Are Food Sensitivities Behind Your Migraines?

Migraine is a highly prevalent neurological disorder that affects up to 39 million men, women, and children across the U.S. Typically, you experience a throbbing or pulsing pain at one side of your head, lasting for hours to days. Nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound are the common symptoms that can interfere with your routine activities. 

Emotional stress, genetics, gender, hormonal changes, and smoking are the highest risk factors for migraines. But food and sensitivity to certain chemicals and preservatives can also trigger them. If you often experience pounding, throbbing headaches but aren’t sure why then check the food you eat. 

In some cases, food sensitivity can lead to severe headaches and migraines in individuals. Multiple studies prove that only several foods seem to bring on headaches. Here we discuss what foods trigger migraines and how you can combat them:

An Overview of Food Sensitivity 

Our immune system is generally very effective and proactive at fighting against toxins, germs, and bacteria. 

However, in people with food sensitivities, your immune system mistakes certain foods or items in foods to be dangerous to your body’s health. Thus, it reacts to the supposed threat by releasing a stream of IgG antibodies into your bloodstream. 

Ultimately, this can result in several unpleasant and severe symptoms, including migraines and cramps. Keep in mind that food sensitivities differ from food allergies since the latter involves IgE antibodies. 

The Link Between Food Sensitivity and Migraines 

Multiple studies reveal that IgG reactivity due to various foods and ingredients has a direct link with migraines. Insightful research shows that people who regularly suffer from migraines are likely to test positive for IgG reactivity to several everyday food items. 

Unfortunately, pinpointing food sensitivities can be a challenging and almost impossible task. Even a food allergy test and trial and error diet can take several months before individuals and doctors can identify trigger foods. However, elimination diets are an effective and proven way of combating migraines. 

Top Foods that Trigger Migraines 

Let’s discuss the most common food items that can cause a migraine:


Alcohol is one of the most common food triggers. Champagne, beer, red wine, scotch, and whiskey are among the top drinks that trigger an attack. 

Here are the top theories that cause headaches and migraines in people:

  • The sulfites in wine help keep it fresh but can also cause migraines 
  • Alcohol causes an increased amount of blood to reach your head which causes extreme pain 
  • Drinking alcohol can cause dehydration which, in turn, triggers migraines

The easiest, most straightforward way to avoid an alcohol-induced migraine is by not drinking it at all. 


Excess caffeine or caffeine withdrawal can trigger migraines or headaches. If you drink two cups or more of coffee, you can suffer from severe headaches. 

Here are a couple of items that contain caffeine:

  • Chocolate 
  • Coffee
  • Tea

However, caffeine is a double-edged sword. In small doses, caffeine can help stop oncoming migraine attacks. 

Sweeteners and Food Additives

Most processed foods include artificial sweeteners that are added to drinks and foods to enhance sweetness. Unfortunately, these sweeteners like aspartame and yellow dyes can cause migraine episodes. 

Some processed foods also include food additives to boost the taste and color of certain items and can trigger headaches. Monosodium Glutamate, nitrates, and nitrites are popular in bacon, hot dogs, lunch meat, and so on and can cause:

  • Burning in Your Chest, Neck, and Shoulders 
  • Dizziness 
  • Gets Progressively Worse When You’re Active 
  • Flushing in Your Face
  • Pain in Your Head 
  • Pulsing Pain
  • Stomach Pain 

Aged Cheese and Additional Foods

Aged cheese like Parmesan, Swiss, Brie, and Cheddar can make your head hurt. Since aged cheese is rich in tyramine, it can trigger a migraine. 

If you’re sensitive to tyramine, it’s a good idea to steer clear of salami, pepperoni, lunch meat, pickles, olives, nuts, and certain beans. 

Apart from that, try to avoid the following foods that trigger migraines:

  • Chocolate 
  • Cultured Dairy Products like Buttermilk, Yogurt, Sour Cream 
  • Figs, Avocados, and Raisins
  • Doughnuts, Yeast Bread, and Other Pastries 

What Foods are Good for Migraines? 

Foods rich in minerals, vitamins, and fatty acids help prevent migraines. Here are a couple of foods you should add to your diet to combat migraines:

  • Magnesium-rich Foods- Research shows that magnesium can help relieve symptoms of a migraine. Look for magnesium-rich foods like avocado, tuna, and dark leafy greens
  • Omega 3 Fatty Acids- A study indicates that introducing omega-3 fatty acids can help you fight migraines. Consider including fish like mackerel and salmon, seeds, and legumes in your diet
  • Ketogenic Foods-Although keto diets aren’t well-suited for everyone, research reveals that keto can help combat migraines. Try to eat foods low in carbohydrates and high in fat, such as non-starchy vegetables, seafood, and eggs. Consult a doctor or a dietitian before opting for a keto diet 

An insightful study also suggests that changes in diets like limiting sodium or trying a low glycemic diet can help reduce migraines.

How Does an Elimination Diet Help You Combat Migraines? 

Using an elimination diet helps you identify foods that are potentially triggering your migraines. An elimination diet involves you and your doctor creating a list of foods you think are causing your headaches. 

The goal is to avoid eating those foods for between 2 to 4 weeks and then add the items back one by one. This way, if you experience a migraine again, you can pinpoint which food is causing it.

Several studies, including one by NCBI, reveal that elimination diets can help fight migraines without resorting to over-the-counter pills or medications. Another in-depth research involving 21 patients shows that an elimination diet can successfully reduce the number of migraine attacks.

The Bottom Line 

The lack of an eating schedule can also trigger migraines. Far more important than identifying the products and foods you eat is how often you eat. 

Skipping meals regularly is known to cause pounding, throbbing headaches, and migraines. In addition, changing your routine, such as dealing with additional stress, eating at different times, or sleeping less, can cause migraines. 

If you’re struggling with migraines, consider following a strict, monotonous schedule. It can bring down the frequency and severity of headaches. Plus, maintain your overall health by staying hydrated, choosing high-fiber and whole-grain foods, managing stress, and getting regular exercise to combat migraines. 


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