Anybody who suffers from migraines knows how they can upend your day. The pain can be unbearable, and they can hit out of the blue, leaving many victims essentially incapacitated.
Sometimes the cause is completely unexplainable. Experts have identified various triggers, like stress, sleep, medications, and more, but it’s hard to determine a firm number on how heavily they contribute.
Food is another cause. And while it can be hard to say just how diet contributes to migraine risk, estimates suggest that roughly 20 percent of migraine sufferers can attribute flare-ups to diet.
Certain foods and drinks contain substances that can trigger migraines, while others do things to the body that may enhance the risk. Meal timing and weight may also play a role.
Common foods that may trigger migraines include:
- Alcohol: Red wine has a close association with migraines. However, all forms may boost the risk. The risk may have something to do with compounds that can be in wine, while the blood vessel dilating effects of alcohol likely also play a role.
- Chocolate: Chocolate can be a common migraine trigger, and it is likely due to the presence of beta-phenylethylamine.
- Cheese: Aged cheese like cheddar, blue cheese, stilton, Swiss, mozzarella, parmesan, and more, may lead to migraines.
- Processed meats: Nitrates in processed meats may increase the risk for migraines.
- Foods with monosodium glutamate (MSG): Foods with this additive may promote migraine headaches in some. Fast food, canned soups, potato chips/snack foods, frozen foods, and instant noodles regularly contain MSG.
- Caffeinated beverages: Drinks like coffee and tea may promote migraines in some people while helping others treat them.
The best way to identify potential dietary triggers is with a food diary. Pay attention to what you eat, what the ingredients are, and if you feel any symptoms. Food can trigger a migraine anywhere from 20 minutes to 24-hours following consumption.
Eliminate one potential trigger at a time for one month to see if there is any change in your migraine patterns. Also, note any other potential factors that may have induced a migraine, like stress levels and sleep quality.