Thursday, October 30, 2014
Sunday, March 29, 2009 Nina Bayer, Community Member, asks

Q: Onions give me severe, 3-day migraines.

I've met one other person who has the same reaction to onions, and a book I found written about migraines (in the 70s) listed onions as the #1 trigger. And yet, I never see onions listed as a trigger on current websites. Am I alone in this? I'd like to hear from other "onion-sensitive" people. Thanks.

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Answers (20)
Teri Robert, Health Guide
3/29/09 1:34pm



No, you're not alone in this.


Do you know if you have any other food triggers? Take a look at our article Managing Migraine - Migraine Trigger Foods. As noted, the list of trigger food in the article is just a partial list, but if you'll download the free workbook, you'll find that we DO list onions as a potential trigger food.


Hopefully, others with this trigger will respond to you soon.


If you'd like some additional support, come join our discussion forum. You'll need to register again once there because it's a separate membership database, but you can use the same member name, email address, and password that you used here. You can find our forum at



ladychef41, Community Member
12/19/10 4:44pm

I am a chef and have never experienced onions as a trigger until recently! I can eat raw or cooked onions with no problem, but CUTTING them is a whole different story!!! I thought it was just a coincidence until the other day when I was feeling fine until I start slicing red onions.... WORST migraine EVER!!!! Started dicing one today for chicken and noodles and almost immediately started developing a whopper of a migraine! Fortunately, I finished before it getting to the full blown state. This sucks since I AM a chef and need to use onion frequently.... I actually found that wearing swim goggles while working with onions helps A LOT!! I may look silly, but at least I don't develop a migraine!

animalsfirst, Community Member
1/27/12 10:31pm

I recently discovered that red onions trigger bad headaches for me as well.  I live in a studio apartment so whenever I prepare/cook with them, the scent...fumes...whatever one calls it, lingers in the room and I'm feeling it for 2-3 days. 

Naveen, Community Member
3/ 5/12 1:00am

From india...

You can do one thing for your crying syndrome.:)

Cut the onion in four halves after peeling and then run it down the water for 5 to 6 seconds. this should help you not have any more tears.


Yeah one more thing no need for swim goggles. the onion has to wear it when it is under water :)

I hope this should help.


reason it works: the sulpher gas emitted stops as it getsstabilized and washed due to water.

Jamie, Community Member
3/30/09 3:26am

Oh, you are SO not alone in this! Onions are a horrible trigger for me... and they just seem to just be in everything!!


When I go out to a restaurant, I always ask if there are onions in the dish that I want to order- and make it REALLY clear that if onions are in the dish, I'm very likely to wind up in the Emergency Room 'cause I'm THAT sensitive to onions. I tend not to mention the word Migraine at all, as not too many people know that a Migrainee is not "just a headache," but a Genetic Neuroneurological disease!


Hope I helped somewhat!


Oh, by the way- My favorite winter food used to be French Onion Soup. Guess that one's out, eh?



MigraineBrain, Community Member
5/17/09 2:18am

Yup. I just figured this ONION thing out today. I googled it and found you folks. So, I am about to try some Imitrex, which does not work for me any way.  :(

chtkx4, Community Member
6/10/09 12:35am

I found that only raw onions affect me.  Not just eatting them, but anything that they have touched.  I have somehow eliminated all of my other food triggers though if they are eaten together, it can sometimes still affect me.  I believed that it was cheddar cheese, avocado and dairy, but have since realized that the one thing that was eaten with them everytime was raw onion.  I don't get why I can eat them cooked, but it is such a relief to know that it is only onion.  Good luck, the food elimination diet is a pain, but is soooo worth it when you find that some of your favorite foods really arent the problem!

Jofo, Community Member
1/19/13 12:56am
I have the same problem. Raw onions bother me but cooked onions do not. I have found that onion powder bothers me as well. Raw onions that have been sitting out for a while (such as those at sandwich shops which are sliced well in advance and placed in a bin) are the worst. I think yellow and white onions bother me more than red onions. Green onions are a safer choice but I limit these as well and make sure I stick to the green portion high above the white bulb. Interestingly, garlic powder really affects me too (as does the pre chopped garlic that comes in a jar) but I can use fresh garlic without an issue. Reply
RudyOliver, Community Member
6/16/09 11:56am

I have had the same problem for many many years and was diagnosed in 1988.  It's a continuing struggle to keep onions out of my diet.  People with the best will in the world make food with soups, Mrs. Dash's, salad dressing, and other items that they don't realize contain onions.  I've sent food back over and over that I was assured has no onions.  Strangely, over the years my stomach has somehow become able to strain out onions and I usually throw up whatever had onion in it, leaving the rest of the food alone. 

