Posted Jul 14, 2011
BY EMC NEWS
Many factors, including food, can contribute to the onset of migraine headaches. However, migraine headaches remain a mystery to migraine sufferers and medical professionals alike. Researchers have studied the effect of foods on the genesis of a migraine, and some foods have proven to be repeat offenders when it comes to triggering the headaches.
Chemical components of certain foods may play a role in why they cause headaches to occur. Also, the effect certain foods have on the body may also be instrumental. For example, alcohol tends to thin the blood, which can increase blood flow to the brain. Furthermore, alcohol is a diuretic and can dehydrate the body, another headache trigger. Although everyone reacts differently to alcohol, whiskey, red wine, champagne, and beer are the most common alcoholic migraine triggers.
Foods that contain tyramine may also trigger migraines. Tyramine is a naturally-occurring compound often present in many plants and animals. It can also form from tyrosine an amino acid found in a variety of foods when those foods are fermented, or start to decay. Tyramine can have effects on the adrenal gland, which triggers the "fight or flight" reaction in the body. This elevates the heart rate, increases blood pressure and increases the amount of adrenaline and other substances in the blood. All of these factors may trigger a migraine.
Aged cheese, preserved meats and other items that have been fermented are prime sources of tyramine. They can be reduced or avoided if it seems these foods play a role in migraines.
Chemical additives may be used in foods to preserve freshness or modify flavor. Some people report headaches from monosodium glutamate (MSG), but there is no definitive research linking MSG to headaches. However, heavily processed foods may affect people who suffer from migraines in different ways.
Cured and processed meats, such as hot dogs and sausage, will contain additives. Additives are present in many convenience foods, such as frozen and packaged dinners, as well. Processed cheese may have additives as well as high levels of tyramine, making them a double threat.
Whenever possible, migraine sufferers should limit processed foods and choose fresh foods to minimize exposure to chemical additives.
There are other foods beyond those with tyramine or additives that may trigger headaches as well.
Dairy products are often a cause of allergic reactions in people. Dairy may contribute to the overproduction of mucous in the sinuses, which can create pressure and lead to migraines.
Published surveys have found that after cheese, chocolate, alcohol, bananas, and citrus fruit are the most common triggers of migraines. These foods may influence the release of serotonin, causing constriction and dilation of blood vessels, or directly stimulate areas of the brain such as the trigeminal ganglia, brainstem and neuronal pathways. The result is a propensity for migraines.
Caffeine products are triggers for some people, while others find caffeine helps them find relief. That is why caffeine is sometimes paired with a pain-relief medication for faster efficacy.