Credit: Thinkstock Trigger identification and management is an essential part of migraine disease management. Migraine triggers are physical things that bring on a migraine attack when a migraineur is exposed to them.
There are a wide range of migraine triggers—some avoidable, others not. Once triggers are identified, it’s sometimes possible to reduce the frequency of migraine attacks by avoiding those triggers.
One type of trigger that can be identified and avoided is food triggers. Not everyone has food triggers, but it’s well worth checking into. Some migraineurs will identify food triggers fairly easily by noticing that every time they eat something, they have a migraine. Other migraineurs employ an elimination diet to investigate food triggers. To do an elimination diet, you eliminate all the potential trigger foods from your diet, then add them back in one at a time, with a week between adding each food. It’s important to note that a migraine can occur up to 48 hours after eating a trigger food. Keeping an accurate migraine diary is essential to identifying trigger foods.
Potential trigger foods*
Foods that can be migraine triggers include, but are not limited to:
- chili peppers
- dried fruits
- dried apricots
- red plums
- citrus fruits
- passion fruit
- any fresh yeast product straight from the oven
- yeast breads
- soft pretzels
- Meats and seafood
- any preserved or processed meat
- hot dogs
- chicken livers
- Dairy products
- aged cheeses
- sour cream
- whole milk
- alcoholic beverages, especially red wine
- chocolate beverages
- caffeinated beverages
anything with MSG
nuts (peanuts, peanut butter)
seeds (pumpkin, sesame, sunflower)
This is a partial list. See the downloadable workbook for a more complete list. (link below)
It can be frustrating to manage food triggers. It can seem especially difficult to eat in a restaurant or go to parties. When managing food triggers means fewer migraines, it’s well worth it. Most migraineurs with food triggers find that only a few foods are a problem. If you’re going to a party with food, offer to make a dish or two that you know you can safely eat. To make things easier for you, I’ve prepared a workbook of sorts with a complete check list of potential trigger foods. You can use this to check off safe foods and foods you find to be a trigger for you. Download the free workbook.
University of Vermont. “Tyramine Diet for Headache Prevention.” University of Vermont Health Services. December, 2008.
Silberstein, Stephen D.; Lipton, Richard B.; Goadsby, Peter J.; Smith, Robert T. “Headache in Primary Care.” Isis Medical Media. 1999.
Marks, David R., MD. “The Headache Prevention Cookbook.” Boston. Houghton Mifflin Company. 2000.
Young, William B.; Silberstein, Stephen D. “Migraine and Other Headaches.” AAN Press. 2004.
Robert, Teri. “Living Well with Migraine Disease and Headaches.” HarperCollins. 2005.
Reviewed by David Watson, MD.
© Teri Robert, 2004 - present. • Last updated December 19, 2015.