitric oxide into your blood and dilate blood vessels in your brain. The nitric oxide that is released into your blood has been shown to cause and trigger headaches. 

8. Nuts and certain seeds 

There are high levels of tyramine in almonds, peanuts, and other nuts and seeds which contribute to headaches. These salty snacks are also known for dehydration which is one of the most common reasons people experience headaches. 

9. Aged cheese

Blue cheese, cheddar, feta, and mozzarella are all considered to be aged cheeses. Foods that are aged cause the proteins in the food to break down and create tyramine, which is a headache trigger. Therefore, the longer the cheese has been aged, the more tyramine it contains. 

10. Pickled and fermented foods 

Pickled foods such as pickles, kimchi, kombucha, or pickled okra all contain high levels of tyramine. Like aged cheese, pickled and fermented foods have also been aged therefore containing high amounts of tyramine which triggers headaches. 

Tip: If you find that you are suffering from frequent or chronic headaches, try tracking your headache or migraine with a journal to learn and have a better understanding of what is causing or triggering your headaches. Generally, migraines will start within 12-24 hours after consumption of the trigger food so try to narrow it down from the food that you ate the day before. 

An important reminder: Trusted Medical does not promote “fear-based nutrition,” i.e. these foods could also have health benefits that may outweigh the risk of a headache. Therefore, if you feel that your diet may be the cause of your headaches, we always recommend you consult a Registered Dietitian and/or a physician before making any changes in your diet.

How Can Trusted ER Help You?

Being aware of the foods you eat and their ingredients can help you better understand how to treat your headaches

If your headache or migraine is more severe than an OTC medication like Tylenol or Ibuprofen can manage, be sure to seek emergency care at one of our Trusted ER locations near you. At Trusted Medical, we are here for you and ready to treat any illness or injury. 

We have 8 locations where we provide the best-in-class healthcare to patients in the most comfortable environment with exceptional care. Our ER offers limited wait times, as each of our patients is roomed and seen by our clinical team within a few minutes, and we are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 

Trusted ER is “Doing the right thing. Every patient. Every time.”