Foods That Can Trigger Migraines

Last Updated Jul 28, 2020

Foods That Can Trigger Migraines

Migraines affect different people in different ways. My triggers are bright lights and stressful situations – but yours might be something else entirely. But while the causes of migraine are different for everyone, there are a few foods that are more likely to hurt your head.
Here are some foods you might like to avoid, to see if they help ward off migraine. For tailored advice, consider chatting with a dietitian, nutritionist, or other health expert:

Caffeine and migraines

Interestingly, too much or too little caffeine can spark a migraine. You probably know which one is the case for you. Interestingly, a study by the American Migraine Foundation found caffeine can stop migraines in their tracks.
So if caffeine isn’t a problem for you, try a cup of coffee or tea, or a square of dark chocolate. It might just give you the relief you need. But if so, count yourself lucky. Because a staggering 75% of migraine sufferers say chocolate triggers their head thumping, making it the second most common trigger after alcohol.

Amino acids are the enemy

So why can chocolate cause migraines in some people? You can probably blame two amino acids found in chocolate – tyramine and phenylethylamine.
Also present in aged or fermented cheese, soy products, citrus fruit, nuts, and vinegar, it’s believed these amino acids affect blood flow in the brain or prompt other chemicals to be released, causing a migraine.

Cured meat

Love a ham sandwich? You might watch to ditch it and see if it stops your migraines. Because it’s said the nitrates in cured meats – including sausage, bacon, and salami – release nitric oxide into the blood, which then dilates blood vessels in the brain.


Up to 15% of people say foods with MSG (monosodium glutamate) trigger their migraines. While this glutamic acid is naturally found in the body, it’s sometimes added to food. Why does it prompt migraines? It could be because it makes blood vessels contract, or because it releases nitric oxide.

Originally published on May 14, 2018

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