Health and Lifestyle for the over 50s

Headache-Proof Your Diet: What to Avoid

Posted by The Best of Health
Categories: Diet & Nutrition /

headacheDo you suffer from a headache on a regular occasion but aren’t sure why? Your diet might have something to do with it. Certain foods and drinks are commonly linked to headaches, so you may be able to get rid of the pain by cutting out one or more of the following:

Aged Foods

Aged cheese, dried fruit and cured meats all contain a substance called tyramine, which can trigger headaches and migraines. Tyramine forms as certain proteins in these foods break down over time. Experts believe that it causes blood vessels to constrict and then expand, often leading to a headache. Tyramine can also cause nerve cells in your brain to release the chemical norepinephrine – a change which could contribute to the pain.


Drinking alcohol increases blood flow to your brain, which can cause headaches. Many alcoholic drinks also contain headache-inducing tyramine, and some scientists believe that the pain can be caused by by-products that are created as your body metabolises alcohol. Red wine, beer, champagne and whisky are a few of the drinks most commonly linked to headaches.


Some food additives, such as nitrates, can prompt headaches. This is because they dilate blood vessels like tyramine does, and increase blood flow to the brain as alcohol does. MSG – a flavour enhancer used in some packaged foods and takeaway meals – is also thought to contribute to headaches too. The good news is you can easily cut a lot of these additives out of your diet by eating less processed foods.

Artificial Sweeteners

Some artificial sweeteners, particularly aspartame, are believed to trigger headaches in some people. While many people report that aspartame brings on their headaches and migraines, there is not yet enough evidence to determine how it has this effect, or even if it really is causing pain. However, if you think your headaches are linked to consumption of aspartame, it’s easy enough for you to avoid. Simply check the ingredients list of any diet fizzy drinks or juices you’re thinking of drinking, as this is where they’re most commonly found.

Cold Foods

Your headaches may be brought on by something as simple as sensitivity to cold. In this case, it’s easy to determine whether cold foods are the culprit behind your headaches, as the pain will occur as soon as you eat something very cold, and will usually only last for a very short period of time. You may need to avoid eating ice cream and similarly cold substances if you find they are causing you pain. When you do eat them, it’s best not to do so when you’re overheated – whether from hot weather or intense exercise – because this is when sensitivity to cold foods is most likely to occur.

To determine whether your diet is contributing to your headaches, keep a headache diary which will allow you to keep track of potential causes. You may identify one of the above foods or ingredients as one of your triggers and will be able to adjusting your eating habits accordingly.

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