I’ve never had much faith in food triggering headaches. Too many seem like coincidence rather than cause and effect. Chocolate, for example, is not only not a trigger for me, but studies haven’t shown a clear link between headache and chocolate. And the medical community is split, with opinions ranging from yes, absolutely to no, most likely not.
My skepticism was overridden when I identified peanut butter as an obvious trigger for me. Getting rid of that trigger made other potential food triggers much more obvious. Like coffee, which is a story for another day.
So I’m finally going to tackle the vast world of food triggers. Even if your headaches aren’t migraine, a lot of the information will still apply to you. I’ll examine perspectives the pro and con perspectives as well as share resources. If you have specific questions about food triggers or headache prevention diets, let me know and I’ll make sure I address them in a post.
3 thoughts on “Food Triggers & Headache”
I started getting migraines when I was in my 30’s and have been dealing with them for about 21 years now. Food was the first thing I identified as a trigger by eliminating it from my diet. I also came to learn I was addicted to it and my frequent consumption of it was acting like a “fix.” Stopping wheat was like stopping an addictive drug, and I experienced withdrawal symptoms in the form of a headache that lasted for 6 weeks.
With the passing of time I was able resume eating wheat, but in very limited quantities, and only in some forms (I tolerate more refined wheat better than whole grain wheat) or it triggers a headache that can escalate to a migraine.
My food triggers didn’t end with wheat, and sorting them all out took years. My list of food triggers now exceeds the list of what I can safely eat. It’s a depressing reality but I’ve learned to live with it.
A doctor once looked over my list of food triggers and explained to me why they can cause headaches and/or migraines. He said the foods contained vasoactive amines which causes vasodilation.
Unfortunately, controlling my diet has not been enough to eliminate my migraines, but it has helped me reduce them. If I lived in a box, I might be able to control the other triggers which include stress, noise, odors, bright colors, etc., etc. . .
That’s a great point, Kate. In fact, it’s the reason I’ve been so reluctant to write about food triggers. It’s like avoiding a food because you got a stomach bug after you ate. The food didn’t make you sick, but the association is there.
Thanks for the kind words, Kate. Sometimes I think the blog is what keeps me going.
Hi Kerrie –
I have read several times that some think these foods are often not a TRIGGER, but a SYMPTOM of the prodromal phase of migraine, during which all sorts of weird neurological things go on. Often there is moodiness, confusion, irritability, extreme fatigue, hyperactivity, CHOCOLATE CRAVINGS, etc., etc. So it could be that these things are labeled as triggers just because they precede the migraine, but that they are more like warning signs. For me, I often get hyper-talkative AND ravenously hungry just before a migraine hits, among other variations of “prodrome”. Sometimes I don’t recognize a prodromal symptom until after the migraine hits and I can look back and think “oh! – maybe THAT’S why I was acting like that!”
Anyway, I look forward to your research on the topic, and wonder if you will find anything about this “prodromal symptom” vs. trigger idea. I love your work here. I commend you greatly for doing this in the midst of your own migraine situation!