Published: 05/16/2016 - Updated: 08/28/2018
Author: MSc. Miriam Reyes
A migraine is a headache characterised by unilateral, pulsating pains in the head. In most cases, it is described as a moderate to severe pain experience and can be accompanied by a halo of light or blurred vision.
The aura (light halo surrounding objects) is a sign heralding the onset of migraine, which often occurrs a few hours or minutes before, and may present as a temporary loss of vision or blurred vision, flashes and a tingling sensation may also appear on the cheeks, lips, tongue and down the arms, among other symptoms, which disappear after a few minutes or after an hour before the onset of this severe headache. It is estimated that one out of four migraine sufferers suffer from this “aura”.
What causes a migraine?
Although it is unknown what makes some people suffer from a migraine, while others do not, it is known that there are several factors that can provoke these headaches, so it is very important to know to take action on the matter and avoid them where possible.
Some psychological factors that can trigger migraines are accumulated stress and anxiety. On the other hand sleep disorders can be very important factors, as it is known that poor sleep patterns such as a lack of sleep and sleep too much can cause migraines.
In addition, hormonal changes play an important role in women during their menstrual period or menopause and therefore may be more susceptible to having a migraine. Last but not least, it has been found that eating some foods can be associated with developing a migraine.
Foods which can cause Migraine
1. Cured meats
Cured and processed meats such as sausages and cured hams, among other things, are rich conservatives of elements like nitrites and nitrates that are linked to having a migraine, thus they are discouraged.
This is a commonly consumed stimulant in many people’s diet, however caffeine consumption can trigger the onset of a migraine. It is therefore recommended to avoid caffeine in any form, from tea and coffee, to soft drinks containing caffeine. You can opt for decaffeinated coffee, but these products are not always well tolerated by the body, because although there is less caffeine than the conventional version, decaffeinated coffee still contains caffeine. Intake depends on the tolerance of each individual.
3. Cured Cheeses
Although cheese may seem harmless, its consumption can trigger a migraine in susceptible people. This is because they contain tyramine and other biogenic amines, which can have a vasodilator effect on the arteries in the brain and cause inflammation. It is recommended to avoid these types of cheese, instead opting for fresh or less fermented cheeses.
A glass of wine is often recommended because of its antioxidant content, however, if you are someone who constantly suffers migraines, it is important to know that wine is an inadvisable drink, not only due to its alcohol content, but also due to the tannins it contains, whose consumption can trigger a migraine.
While some types of chocolate can be beneficial for headaches, thanks to its magnesium content, consumption in excess is a trigger for migraines, especially for people who are susceptible to tyramine, an amino acid that can alter vasodilation in the blood vessels of the brain.
Peanuts and peanut butter can lead to migraines because they contain tyramine. Moreover, it is also believed that migraines may be related to a possible allergy to peanuts, which must also be considered.
7. Citrus fruits
Although you may not have imagined it, citrus and many other fruits can cause migraines if they are rich in tyramine. Some of the following have been identified as possible migraine triggers are lemons, grapefruit, limes, oranges, guavas and other fruits like melon, pineapple and even banana.
Alcoholic beverages are not recommended for people who suffer from migraines and this includes beer. Tyramine is generated in the fermentation process and adding alcohol in combination with this substance can trigger migraines very quickly.
This protein is part of some grains, especially wheat, but also barley and rye. Although not all people are intolerant to gluten, for those who are, the consumption of gluten appears to be an important factor with regard to suffering from migraines. Celiacs or gluten intolerant people show improvements when they stop eating food which contains gluten.
Do not forget
This list of foods can be used a guide, however, while some people who suffer from migraines may experience these severe headaches after eating these foods, not all people react the same way. It is important to remember what we have consumed before the onset of a migraine to correctly identify whether a food has acted as a trigger or not.
Revised by: Dra. Loredana Lunadei on 08/28/2018
About the author