I've always said that if I'm ever executed, my last meal will be French onion soup, which I also used to love.  Lol

SG, Community Member
8/20/09 12:09pm

Onions are my enemy!  Anything in that family- onions, scallions, leeks, fennel-- all give me migraines, too.  I find that people don't realize how difficult it is to have this problem.  It makes eating out very difficult.  And, I find that not all descriptions include "onions" but you get your meal and it's loaded. 

cherokeelady1968, Community Member
1/21/10 9:17am

oh my gosh!!! I had onions sunday on a burger and have had a migraine for 4 days!!! It's happened before too.  I went and got a toradol shot yesterday and it did nothing!  So glad to hear someone else has had this problem!!

Browsegal, Community Member
5/10/11 2:32pm
I get toradal INJECTIONS as well. A shot of toradol does not work for me. My doctor always uses an I.V. THEN hydrates me with a full bag of saline solution for about an hour (medium drip) THEN when saline bag is empty, dr. Inserts toradol into I.V. MIRACLE procedure for me!! Onions kill me fir 3-4 days as well Reply
depressedmigrainemommy, Community Member
1/25/10 11:10am

I also have problems with RAW onions only.  If they are cooked I have no problem!  Not sure why that is.  Every now and then I feel like I just HAVE to have raw onions on a burger, or a salad or something, and I make sure that my migraine meds (Treximet) is immediately on hand otherwise yes, I'll be down for the next 3 days!  I've been dealing with chronic migraines now for 18 years and still don't know all of my triggers.  It is also upsetting to know that so many people suffer from migraines, yet doctors can't seem to "fix" them, just medicate.  I'll continue to pray for not only myself but for all of my fellow migraine sufferers that a "cure" is soon found for us!

aromagurl, Community Member
2/25/10 3:32pm

    I have the exact same problem with onions! It's a relief to know there are others who understand!  I can't eat onions - raw, cooked, anything; i can't even be around them, the smell alone sends me to bed with a migraine!!! I've sarted to just make everything at home and without onions -I've discovered that most stuff is still good (minus the onion) if you just work some other spices in....

    It is terrible; I used to love mexican, esp fajitas.... and grilled onion with steak or on smothered chicken. Oh, I do miss being able to eat them and all of the cooking shows use onions on top of onions.  But I love to cook and am not working right now so I've been trying to work with a variety of foods and dishes so I can still enjoy anything I want. 

    My poor boyfriend also loves onions with certain things, but he doesn't bring them into our home or complain about it -ever - and he is totally supportive because he sees the pain it causes me.  I have to work harder to avoid some things - like caffeine, I'm a Mt Dew addict. But overall, it's just the onions.  i can even eat garlic and sometimes I can use a tiny smidge of onion powder, but not often on the powder and only when I'm feeling invincible ;) .   I also try to avoid processed meats ( esp sandwich meats and sausage or bacon) and aged cheeses.... but it's differnt fo reveryone.

    Good luck! Hope we all have more migraine-free days in the very near future!

U.S., Community Member
3/ 9/10 1:46pm



Migraines run in my family and onions (raw or cooked) are totally taboo for us. Strangely enough, I could eat onions without a problem till my late 30's, but ever since it is a big trigger. I check the ingredient list in all prepared foods and verify that all meals are onion free before I eat.


I hope you feel validated now. Good Luck.



D. Smith, Community Member
4/30/10 6:13am


This was pointed out to me at the Diamond Headache Clinic in Chicago as a possibility. After food journaling, it was confirmed.  My reaction is usually hours away, never just minutes after consumption.  So, it was hard to spot.  The docs there told me that reaction time could be up to 72 hours later.  Because of this, it is not considered an allergy as much as a chemical reaction.  If I neglect to notice uncooked onions on any food, the pain will be sure to remind me accompanied with vomiting.  I was so glad to find others can relate!!


D. Smith


Andre, Community Member
5/12/14 6:11am

Hie Smith,

I am andre from Malawi,africa this is the same problem with me but i did not realise until now.always when i just eat anything with onion that the biggining of great pains in my head to the point that i feel very weak and vomitting...

