Managing Migraine - Migraine Trigger Foods

by Teri Robert Patient Advocate

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:

  • Vegetables

    • beans

    • pickles

    • chili peppers

    • olives

  • Fruits

    • dried fruits

    • avocados

    • red plums

    • bananas

    • citrus fruits

  • Breads

    • any fresh yeast product straight from the oven

    • yeast breads

    • pizza

    • soft pretzels

  • Meats and seafood

    • any preserved or processed meat

    • bacon

    • hot dogs

    • sausage

  • Dairy products

    • aged cheeses

    • sour cream

    • whole milk

  • Beverages

    • alcoholic beverages, especially red wine

    • chocolate beverages

    • caffeinated beverages

  • Miscellaneous

    • anything with MSG

    • artificial sweeteners

    • vinegar

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 workbook.

Teri Robert
Meet Our Writer
Teri Robert

Teri Robert is a leading patient educator and advocate and the author of Living Well with Migraine Disease and Headaches. A co-founder of the Alliance for Headache Disorders Advocacy and the American Headache and Migraine Association, she received the National Headache Foundation's Patient Partners Award and a Distinguished Service Award from the American Headache Society.