Prevent the pounding! Diet tips to stop headaches
Joy Bauer lists the common foods and drinks that can trigger migraines
By Joy Bauer 
TODAYShow.com contributor
November 2, 2007

By identifying your personal triggers, you can often reduce the frequency and intensity of migraine headaches. Keep a migraine diary to spot cause-effect relationships. Common non-food triggers include:

  • Stress
  • Hormonal changes
  • Intense sensory stimuli
  • Physical exertion or abrupt lifestyle changes
  • Environmental factors
  • Medications

Food can also act as a big, big trigger for some people. The following foods are the most common offenders. It’s a daunting list, but rest assured only a few of the foods may apply to you (in fact, some people have no food sensitivities). If you discover that one of the foods listed here is a trigger, then you know that you should avoid that particular food if you want to minimize migraine frequency.

Tyramine or Phenylethylamine: Two amino acids found in chocolate, aged or fermented cheese, soy foods, all nuts and most seeds, citrus fruits, and vinegar (red and balsamic).
Alcohol: Beer, red wine, sherry, and vermouth contain large amounts of tyramine, which can cause migraines. In addition, all alcohol can cause dehydration, which also can trigger headaches.
Avoid eating leftovers: Tyramine content in food increases over time, especially if food is improperly stored.
Tannins: Tea, red skinned apples and pears, apple juice and cider, and red wine, which contain tannins.
Deli meats and other foods containing Nitrites: These include pepperoni, bacon, hot dogs, sausages (including chicken, turkey and soy sausages/bacon/hotdogs that list nitrites in their ingredients), bologna, pastrami, jerky (beef and turkey), corned beef, and all other beef/poultry/pork/wild game/fish that have been cured, smoked, pickled, canned, or preserved with nitrites.
Sulfites: This preservative is commonly found in wine (more so in white wine), most dried fruits (including prunes, figs, apricots), canned vegetables, and many processed foods. Check labels.
Additives: Check labels carefully and avoid foods that contain monosodium glutamate (MSG), hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP), hydrolyzed plant protein (HPP), kombu extract, any products claiming to have “natural flavor” or “natural flavorings.”
Aspartame: Be cautious of foods and beverages made with this artificial sweetener (also known as Nutrasweet and Equal).
Caffeine: People with sensitivity to caffeine can develop migraines after drinking black tea, green tea, coffee, cola soft drinks, or other caffeinated soft drinks. But caffeine can also be used to stop a migraine that is just beginning—that’s why many over-the-counter migraine medications contain caffeine. Test your personal response to caffeine. If it gives you headaches, avoid it.

5 nutrients/supplements that can help minimize migraines:

  • Magnesium (beans, swiss chard, spinach, potatoes; sweet and white)
  • Riboflavin (skim milk, asparagus, kale, mushrooms; portabella and white)
  • Omega 3 fats (wild salmon, sardines, omega 3 fortified eggs)
  • Feverfew
  • CoQ10

Joy Bauer is the author of “Food Cures.” For more information on healthy eating, check out Joy’s Web site at JOY BAUER NUTRITION