As someone who suffers from chronic headaches, I know how debilitating they can be to your training days. Run 10 miles when your head is pounding? No way! Headaches may seem like a completely random event, but they can be brought on quickly by stress and eating certain foods. After suffering from a few too many headaches, I decided to look into foods that may exacerbate symptoms. Research shows that these foods may trigger that unfortunate thumping in your head.
Say it ain’t so! For this cheese lover, it’s hard to admit that aged cheeses, like cheddar, gruyere and manchego, may contribute to headaches. But, unfortunately, aged cheese is one of the many foods that contain a compound called tyramine. Although the exact mechanism is still unknown, tyramine may cause migraines by altering the level of certain neurotransmitters in the brain. Watch out for tyramine in many smoked meats, fermented products and broad beans.
By now, you probably know that MSG is not something you want in your diet. Yet some Chinese foods and packaged foods, like Doritos or Ramen noodles, still contain the nasty three-letter additive. Besides being bad for your overall health, MSG can contribute to migraines. One study published in The Journal of Headache and Pain in 2013 even found that ingesting MSG caused headaches and increased blood pressure.
Anyone who has had a few too many glasses of wine can tell you that it’s headache-inducing. But for some, just one glass may lead to a bumping in the brain. While many believe that the sulfur in red wine may be the cause of headaches, a review published in 2014 refutes that belief. As a matter of fact, the good-for-you flavonoids in red wine may actually be a migraine trigger for some. If you’re a migraine sufferer, it may be best to opt for white wine without flavonoids; meanwhile, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest sticking to one glass of wine per day.
This artificially-sweetened beverage is slightly controversial. On one hand, it doesn’t contain any calories or sugar, but on the other hand, the artificial sweetener in the bubbly beverage has some not-so-great consequences. The aspartame found in diet soda may cause migraines in some people. If you suffer from headaches, keep the diet soda to a once-in-a-while treat, rather than an everyday beverage.
Your favorite sweet treat that is in everything from granola bars to cereal to desserts may hurt your head. Like aged cheese, chocolate possesses the compound tyramine, which can contribute to headaches. The other issue is that women crave chocolate during their time of the month. In conjunction with a drop in estrogen during this time, the tyramine in chocolate may be too much for your head to bear. Experiment with small amounts to see how much you can tolerate without feeling it in your head.