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Top 10 Migraine Triggers

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Top 10 Migraine Triggers

Headaches might just be the most oppressive common malady there is. About 40 percent of us routinely suffer ordinary tension-type headaches, which range from the sensation of a tightening band to outright pounding around the head. Ninety-three percent have these headaches at least once or twice a year.

It gets worse for the additional 50 million Americans who endure migraines, which pulse and throb relentlessly on one side of the brain. Accompanied by nausea, dizziness, numbness, neck pain and a host of other physical symptoms even hallucinations migraines can be mild or can grind life to a halt for hours or days at a time. The most severe migraines keep people home, in darkened bedrooms, and unable to drive, withstand the light of day, work or care for their kids. About 6 million people suffer migraines every day of their lives.

A perfect cure for headaches may not be within our grasp anytime soon. But by embracing the wide range of treatments available now from avoiding triggers and taking supplements to trying medical interventions when warranted all but the most intractable headaches can be controlled.


Dietary Triggers: Top 10 List

David Buchholz, MD, of Johns Hopkins University, points to the top 10 migraine triggers found in food:



Caffeine. Found in coffee, tea, colas and certain other sodas. Going off caffeine suddenly can also trigger headaches.

Chocolate. Anything with cocoa. Chocolate contains phenylethylamine, which may cause blood vessels to expand and contract.

Nuts. From almonds to pistachios, they can all be culprits, as can nut butters.

Monosodium glutamate. Famously found in Chinese food, but also in seasoned salt, salty snacks, prepared soups, many low-fat and low-cal foods, and even veggie burgers. Steer clear of hydrolyzed vegetable, soy or plant proteins, which can contain similar compounds.

Deli meats and fish. If it has been aged, canned, cured, fermented, marinated, smoked or tenderized, it may trigger headaches, says Buchholz. Preservation with nitrites or nitrates is a no-no. Avoid beef livers and chicken livers, as well.

Dairy products, especially cheese. This includes all kinds of hard cheeses and foods prepared with cheese. The more aged the cheese, the worse the trigger. White cheeses, including cottage cheese, ricotta and cream cheese, have not been implicated, but yogurt has.

Red wine. Too much red wine or any dark alcohol can stack the decks against you. Of all drinking alcohols, vodka is tolerated best. Also avoid vinegar; balsamic is the most problematic, but white should be OK.

Certain fruits and vegetables. In his book Heal Your Headache, Buchholz lists the fruits and vegetables most implicated in triggering headaches. Among the problematic fruits: citrus fruits and fruit juices, bananas, raisins and other dried fruits preserved with sulfites, raspberries, red plums, papayas, passion fruit, figs, dates, and avocados. Vegetable culprits include sauerkraut, pea pods and beans (from fava to navy to lentils). The worst vegetable offender may be onions, though baby onions are OK.

Freshly baked breads risen with yeast. Especially problematic is sourdough. Also look out for bagels, doughnuts, pizza dough and soft pretzels less than 24 hours out of the oven.

Aspartame. Found in many diet soft drinks and artificial sweeteners, aspartame contains excitotoxins known to affect nerve cells.


Next: Natural Cures and Easy Fixes Worth Trying

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Read more: Alternative Therapies, Food, Headaches, Health, , ,

By Pamela Weintraub, Experience Life

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7:40AM PST on Jan 21, 2015

Chocolate and red wine aren't good for me.

11:37PM PDT on Oct 21, 2013

Great article with a lot of good information for headache suffers and a list of natural remedies rather than drugs that are so prevalently used but can have adverse side effects! Thanks.

7:50PM PDT on Oct 21, 2013

Dehydration is an other hiding cause for headache/migraine, before taking any medication try drinking enough water, just because you are not thirsty that doesn't mean your body isn't.

Also it said in this article to "Avoid caffeine drinks", but it is also true that avoiding caffeine TOO MUCH can cause withdraws for those heavy coffee drinkers, giving you a headaches/migraines.

If you have back problems is an other cause for headaches/migraines, a good idea is to check with your doctor about your back which maybe experiencing severe tension, for what you may also have leg pain.
Taking vitamins without blood work order by your doctor can direct your body into a conflict between vitamins, since they work together but can work against each other too, if too much is taken, leaving your body with worst problems.

Just because the bottle says is good for your heart, doesn't mean will prevent or cure your heart or prevent it from further or more serious problems.

Please don't take any form of pills without checking with your doctor, and don't ask him for "Extras" since "Some doctors" give their patients what ever they want just to keep them "Happy"

Listen to you body and your doctor.

Thanks for this article.

2:06PM PDT on Oct 21, 2013

J' ai souffert de migraines de 4 ans à 30 ans. Alors les conseils viennent un peu tard, mais merci quand même.

9:47AM PDT on Oct 21, 2013


11:12AM PDT on Oct 20, 2013


3:44PM PDT on Aug 14, 2013


9:52AM PDT on Jul 28, 2013

Thank you Megan, for Sharing this!

5:28PM PDT on Jul 18, 2013

I suffer from terrible migraines daily for about 3/4 years straight now.

I knew about most of the things in this article but I appreciated it and it could help others absolutely. Almost everything I read is correct.

Thanks You for Sharing!

4:22AM PDT on Jul 5, 2013

Very good article and I guess if you have tried the alt. meds, written all you have eaten or someone close to you and watched and recorded what they ate and also checked all the foods in packages and learnt the codes b/c additives in foods trigger all kinds of things including migraines. Its best to eat proper food and cook it straight up for a week or two and ditch the coffee and drink water and ditch the sugar and fats and go from there and see how you fare. Then hit the Dr for more ideas OR go to a naturapath and have a hair analysis done which will tell you exactly what you are allergic too.
I cant eat Capsicums but I can eat a weeny amount and I mean tiny- fresh. I prefer not to eat it b/c I get sick.
Feverfew is excellent for migrains and its good b/c there is very little if all, side effects.
Magnesium is also excellent for that too as well as your heart and good for restless legs b/c it helps your muscles. I give this 10/10 its excellent. Get it with Vitamin D in it too.
Love alternatives to trad meds any day.

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Also: Bottled "smoothie" drinks. Even the ones that seem super healthy with the inclusion of vegetab…

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They definitely love their belly rub and can't get enough. Cute piggies

Love ginger but too much sugar for me.

Cute. Reminds me of a few dogs I have had. Thank you for sharing.


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