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Headaches and Food

By mahir | June 6, 2011

As delicious as it can be, the sulfites in red wine can cause a headache

Most of us are all too familiar with this scenario: a great dinner, a fine wine and the searing, almost crippling headache that comes after. While stress and tension, from work or friends, are major factors for causing headaches, sometimes the foods and drinks we consume are the real culprits.

Foods that may give you a headache:

Foods that are high in tyramine, a compound that forms from the breakdown of certain proteins, may cause headaches and migraines in some people. Such tyramine rich foods include:
* Aged cheeses, such as Parmesan, Swiss, Blue and Brie cheeses.
* Processed Meats
* Pickles and Olives
* Onions
* Canned Soups
* Red Wine. Those with an allergy to sulphites in the wine will definitely get a headache, but studies show that even those of us who are allergy free may develop headaches due to the biogenic amines in wine, which occur naturally in fermented or aged foods.
* Additives, such as MSG, nitrates and some food coloring, in food may cause headaches as well because some increase the blood flow to the brain, putting more strain on blood vessels, which can cause a headache.

What to do?
–  Through trial and error, identify your food triggers and avoid those foods.
–  Keep a food headache diary by recording what you’ve eaten and you’re your headaches usually and hopefully you will notice a pattern between those certain foods and your headaches.

On the bright side, there are some foods that can actually help with painful headaches:

–  Water – Many headaches are caused by dehydration, so try a big glass of water for the the best and easiest way to relieve a headache. It’s not only sustainable and green, but can be delicious. Try one of these five ways to make your tap water taste great.
–  Bananas – The potassium in bananas can help with hangover-related headaches, but the magnesium can help with stress and tension headaches as magnesium relaxes the blood vessels, alleviating a common cause of headaches. Try an Avocado-Banana smoothie for a headache-busting breakfast.
–  Ginger – The anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory properties can be helpful in fighting headaches. Ginger can also help with nausea and has many other healing properties.
–  Fatty Fish – The Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory, helping with or preventing inflammation that can trigger headaches. If you’re not a fan of fish, try fish oil supplements. They’re a great way to make sure you get those essential fatty acids that can prevent headaches.
–  Whole grains – Cutting carbohydrates completely from your diet depletes the brain’s main energy source as well as the fluids bound up in those stores which leads to dehydration, causing headaches and sluggishness. Instead, focus on eating healthy carbohydrates, such has whole-wheat bread, pasta and oatmeal.

Photo Credit: Lindsay Hunt

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