Migraines can be triggered by all kinds of different factors — stress, weather, hormones and allergies — and every sufferer’s triggers are different. However, when it comes to blinding migraines, food is definitely a common thread, and some of the most common foods that trigger migraines contain an amino acid called tyramine.
But foods without tyramine can be triggers too. Healthy foods that people are usually encouraged to eat can even set off a headache of unimaginable proportions. Unfortunately, it’s sometimes hard to know what your own personal triggers are, and what seems to be a benign snack can totally knock you on your ass.
For that reason, you might want to consider completely eliminating these foods if you are prone to migraines — or at least pay attention the next time they’re a part of your meal so you’ll know if they’re a trigger for you.
Aged cheese, pickles & fermented food
These foods contain high levels of tyramine, which is especially high in any aged and fermented foods.
Alcohol & red wine
Although any type of alcohol can trigger a migraine, red wine and dark liquors are the most common culprits due to their high levels of tyramine. The substance is also found in some beers. Alcohol also causes dehydration, which can lead to headaches.
Aspartame is a common artificial sweetener found in diet drinks and low-cal desserts and is sold as a sugar replacement. If you are prone to migraines, skip the artificial sweeteners.
Chocolate is another food that contains tyramine. Whether it’s because of the amount consumed or that many women crave it during stress and hormonal changes, it’s a common migraine trigger.
It seems odd for citrus to trigger migraines, but an increasing number of sufferers report that citrus is a trigger.
Fast food & hot dogs
Monosodium glutamate, or MSG, sulfites and nitrates are common food additives used in many shelf-stable foods that have been known to trigger migraines. Seasonings, broths and canned soups are also known to contain high amounts of these additives.
Nuts & peanut butter
Although sources of lean protein, nuts and peanut butter join the list of foods high in tyramine. If tyramine is a major migraine trigger for you, skip or limit the legumes and nut butters.
Sodium is an essential mineral our bodies need to survive, but most of us get way more than is necessary. Often prepackaged food is high in sodium along with other food additives that trigger migraines.
A version of this article was originally published in March 2016.