Foods That Trigger Migraines: 5 Most Common

Updated: Jun 18, 2020

Foods That Trigger Migraines: 5 Most Common

Intolerance to certain foods is another potential cause of migraines, which often goes overlooked. This is possibly because many of women do not necessarily recognize the link between their head pain, and what they have eaten throughout the day. It can be useful, therefore, to familiarize yourself with some of the most common foods that trigger migraines, in order to be able to understand whether or not they could be applicable to you.

What Is Tyramine?

Many of the foods known to cause migraines contain a substance known as tyramine. This compound develops as proteins age, and so the longer protein-containing foods are left to mature, ferment, or cure, the higher the content of tyramine. Scientists believe that this substance can cause headaches and migraines because they stimulate the dilation of blood vessels in the brain - which is thought to be one of the main contributing factors to head pain.



The consumption of cheese can effect women in different ways, depending on individual ability to digest it. Sometimes, those who are lactose-intolerant might experience a headache after consuming cheese, as a consequence of their allergy, but the main reason is usually the protein, and therefore tyramine content. The production of different cheeses will influence the content of this compound, but those which require a longer process will generally contain more of it. The following are specifically known to have a high amount:

  • Mature cheddar
  • Mozzarella
  • Parmesan
  • Blue cheese
  • Brie
  • Feta


Foods that contain a high amount of sugar can lead to migraines in those who have problems relating to blood-sugar levels. It is important to maintain a stable level of glucose, and so consuming sweet food can often cause problems such as a migraine. As well as this, due to the dairy content in chocolate, tyramine is also present. As with cheese, consumption of this can therefore cause head pain in some women.


Red Wine

While it is well known that excessive alcohol consumption can cause severe head pain the next day, many women don't realize that red wine in particular is a considerable trigger for migraines. Even as little as a splash in sauce with dinner can be enough to harm some people. The reasons for this activity are not yet entirely understood, but scientists believe it could be due to the content of phenolic flavonoid radicals which can influence the activity of serotonin. 


Processed Meat

Protein in fresh meat is generally safe for those who are sensitive to tyramine; however, meats that have been cured, smoked, or treated in another way that requires a significant amount of time, will have a high content. Meat products that should be avoided include:

  • Frozen or canned sausages
  • Smoked fish
  • Pepperoni
  • Salami
  • Bacon


Those who regularly consume a substantial amount of coffee, tea, energy drinks, or other products with a high caffeine content will often experience a headache or migraine if they suddenly do not obtain the quantity they are used to. For instance, those who try to give up caffeine for the good of their overall health will often experience withdrawal symptoms such as head pain. Around two cups per day is considered a safe amount.

Awareness of the potential foods that cause migraines can be worthwhile if you are experiencing regular migraines, but are unaware of why this might be. This information should enable you to learn what you should avoid.