The Ingredient In Your Food That Could Be Giving You Headaches

The sudden onset of a headache or migraine may often leave you wondering what's the root cause of this pain. Stress, irregular sleep, dehydration, and hormones all are various triggers to blame, points out the American Migraine Foundation. However, one trigger that seems to have its own laundry list of causes is food. This ranges from specific ingredients in certain food products to items that are notoriously known for being healthy. But, what are these ingredients?

One of the biggest offenders for ringing the headache alarms is food additives (per Sutter Health). These additives are typically used to enhance flavor, add a pop of color, increase the sweetness of a dish, or act as preservatives. Take hot dogs or lunch meat for example, as they're loaded with nitrates and nitrites. WebMD shares that these may trigger headaches because the compounds enlarge brain blood vessels. Whereas monosodium glutamate (MSG) may trigger dizziness and head or stomach pain.

Alcohol can be another trigger, as it increases dehydration and lowers serotonin levels. Red wine, specifically, may be to blame because it contains sulfites and tyramine (via Sutter Health).

What are other foods that trigger headaches

Research shows caffeine can decrease fatigue and support memory, yet it can also trigger headaches for some individuals (via American Migraine Foundation). "My best advice in regards to caffeine and migraines is to drink the same amount regularly," B. Lee Peterlin, director of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine Headache Research, told WebMD. This is because fluctuations in caffeine intake can cause withdrawals, plus studies show small amounts may actually help with the pain.

The amino acid tyramine can also trigger migraine attacks, as oftentimes migraine prone bodies find it harder to digest tyramine, according to Sutter Health. Some foods listed by Sutter Health as tyramine-rich include: pickled foods like kimchi, processed meats (pepperoni, salami, etc.), aged cheese (Swiss, blue, Brie, parmesan), nuts and some beans (fava, snow peas). Chocolate and citrus fruit are other foods commonly identified as headache triggers.

While knowing your triggers are important, "[what's] far more important than identifying every little thing in your diet is to eat regular meals. Skipping a meal is far more frequently reported as a headache trigger than even individual food triggers," adds Peterlin (via WebMD). To combat this schedule your mealtimes, stay hydrated and get quality sleep each night.