Anyone who suffers from migraines can tell you how painful and debilitating they can be. They’re not just headaches — often they come with extreme light and sound sensitivity and even vision changes, like water spots and zig-zags. No-one’s really sure what causes them, but we all have our own unique triggers, like stress, hormones, and things we consume. If you suffer from migraines and aren’t quite sure what your triggers are, doctors recommend keeping a food journal, which may help identify the foods or beverages that might cause a migraine. And I can help you get started! Here are 8 foods that can trigger a migraine.
1. Alcohol (beer Red Wine)
We all knew alcohol can cause a hang-over headache, but for some, it can also trigger a migraine. Red wine and beer seem to be the greatest of the alcohol offenders, but it can vary from one person to the next.
Oh dear! While dark chocolate can help prevent a variety of ailments, it can also trigger a migraine. No-one’s certain why, but it may have something to do with the caffeine, and it seems to be worse with milk or white chocolate, which contain less real cocoa.
3. Pickled or Fermented Food
Pickles, sauerkraut, and other pickled and fermented foods may also contribute to, or trigger, a migraine. Keep track of when you eat any of these, and how much, and see if they may be a trigger for you. Some people are completely unaffected by then, but for others, pickles are a tasty, tempting curse.
The artificial sweetener, aspartame, may also trigger migraines in some patients. My grandmother and sister share this trigger, while my mother and I aren’t affected by it at all. It’s used in a lot of diet foods and drinks, and also sugar-free gum, so if you’re not sure if aspartame is an ingredient, check the label.
This one confuses me, because caffeine is actually an ingredient in some over-the-counter migraine medications, like Excedrin Migraine. But it can be a trigger, too, so be wary of coffee, tea, and some sodas if you haven’t deciphered what your own triggers are.
Monosodium Glutamate, or MSG, is a food additive that pumps up the flavor of a processed food (think cans or boxes) without adding fat or calories or a lot of expense. It’s popular, but since it also causes heart palpitations and migraines in some people, it’s always clearly marked on the label.
7. Processed Foods
Back to processed foods: anything on the grocery store shelf that comes in a box or can may trigger a migraine. There are so many additives, preservatives, artificial colors and flavors, it may be nearly impossible to isolate which one it is that triggers your migraines, so just avoid them. They’re terribly unhealthy anyway.
For years, I had no idea some of my migraines were actually an allergic reaction to peanuts, and once I figured that out, joy! No more migraines! If you’ve gone through this list, and can’t determine what’s causing your migraines, it may also be a food-borne allergen. Consult an allergist, who will perform a skin test to see if you might be having an allergic reaction migraine.
Those are the most common food triggers for migraines, so if you’ve eliminated hormones and stress as your own triggers, start keeping a journal of when you eat these foods, and see if one of them might be the cause! If you suffer from migraines, have you determined what causes yours yet, what your triggers are? Please share!
Top Photo Credit: Christine Lebrasseur