Dealing with a headache is infuriating enough. Trying to figure out exactly what caused it … well, that in itself could just about give you a headache. Many people who suffer from chronic headaches, including those who experience migraines, often get so fed up with them that they discover the factors that trigger their headaches so that they can avoid them in the future. For some people, environmental elements, such as cigarette smoke or heavy perfume, bring on headaches. For others, excessive stress or lack of sleep is enough to cause an attack. And according to some experts, up to 30 percent of headache sufferers are affected by the foods they eat. What kinds of foods cause headaches, and why?
Let the Cheese Stand Alone
There’s no conclusive evidence to prove which foods cause headaches, and not every headache and migraine sufferer is affected by food. But the accepted reality is that many people are, so avoiding headaches means avoiding certain kinds of food. One of the biggest triggers is cheese, specifically the aged varieties. Cheese is high in an enzyme called tyramine, an amino acid known to raise blood pressure, which can contribute to headaches. Tyramine forms from the breakdown of protein in foods, so the longer a food has aged, the greater the amount of tyramine present. Blue or moldy cheeses, Brie, Muenster, Parmesan, and cheddar tend to be the worst offenders.
Plenty of foods besides cheese contain tyramine as well. People who are headache-prone are usually cautioned to avoid processed and aged meat products (like salami, pepperoni, and hot dogs), pickles, fava beans, avocados, and most kinds of nuts. Tyramine’s most severe effects happen to people taking monoamine oxidase inhibitor medications, but it has the potential to affect anyone.