Do Bananas Help With Headaches?

Bananas are a nutrient-dense food that provide several health benefits, including keeping you feeling full longer with a hefty dose of fiber, aiding your body in workout recovery, contributing to bone health, and reducing the possibility of developing kidney stones, according to WebMD. The positive health benefits associated with this tropical fruit are due to its high levels of vitamins and minerals. Among them are vitamins A, B6, C, potassium, and magnesium. 

Bananas are so beneficial, in fact, that they have been shown to help reduce the pain associated with headaches (via Everyday Health). Medical director Wynne Brown explains that bananas are "high in magnesium, which can be helpful when people have headaches," She added, "Bananas are about 74 percent water, so there are hydration benefits as well." 

Cleveland Clinic points to dehydration as one of the causes of headaches, making drinking fluids or eating water-plentiful foods an excellent choice for alleviating symptoms. Low magnesium levels have also been linked to headaches (per Healthline). Studies have shown that anyone suffering from migraines, in particular, is likely to lack this essential mineral and that supplementing with magnesium oxide is an effective way to stave them off.

But should you automatically reach for a banana if you're feeling a headache or migraine coming on? 

Bananas can both alleviate and contribute to headaches

While bananas do contain headache-fighting properties, they have also been found to worsen migraine symptoms, according to Everyday Health. In order to understand how bananas can alleviate headaches but worsen migraines, it is important to first define the difference between headaches and migraines

Medical News Today explains that migraines are an extreme, debilitating headache that can include symptoms lasting much longer than an average headache. Headaches, on the other hand, can be caused by several different factors and are characterized by varying levels of discomfort and pain. Many headaches can be alleviated after addressing the root cause or with over-the-counter pain medication. 

Despite the high magnesium levels in bananas that have been shown to help with migraines, bananas also contain a substance known as tyramine, which has been identified as a migraine trigger (via Everyday Health). While scientists still haven't drawn any concrete conclusions about how this chemical directly causes migraines, one theory explores the possibility that tyramine provokes the release of norepinephrine in the brain (per WebMD). 

The resulting chemical surge may be what brings on the migraine. If you experience migraines, the best way to determine whether bananas contribute to their onset is to keep a food diary that details what you eat daily along with the frequency and intensity of your migraines.