Woman holding head in pain

Avoid These Migraine Food Triggers

There’s possibly nothing worse than getting a migraine.

Well, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but still – migraines are truly awful! They make you want to simply curl up in a dark room and not leave until sound and light stop causing you pain.

If you’ve suffered from migraines, you know that there can be all sorts of triggers. And truly, the scope of triggers is quite vast. 

Now, there has been research which connects certain types of food with migraines. That means that you should at least reduce the amount of that food in your diet if you want to reduce the frequency and the intensity of your migraine attacks.

What Are Migraines?

Basically, migraines are extremely painful headaches, which can be accompanied by sensory sensitivity. Symptoms can vary from one person to another and can last anywhere from 4 to 72 hours, and sometimes even longer.

Some common symptoms of migraines include:

  • Headache
  • Disturbed vision
  • Sensitivity to sensory information (i.e. to light, sound, smells)
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Lightheadedness

However, migraines are usually also preceded and followed by other symptoms, so the impact of a single migraine attack can actually be quite long and debilitating. It can impact your everyday life to a significant extent, especially if you get them often.

Unfortunately, there is no medical cure for migraines currently. They are usually treated with other pain-relieving medication, or, in some cases, with preventive medication taken on a regular basis, which serves to reduce their severity or frequency.

However, there are things you yourself can do to prevent getting migraines. That may not completely eradicate your migraines, but it will certainly help significantly.

Migraine Triggers

Migraines are incredibly complex (they even used to be called complicated migraines). Even though there is plenty of research being done to see what causes them and to improve treatment, it seems that there is a long way to go still.

However, what most experts seem to agree on is that migraines are usually preceded by a specific trigger. The scope of triggers varies from one person to the next. While some triggers cause migraines in some people, they have no effect whatsoever on others, who are also suffering from migraines.

In any case, the scope of triggers is truly astounding. It involves things like hormonal changes, changes in sleep patterns, too much food, too little food, too much sleep, too little sleep, too much time in front of the computer, dehydration, and even the weekend.

Yes, even the weekend is a possible migraine trigger.

Many people suffer migraines due to the change in daily routine, which is why they experience a migraine at the weekend, when they should be relaxing.

Now that’s a pickle.

When it comes to food, there have been some studies that link certain types of food with the onset of migraines. However, because of its truly specific nature, scientists have been unable to find a common thread in all people who suffer from migraines.

That is why everyone should check their specific triggers. Here are some of the common food triggers that have been linked with causing migraines, which you might want to avoid. Now, this doesn’t mean you should stop consuming them completely. You simply need to control your cravings, and you’re on the right path.

Red Wine

We know, we know.

This one hits home! How else are we supposed to (politely) manage all those boring dinners without getting (politely) tipsy on wine?

Well, if you’re a wine aficionado, we simply don’t know what to tell you.

And it’s not the wine’s fault, per se. Sulfites, which are used in red wine as preservatives, are, sadly, on the list of foods that may trigger migraines.

Additionally, alcohol in general is a major trigger. While you drink it, alcohol increases the blood flow to your brain and that, as you may have guessed, is known to trigger migraines.

Also – hangovers are simply the worst.

Dehydration, which is a common side-effect of the good ol’ hangover, can also cause migraines or, at the very least, a headache.

So, it might be a good idea to quit…

…fooling around and simply reduce the amount of alcohol you drink.

As they say, moderation is key.

Coffee

Again, no need to completely quit coffee.

In fact, caffeine aids the absorption of many pain-relieving drugs.

However, if you’re used to several cups of coffee a day, when you don’t get the amount you’re used to, that’s when migraines appear.

Look into your daily consumption of caffeine, since it is not particularly healthy overall to drink too much of it. But, if you’re thinking about reducing the amount of coffee you drink, you have to do it gradually. So, no going cold turkey. Your body will not be happy.

According to most experts, daily intake of caffeine should be no more than 200 milligrams. The bad news is – it’s only one cup of coffee.

Chocolate

Dark chocolate truffles

When it comes to chocolate, many people have also said that it triggers their migraines. However, the jury’s still out on chocolate – some people who suffer from migraine headaches claim that chocolate helps ease their headache.

A study conducted at the University of California, San Diego analyzed oral and stool samples and found that people who experience migraines after eating chocolate have higher levels of gut microbes that modify nitrates.

Now, chocolate is full of nitrates.

The bacteria in our gut modifies and then its waste product, nitrites, become nitric oxide in the blood.

Nitric oxide is usually great for many things, including circulation, but it’s not particularly great for people who experience migraines.

So, again, while chocolate itself is not too bad, having too much of it can lead to headaches.

