Headaches can be classified as primary and secondary. Migraine is a primary headache disorder and it differs from general headaches, as it is accompanied by other symptoms like
Throbbing pain in the temples
Pain behind one eye or ear
Sensitivity to light and/or sound
Seeing of spots or flashing lights
Temporary vision loss
Migraine attacks generally last from four to 72 hours, however in between the attacks there is no sign of any symptoms. Among the common triggers like hunger, stress, dehydration, hormonal changes, hypoglycaemia, food is also an important one. The common migraine triggering chemicals are tyramine, beta-phenylethylamine, nitrates, food additives, aspartame, sulfites and tannin. Foods can trigger a headache within 3 - 12 hours and at most 24 hours.
Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, colas, chocolate and cocoa. Limit the amount of caffeine intake to 200 mg /day that is around 1 cup of coffee. Too much caffeine or caffeine withdrawal can also cause a headache. Chocolate has phenylethylamine. Some believe that chocolate being a migraine trigger is a myth. Just before the onset of migraine, people crave for chocolate. Chocolate may be more of indicator rather than a trigger of migraine. Some amount of caffeine may alleviate migraine headache.
Monosodium glutamate or MSG is found in canned foods, packed convenience foods. It is used as food additive or flavor enhancer. MSG can trigger an attack within 30 minutes. Symptoms include burning sensation and tightening, in the face, chest, shoulders or neck; dizziness; pain on the front or the sides of the head and facial flushing. Other food additives are yeast extract, hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP), hydrolyzed plant protein (HPP), hydrolyzed or autolyzed yeast, hydrolyzed fat, sodium caseinate, natural preservatives and kombu extract. Foods containing these additives can trigger migraine so it is advisable to read food labels when you opt for any packaged food.
Eggs are considered to be one of the top migraine triggers. Eggs contain excessive amount of aspartic acid, glutamic acid and phenylalanine. Egg whites are known to have high amounts of glutamic acid. Like MSG, aspartic acid can raise inflammation in the brain. Aspartic acid is an excitotoxin which excites our taste buds and can make bland food taste wonderful. Processed eggs are available in the form of powder, boxes, and additives. Pasture-raised eggs are very high in omega-3 fatty acids which are anti-inflammatory and can arrest migraine headaches.
Cultured dairy products like buttermilk, sour cream, yogurt, whole cow milk and cheese are common migraine triggers. The choline and casein present in whole cow milk makes it a potential migraine headache trigger. Aged cheese have high content of tyramine. Processing, aging, fermenting, degradation, and bacterial contamination are factors that determine tyramine levels in the cheese. Blue cheeses, feta, cheddar, brie, swiss, parmesan, mozzarella, gorgonzola, English stilton and Muenster are types of cheeses that are high in tyramine.
Deli meats, turkey, bacon, hot dogs, pepperoni, ham, and others contain high levels of nitrites and nitrates. They can be in any form - canned, cured, pickled or smoked. Nitrites are used both as flavor and as food preservatives or additives. They cause dilation of blood vessels. Consuming meat in large portions is inimical to health. Seitan, tofu, tempeh, mushrooms and legumes are good alternatives to meat, both in terms of taste and nutrition.
Fruits And Dried fruits
Citrus fruits, bananas also contain tyramine. People could be sensitive to papaya, avocado, olives, raspberries, kiwi, red plums, and pineapple. Apples and apple cider vinegar contain tannin that could trigger migraine. Raisins, apricots, dates, figs and other dry fruits contain preservative sulfites to which few people could be sensitive. All fruits are not responsible for migraine and it may differ with each individual. As fruits cannot be avoided from diet, consult your nutritionist on the nutritional alternatives if fruits trigger migraine.
Some commercially made fermented foods contain biogenic amines which can trigger migraine headaches in some people. However homemade fermented foods are safe even though they contain very low amount of amines. Two main amines responsible for migraine headache are tyramine and histamine. Vinegar, soy sauce, red wine, sauerkart and other fermented foods containing these amines are potential migraine triggers. One should be cautious of fermented vegetables and soy products; marinated and pickled foods.
Ice-cream, cold drinks are very common cause of migraine headaches. The throbbing pain may last from few seconds to two minutes. It is also called ice cream headache or head rush. Aspartame and other artificial sweeteners are known to trigger migraine headaches in some people. It is added to yogurts, beverages, desserts, candies and other foods.
Beer, whiskey, sherry, vermouth, Scotch, and champagne are the most commonly identified headache triggers. They contain large amounts of tyramine, which is one of the most prominent migraine triggers. Red and white wine contains sulfite which can also cause migraine. Alcohol causes dehydration which may inturn trigger migraine.
Not all foods trigger migraine in a person. Different foods cause migraine in different people. For example wheat may trigger migraine is some people, whereas few others could consume whole wheat to arrest the attack of migraine. However, most healthy foods that can be a trigger must be replaced in your diet. Consult your doctor on how to consume these healthy foods and yet, avoid a migraine attack. There are some foods which never lead to headaches for example, brown rice, cooked green, orange and yellow vegetables. When you are avoiding certain foods to test whether they are responsible for migraine, these foods are safe to be consumed. Ginger can be consumed to alleviate migraine attack.
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