8 Common Foods that Cause Migraines

Migraines are common. In fact, nearly one out of every 8 people suffers from migraines. It’s therefore only natural to ask what causes migraines to occur. While a great deal is known about migraines, their precise cause is not yet known in detail. However, one thing is clear…there are foods that cause migraines to be more frequent and severe. If you’re wondering what causes migraines in your life to be so frequent, it’s worth looking at your diet. Not only are there some foods that cause migraines, but there are also foods that help prevent them.

Identifying Food Triggers—Knowing What Causes Migraines

Before listing the potential foods that cause migraines, you need a way to figure out which ones affect you specifically. Certainly, not every food affects everyone the same way, and not all foods that cause migraines will trigger your headaches. The best way to know what causes migraines for you is to keep a headache diary. A headache diary tracks the number of headaches you have each month as well as their severity, duration and character. At the same time, your headache diary should keep track of the foods you eat, your sleep, and your activities. By doing this, you can appreciate trends between your lifestyle choices and your migraines. This is how you learn what foods cause your migraines.

Foods That Cause Migraines Most Commonly

In keeping a headache diary, be on the lookout for some specific foods that cause migraines most frequently. The following is a list of the foods that cause migraines for many people and might be ones you should consider avoiding.

1. Aged Cheeses

Certain cheeses like blue cheese, feta, and parmesan have high amounts of an amino acid called tyramine. Tyramine has been identified as a migraine trigger for many individuals.

2. Aged and Processed Meats

Aged or cured meats often have high levels of nitrates or nitrites. These meats can increase nitric oxide levels in the body and cause blood vessel dilation triggering migraines. Processed meats, on the other hand, may contain artificial flavorings or colorings including MSG. These have also been linked to migraine attacks.

table set with aged cheeses and cured meat - foods that cause migraines

3. Pickled Foods

Fermented and pickled foods also contain tyramine and other substances that can cause migraines to increase. Even Kombucha may be poorly tolerated by some migraine sufferers.

4. Caffeine

Caffeine in the right amount can actually help migraines at times. But generally speaking, excess caffeine and caffeine withdrawal can trigger migraines for many people. Choosing caffeine alternatives may be a good idea.

5. Alcoholic Beverages

Red wine and beer are often the most common foods that cause migraines. Alcohol can cause dehydration that can worsen migraine occurrence. Likewise, some alcoholic beverages contain chemicals or preservatives, like red wine, that trigger migraines in certain people.

wine glasses lined up on a table - foods that cause migraines

6. Artificial Sweeteners

While many preservatives and artificial flavorings may cause migraines, aspartame has been recognized as a migraine trigger for some. Any artificial sweetener should be considered when trying to find out what triggers migraines for you.

7. Chocolate and Nuts

Unfortunately, it’s true…chocolate is often a migraine trigger. Many people have a sensitivity to chocolate, and some cannot tolerate various kinds of nuts without developing a migraine.

spoons full of chocolate and nuts - foods that cause migraines

8. Less Common Foods

Though not as common as the other foods that cause migraines listed, a few others deserve mention. Citrus, dairy, wheat, and onions may be a migraine trigger for a select few individuals.

Choosing a Diet to Prevent Migraines

In addition to avoiding foods that cause migraines, some foods may actually help deter migraines from occurring. For example, whole, natural foods tend to be healthy as well as low risk for triggering migraines. Most fresh vegetables are also good choices, with the exception of onions in some people. Dried fruits, brown rice, and natural sweeteners are also considered “safe” foods when it comes to migraines. These food selections in addition to eating regularly and drinking plenty of water can help protect you from getting migraines.

Some Final Suggestions in Identifying Which Foods Cause Migraines

You now have a fairly good idea of what causes migraines when it comes to food. Likewise, you can appreciate some strategies that help you identify those foods specific to your migraine tendencies. But when trying to identify a specific trigger food, it is important to avoid or test one food at a time. In other words, you may choose to stop chocolate by itself for two weeks before reintroducing it back into your diet. In the meantime, keep the rest of your diet the same. This way, you will be better able to target specific food triggers.


For the most part, a “trigger” food that causes migraines is one that causes a headache within 24 hours of its reintroduction. If you find what causes migraines in your diet, then you can better avoid that food in the future. Though foods are not the only migraine triggers, they are certainly common ones. Taking the time to identify these foods can help you better control your migraines and enjoy a more headache-free life.

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Dawna is a mom of two young kids, puppy lover, ice cream lover, chocolate lover, and lover of any ice cream with chunks of chocolate in it. She is the author of seven books, a business owner, certified health coach, motivational speaker, and creator of the 5-Day Detox and the 14-Day Clean-Eating Program. Dawna appears regularly on local and national television. She has appeared on the Today show, Martha, MSNBC, HSN, and morning news programs on NBC, CBS, ABC, and Fox. Dawna is a highly sought-after speaker and has done speaking engagements for Chobani, Disney, American Heart Association, Mass Mutual, Wharton Business School, Women’s Entertainment Television, PGA Tour, Super Bowl Leadership Forum, Susan G. Komen, and many more.

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