Can certain foods be a cause of migraine?

For decades, migraine sufferers have spoken about the effects of certain foods and drinks on their condition. Some are aware that certain foods can trigger an attack if eaten while others are still trying to figure out which foods – if any – may be a cause of migraine.

While the foods that are traditionally ‘blamed’ for causing migraines are chocolate, cheese, red wine and anything containing caffeine, there is a much longer list of potential culprits, the common belief being that vasoactive amines – substances that dilate the blood vessels – in these foods are the cause of migraine.

Vasoactive amines include substances such as serotonin, histamine, tryptamine, tyramine and dopamine, and are found in foods including, but not limited to, fruits and vegetables such as strawberries, avocados, plums, citrus fruits, bananas, tomatoes and potatoes, as well as aged cheeses, alcohol and fermented foods, some types of fish, chocolate, eggs and wheat.

The drug caffeine is also believed to be a cause of migraine, so drinks such as tea, coffee and cola are also potential triggers.

Of course, not everyone who experiences migraines will find that their symptoms are triggered by everything on the list – most people might find that they need to avoid only a handful of foods and/or drinks, while others may be more at risk from environmental triggers such as changes in temperature or bright lights than from foods or drinks.

As yet, the medical community remains divided on whether avoiding certain risk factor foods is a valid migraine prevention strategy, but migraine sufferers themselves report food connections so often that it is hard to ignore the possibility that a simple change in diet could bring significant relief or prevention of attacks.

If you think certain foods may be a cause of migraine, keep a food and symptom diary to help you spot any patterns that emerge – it could make all the difference!

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