Thank you so much for sharing this with me.No more onions in my foods




SubbuKrishna, Community Member
8/10/10 4:49am

Hi, I am right now having migraine which started to day morning, I was trying to figure out the reason then I suddenly realized my stupid mistake of having eaten raw onion (I do know raw onion is one of the trig grant for me), but I do make this mistake at times, cooked onion does not seem to cause the problem, to tell u honestly I have figured out what triggers migraine for me, because some times even raw onion seems not to trigger migraine, but in general I think in order of priority it is raw onion, garlic, coco, potato (specially samosa, cutlet, batata vada), chocolate, poor sleep, stress (caused by in order of priority wife, boss, finance, deadlines.....ahahahah), now my migraine has some what come to control after practicing exercise, yoga and pranayama....regards to all.

kenn, Community Member
10/27/10 7:40am

I suffered from migrain for a long time, I felt alone when the symtomps appeared on me, nobody helped me about it, you must learn how to cure yourself.  Onion was number one trigger for me. Eating pickles, skin contact to some metals such as rusty iron, copper, aluminium also trigger migrain. I think genetic prone and Blood Brain Barrier failure contribrute to migrain.

laronel, Community Member
12/ 4/10 9:28am

I am starting to suspect RAW onions is a trigger for me.  Although, it may ONLY be when I touch them.  I get a strange smell on my hands that won't wash off!  Some sort of chemical reaction???????   I am hoping this is the ONLY trigger.  I am going to start journaling.  Good luck to you all!

Ondine, Community Member
1/29/11 8:21pm



ABSOLUTELY, there is a correlation between migraines and onions -- you are not alone.  Until I kept a "food chart," isolating onions as the culprit, I suffered severely for years.  It can be cumulative, as well -- that is, one onion, maybe no headache, but an onion the next day -- look out !!!


I have to watch everything I eat very closely.  I once was in a cooking class, tending a pot with onions in it, smelling their aroma only, NOT eating any, and had to run home with flashing lights before my eyes, nausea, and a severe headache, lasting, as you said, THREE DAYS. 


But NOT since my discovery.  Just enter "migraines and onions" in the browser and you will come up with all sorts of correlations re migraines and onions.  I did it just now, and came up with a bunch.  I use the very top slot on the screen, NOT Google.


 I sat at a luncheon a couple of years ago, and the woman opposite me ordered a plate full of onions.  I asked her how she avoided migraines.  She immediately opened her purse, showing a box full of migraine tablets!


You just have to be very, very careful, especially in restaurants to avoid them.  They are in every canned good in the market, as well -- soups, salad dressings, ready made salads, sandwiches, etc.


Hope this helps, and GOOD LUCK !!!



Willostory, Community Member
2/10/11 3:24pm

Not only onions, but garlic as well. And I LOVE both. My neurologist just looks at me like I have two heads when I tell her that these two foods trigger migraines for me. Frown But hey, if they do, they do.

Katherine, Community Member
2/17/12 11:44am

Hello Nina


I came across this discussion after I had googled onion as a possible trigger to migraines.  I have had a migraine for the past three days, and I just could not figure out why! I thought I  had done everything right, until I REALLY thought about it.... I eat salad every night with my dinner, and I usually do not put onions in it; I am currently not working (looking for a job), so I thought 'onion-breath' would be okay, and went ahead and cut up some red onion.  This was never on my food trigger list, but it is now.  Who would have thought, huh?!  Imitrex works for me, but my insurance only allows 9 per month, so I limit myself. 

Naveen, Community Member
3/ 5/12 12:55am

Onions are one major reason for migrane. Most people take time to figure it out. and thats me.

Onion in raw form is a definite trigger.

If one wants to eat then a small portion finely chopped and then fried thoroughly may not (i my case it did not give trigger) give you that trigger.

However garlic in any form is a definite trigger. However. i have noticed, with very low qunatity one two max two cloves when fried did not give me that trigger.

Why this trigger? i figure that it is due to Sulphur in them which is kinda toxic to some brain cells of individuals having migrane.

iinsaayn, Community Member
3/ 7/12 6:38pm
Note to self...NEVER eat chicken and leek pie again (probably had onion in it too)! I can't believe these foods can actually be a trigger. My other recent trigger discovery is pineapple juice...which I love. I also think my trigger foods cause worse headaches when combined with stress and hormone levels out of wack. Hope this makes sense since i can hardly open my eyes at the moment. :( Reply
tracey hoskin, Community Member
4/12/12 8:20pm

I too suffer severe migraines that can put me in hospital if they get really bad. Onions are a big trigger for me and just about everything I like has onion of some form in it. Curry sauces, pasta sauces, soups, pies need I go on!!! I had a chicken and bacon sandwhich 2 days ago in a cafe and specifically asked if it had onion in. I was assured it didnt and I put the green bits down to some herbs... probably chive as ive had a migraine and only just got up after sleeping it of with medication. Guess I should have known better but it does make eating out really difficult at times. So far its just onions and its relations that seem to affect me just got to remain careful!!!



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By Nina Bayer, Community Member— Last Modified: 05/12/14, First Published: 03/29/09