migraine triggers

Foods That Provoke Migraines

If you suffer from migraine, you probably know that avoidance of common “triggers” can help you prevent attacks or minimize their intensity. Some of the most common precursors to these excruciating headaches are dietary items or behaviors. In fact, studies report that 7 to 44 percent of migraineurs list foods among their triggers.

Here are a few typical eating behaviors, drinks, and foods that trigger migraine attacks:


Before we get into problematic things you might consume, it’s worth noting that it is actually a migraine trigger not to get sufficient calories. Research suggests that nearly 50% of people diagnosed with migraine will experience an attack while fasting.

Phenylethylamine or tyramine

It helps to understand that the sensitivity is not at the level of the food but at the level of the compounds they contain. Many of the foods that trigger migraine – chocolate, moldy cheese, soy, citrus, nuts, and vinegar – are problematic because they have high amounts of the amino acids phenylethylamine or tyramine.


Coffee can be a migraine trigger because of the caffeine. The same is true of tea (especially black) and caffeinated soft drinks. Note, though, that caffeine is also sometimes effective in reducing migraine pain – so often over-the-counter migraine drugs will contain it. Gauge your own response to determine if caffeine is a friend or foe.


One-third of migraineurs point to alcohol as one of the foods that trigger migraine attacks. That makes sense, since research has shown a strong correlation between migraine headaches and alcohol consumption. “People single out red wine or dark liquors,” said Cushing Neuroscience Institute director Noah Rosen, MD, “but unfortunately, any alcohol can be a trigger.”

Monosodium glutamate (MSG)

Many restaurant dishes and processed foods contain MSG; perhaps the one item that includes it the most standardly is soup. MSG is used to improve the flavor of the food, so our taste buds will typically respond well to foods that contain it. Unfortunately, researchers have demonstrated that it is considered a migraine trigger by 15% of those with the disease.

Hot dogs and sausage

Any meats that use nitrites as a preservative – such as bacon, ham, hotdogs, and sausage – may trigger an attack. The reason is that this compound can stimulate emission of nitric oxide, leading to vasodilation (blood vessel widening).


One final migraine trigger is the artificial sugar substitute aspartame. The most likely items to contain it at the grocery store are low-calorie or diet items.

Are you suffering from migraine?

Changing your diet is a good first step, but you may also benefit from professional treatment. At Pain Stop North Phoenix, we provide the most advanced, gentle, safe, and effective treatment protocol for migraine relief. Learn more.

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