Some foods can cause migraines

Some foods can cause migraines

Q: I have suffered with migraines for years, but it seems like they are becoming more frequent and some are more severe than others. I have read that foods can be a cause, but I can never find a list of what is in a food product that may trigger a migraine. All of us migraine suffers thank you for your help.

A: A host of foods contain chemicals that can cause headaches, including that one-sided, throbbing headache known as a migraine. Here is a list of food additives that should be avoided to reduce the risk of developing migraines:

MSG – Monosodium glutamate, is a flavor enhancer used in restaurants and in prepared foods, such as soups, salad dressings and lunchmeats, that can provoke severe headaches, as well as cause flushing and tingling of the head and should be avoided by a headache-prone individual.

Nitrites – Preservatives that are commonly found in hot dogs, bacon, salami and other cured meats.

Caffeine – Can act as a vasoconstrictor, and as a result, limit blood flow through the blood vessels in your head and should be avoided if you suffer from migraines. While the experts are divided regarding caffeine, I always recommend avoiding any products that contain caffeine.

Aspartame – An artificial sweetener, should be avoided at all extremes. One of the most frequent complaint of food products to the FDA is aspartame.

Tyramine – An amino acid that is found in aged cheeses, pickled herring, chicken livers, canned figs, fresh baked goods made with yeast, lima beans, Italian beans, lentils, snow peas, navy beans, pinto beans, peanuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds. An astounding 30 percent of migraine sufferers seem to have a sensitivity to tyramine, according to Dr. Seymour Diamond, M.D. of the National Headache Foundation.

Phenylethylamine – A chemical found in chocolates, can also cause headaches.

Congeners – Chemicals found in hard liquor and should also be avoided.

Q: I read on some supplement labels that the product “reduces free radicals” or is an “antioxidant to eliminate free radicals” and I do not know what that means. Are free radicals bad for us? Do we all have them? Please explain.

A: Free radicals are highly reactive molecules, produced in the body by normal metabolic functions, such as breathing, taking drugs and ingesting toxins. Virtually all of our organs are under attack by free radicals on a continuous basis. The dangerous free-radical producing toxins include cigarette smoke, air and water pollution, stress and certain harmful foods including fats. Since we are all exposed to these pollutants, no one is immune from the threat of free radicals. Our bodies contain about 60 to 100 trillion cells, each that have a fatty membrane around it, which is intended to act as a shield to prevent it from harm. When your body is inundated with free radicals, without an armor of antioxidants to absorb them, your cell membranes are being damaged and may be destroyed. Once free radicals begin to ravage proteins and enzymes it then moves to genetic material – the nucleus where DNA is formed. You can counter the effects of free radicals through antioxidants. Antioxidants disarm free radicals and break the viscous cycle. You can encourage the bodies natural production of antioxidants by eating healthy foods, and taking whole-food supplements and living a healthy lifestyle.

Phylis B. Canion is a doctor of naturopathic medicine and is a certified nutritional consultant, e-mail her at This column is for nutritional information only and is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure.



~ by sunil khemaney on January 8, 2009.

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