That Headache? Could Be What You Ate

Even 'healthy' foods can cause headaches, expert say

By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 25, 2012 11:49 AM CST
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(Newser) – Blaming your headache on stress, lack of sleep, or that extra drink you had last night? All are possible causes, but researchers say that ordinary foods can cause headaches as well, the Wall Street Journal reports. The biological links are poorly understood—and one person's yummy snack may be another's migraine—but experts say that cheese, pickles, citrus fruit, yogurt, and pizza have all caused headaches in patients and study subjects. Adding to the complexity, each of us may be susceptible to the combined effect of certain foods.

A few snapshots from the Journal's article:

  • One possible cause is tyramine, a natural food chemical that sends signals down pain nerve endings. Foods containing tyramine include fermented meats and fishes, aged cheeses, fermented soy products, some alcoholic drinks, and foods with MSG.
  • Certain foods trigger an immune-system response that causes headaches, according to one theory—but study results have been mixed. One 2010 study looked at the effect of giving migraine sufferers food without high antibody levels, and found that a changed diet did help.
  • One patient of David Buchholz, author of Heal Your Headache, says she initially resisted the notion that "healthy" foods could cause headaches. But removing oranges, peanut butter, and yogurt from her diet has helped reduce her migraines.
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Certain foods can be the cause of headaches.
Certain foods can be the cause of headaches.   (Shutterstock)
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