Migraine …the very word sends a tremor down the spine of the sufferer…because it  can cause an intense pulsing or throbbing pain, and leave you feeling weak and helpless. Migraine can turn your routine, your job, your family life head over heels.  Sometimes, the trigger that sets off your migraine may be hidden in your plate itself.  Food is one of the most common triggers of migraine.

Some common food triggers of migraine

Tyramine and Nitrates 1

Tyramine is an ingredient found in cultured dairy products like sour curds and cheese and pickles and can set off migraine in some people. Cured meats like sausages and hot dogs may have added nitrates to preserve flavour and colour and these can bring on migraine in come people.

Caffeine 2

You may be addicted to your morning cuppa but in some people caffeine can be a trigger and drinking too much tea or coffee can make you head towards a headache. Cola drinks contain caffeine and are better avoided too.


Your sweet tooth may be giving you the bitter experience of migraine. Cakes, chocolates and cookies containing chocolate and nuts may be the trigger behind your migraine. 75% of the people with migraine headaches considered chocolate (containing phenylethylamine) as a triggering and accelerating factor for migraine attacks.3

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Artificial sweetener like aspartame

You may feel that diet drinks are healthy as sugar is replaced by artificial sweeteners, however sugar substitutes can be bitter news for migraineurs.4


Sometimes, it may not be the food but the additive in the food that can trigger your migraine.MSG is a chemical which is added to Chinese foods, canned soups and sauces. It has been proven to trigger migraine headache in many people by releasing chemicals which constrict blood vessels in the brain. 5

Use your head in your food choices to avert a headache. To evaluate your food trigger, you may have to use a migraine diary to note down all that you have eaten in order to narrow down your migraine trigger. Write down everything you consume for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and tea-time every day. Then, after each attack, go through your diary to see what you ate before your headache started. Then eliminate that food item from your daily diet.

Choose what you put on your plate to head towards migraine management.

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  1. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 1972 Aug; 35(4): 496–499.
  2. Cephalalgia. 2003 Jun;23(5):332-5.
  3. Iran J Nurs Midwifery Res. 2012 Feb; 17(2 Suppl1): S65–S71.
  4. Cephalalgia. 2010 Jul; 30(7): 829–837.
  5. J Headache Pain. 2016; 17: 54.