Will changing my diet affect my headaches?

The following foods and beverages are common headache triggers. Find out which ones affect you and try to avoid them as much as possible.

  • aged cheeses including cheddar, Brie, and Camembert
  • alcoholic beverages including wine, beer, and whiskey
  • any food that is pickled, marinated, or fermented
  • caffeinated beverages including cola, tea, and coffee
  • chocolate
  • freshly baked yeast-containing goods such as sourdough bread
  • monosodium glutamate, or MSG, found in soy sauce and meat tenderizers
  • nuts or peanut butter
  • processed meats including sausage, bologna, pepperoni, salami, and hot dogs
  • sour cream
  • food and drinks that contain the amino acid tyramine (for more information, see Could foods with tyramine cause my headaches?

Changing your diet is an important part of your headache management program. Since certain things you eat and drink may trigger headaches, avoiding them can help prevent headaches.

Consider the following:

  • Sometimes a single food can trigger a headache. If you get a headache every time you eat chocolate, stop eating it and see if you get fewer headaches.
  • Sometimes it takes a combination of food and drink to trigger a headache. Use your headache diary to keep track of the meals you eat. See if there are certain groupings of food that are often followed by a headache.
  • A change in the time of day you drink coffee or other caffeinated beverages may trigger migraines.
  • When you eat certain foods can also influence headaches. If you get headaches only on the weekend or only on certain days, note any differences in when you're eating on those days. Skipping meals is also often associated with migraine headaches.
  • Foods that may bother you now may not bother you in the future and vice versa. Make it a habit to review your headache triggers from time to time.

There are many kinds of food triggers. See What triggers a headache? to learn more about common triggers, including food and drink triggers.

You don't want to cut out so many foods from your diet that you miss getting the nutrients they provide. Only cut out the foods you identified as your own triggers. Discuss changes in your diet with your doctor or a nutritionist. They can help you make the necessary adjustments to avoid triggers and still eat a healthy diet.

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