Four Hidden Headache Triggers in Your Diet

by Wellness Editor – MH

Headaches are like colds, cuts and stomach aches – virtually everyone deals with them occasionally, no matter how well we treat our bodies. Generally, people blame this ailment on things such as loud noise and stress. While this is often the case, some people develop headaches after consuming certain ingredients found in foods and drinks. If you tend to suffer from diet-related headaches, avoiding the following ingredients might prove helpful.

Tyramine – Tyramine might sound like some sort of over-the-counter allergy medicine, but it’s actually a type of amino acid found in a wide range of items. This substance forms after the protein content within foods begins to dissolve; because of this fact, high-protein fare typically contains sizable amounts of tyramine. Furthermore, because protein breakdown creates new tyramine, protein-rich foods tend to accumulate more tyramine over time.

This substance is found in abundance in aged cheeses. Many cheeses fall into the “aged cheese” category, including Swiss, Parmesan, mozzarella, cheddar, Muenster, feta, blue, Brie, Stilton and Gorgonzola. In addition, meats that have undergone food processing often contain substantial amounts of tyramine. Hot dogs, bacon, ham and sandwich meats are all examples of this type of product. Other harbors for tyramine include foods high in soy (such as tofu, miso and soy sauce) and some fruits that have become overripe, like avocados and bananas. Finally, this ingredient is also found in sauerkraut, dried fruit, olives, pickles, beer and red wine.

Alcohol – This one should be pretty obvious, as headaches are one of the telltale signs of a hangover. Alcoholic beverages such as beer, red wine, champagne and whiskey force an elevated amount of blood to flow to the brain, thereby triggering a headache. In addition, consuming an excessive amount of alcohol dehydrates the body, which also can cause headaches to develop.

Tannins – Tannins give numerous products a relatively sharp and potent taste, causing a dry and puckering sensation in the mouth. This chemical compound is found largely in fruits; a list of some fruit products with tannins is shown below:

  • Pears
  • Cider
  • Honeydew Melon
  • Lemons
  • Limes
  • Pineapples
  • Blackberries
  • Oranges
  • Guava
  • Grapefruit
  • Cantaloupe
  • Green Pares
  • Red Apples
  • Apricots


Aside from fruits, other items that feature tannins as an ingredient include chocolate, red wine, tea and a wide range of herbs.

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) – MSG is an additive that is added to various foods to increase their flavor. It has been used by food producers for many decades, and is an ingredient in many grocery store offerings, such as processed meats, potato chips, chicken nuggets, soups and canned vegetables. In addition to these items, MSG is also commonly used to boost the taste of Chinese food.

While MSG might make certain products more amenable to your taste buds, some people report experiencing side effects after ingesting this additive. Headaches are one of the adverse reactions that consumers have complained about after eating MSG-laden foods. Recent research suggests there may be something to this claim; a 2013 study found that subjects were more likely to suffer from headaches after consuming 150 mg/kg of MSG daily than when taking a placebo (“mg/kg” refers to the amount of milligrams of MSG for each kilogram of the subject’s weight).

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