Trigger Foods Can Cause Hangover Headaches Worse Than Cheap Red Wine

12/19/2012

Headaches photo

Even from underneath the covers you know that this one is a doozy. Your head pumps with tension before you even sit up. It feels like you polished off a bottle of cheap red wine all by yourself. But what if you didn’t drink anything at all? 

Trigger foods can cause common headaches and more severe migraines in much the same way as too many cocktails, according to a story in The Wall Street Journal. If you suffer from regular headaches or migraines you should consider adjusting your diet. 

Migraine sufferers often blame stress, changes in the seasons, genes, and alcohol for the throbbing headaches that range from inconvenient to debilitating. But tyramine, a hidden culprit that’s long fallen under the radar, occurs in many seemingly innocent foods. It’s a naturally occurring compound derived from the amino acid tyrosine. A neurologist noticed human reactions to the compound after noticing his wife getting a headache from eating cheese. Processed cheeses aren't problematic, but aged cheeses can cause hypersensitive reactions.  

The Wall Street Journal reports:

The National Headache Foundation suggests patients might want to limit their intake of tyramine, a chemical that occurs naturally in certain foods, to help control headaches. Here are some foods containing tyramine or other substances believed to be headache triggers:

-Aged, dried, and fermented meats and fishes, such as pepperoni and salami

-Aged cheeses, such as blue, Brie, Cheddar, provolone and others

-Fermented soy products, like miso, soy sauce and teriyaki sauce

-Beans, sauerkraut, pickles and olives

-Alcoholic beverages such as Chianti, sherry, burgundy, vermouth, ale and beer

-Foods containing as ingredients monosodium glutamate, nitrites and sulfites

Consider eliminating the foods above and seeing how you feel. For those with debilitating headaches, it’s worth the diet sacrifice rather than suffering as if you’ve had a pitcher of margaritas.  

"There's a fairly long list of foods that can potentially trigger headaches," says Linda Porter, a pain-policy adviser at the National Institutes of Health on The Wall Street Journal. "I think the difficulty is that the triggers may be more a combined effect from different things. They can sometimes be a little bit hard to identify." Still, she says, if it isn't an essential food, it's worth eliminating it from one's diet.

Photo: Thinkstock

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Sara Novak writes about health and wellness for Discovery Health. Her work is also regularly featured in Breathe Magazine and on SereneKitchen.com. She has written extensively on food policy, food politics, and food safety.


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