Tyramine

Yeah, we bet you’re thinking you’ve never had tyramine in your life.

But, you have, you definitely have.

Except in other, sneakier (and tastier) forms.

Tyramine can be found in aged foods, as well as fermented foods, such as:

  • Cured meats
  • Aged cheese
  • Smoked fish

Tyramine is also found in some types of beer and even some fruits and veggies.

Food is more likely to have more tyramine if it is stored for long and if it isn’t kept in sufficiently cold environments.

An enzyme in the human body called monoamine oxidase (MAO) actually breaks down monoamines like tyramine. If you do not have enough of it in your system, it’s possible that you’ll get a migraine.

However, because it is such a complex issue, it’s still not completely clear how tyramine exactly triggers migraines.

Now, for some good news. There are actually types of meats and cheese which have higher and lower levels of tyramine. Here are some of them.

Meat/Poultry/Fish

Apple Cranberry Sausage Stuffing

When it comes to meat, you should avoid processed meat such as sausages, salami, as well as gravy (we know, this one’s hard for us, too). Another thing you should avoid is pickled fish, but we have a feeling not many people are dissatisfied with this one. However, this also includes smoked fish, so that might be a bit more difficult.

On the other hand, there is also meat which doesn’t have that much tyramine, such as fresh meat, fish, and poultry. Also, canned meats or fresh fish are also good for consumption and are not that likely to cause a migraine.

Cheese/Dairy

Unfortunately, some of the best types of cheese are really high in tyramine. These include all sorts of aged cheese, cheddar, blue cheese, Camembert, Swiss cheese, Parmesan, Stilton, and even feta.

This one’s sad as sad can be.

Seriously, how can you have pasta without Parmesan?

But, people with migraines have to cool it with the cheese.

On the other hand, types like cottage cheese, farmer’s cheese and even cream cheese are good. Also, yoghurt, fresh milk and sour cream are low in tyramine, so you can have them whenever you want.

Fruit/Vegetables

If you’re not a fan of sour fruit, then you won’t be too affected by this. Oranges, tangerines, grapefruit, lemons, limes and pineapple are higher in tyramine.

When it comes to vegetables, you might want to steer clear from beans and sauerkraut. Also, you should avoid fermented food. That doesn’t mean you should completely cut them out. It simply means that you might want to reduce the quantity. Fermented foods are otherwise incredibly healthy and they can have many other health benefits. However, if they trigger your migraines, you might want to cool it on the fermented food.

On the other hand, you can eat most vegetables – fresh, canned or frozen – and it is unlikely that they will cause any migraines.

How to Lower Tyramine in Food

Tyramine actually increases the longer food is held at room temperature. That is why you should store your food in the refrigerator.

When you thaw frozen foods, do it in the refrigerator or, if you have it, a microwave.

Another good tip for lowering tyramine is to cook or eat fresh meat or fish on the day you bought them. Otherwise, it’s best to freeze them.

Also, never ever eat something that has been kept in the fridge for more than a day.

Check Your Triggers

So, if you’re wondering whether food really can be a trigger for migraines, the short answer is – yes.

Your diet alone cannot cause migraines. It’s unlikely that you’ll always get migraines when eating certain food.

However, while there are types of food in general believed to be causing migraines, there is also food that specifically causes your migraine.

The best way to identify your triggers is to write a combined food/migraine diary. If you’re suffering from migraines, you already have a pretty good idea what may trigger yours. Migraines can occur a day after eating triggering food.

You should combine a food diary with a headache diary to see whether some foods cause headaches. Headaches themselves are not too bad. However, combined with other possible triggers, they may cause a full-blown migraine.

Then, the next step is to reduce the food that you’ve noticed has that effect on you. If you really like something, you don’t need to completely cut it out. But, it would be valuable for your overall health if you were to reduce it significantly.

There Are Beneficial Foods Too

Now that we’ve listed all the bad food, it’s time for a look on the other side. It has been proven that certain food is “pain-safe,” that is, it does not trigger any conditions.

Including, you might have guessed it – migraines.

Also, they are overall beneficial in reducing the frequency of your migraines and alleviating pain. The food and drinks that actually cannot trigger your migraines include:

  • Rice (especially brown)
  • Almost all vegetables
  • Fruit (which was not listed above)
  • Green tea, ginger tea
  • Fish
  • Chicken

There has even been research to show that a plant-based diet can really benefit people who suffer from migraines. So, if you want to get rid of migraines, you know what to do!

(No, you don’t have to go vegan. Simply adjust your diet a bit and you’ll see an improvement in time.)

Home Remedies for Migraines

There are ways to also naturally reduce the intensity of migraines once you get them. While they may not completely cure your migraines, these are known for helping with the symptoms. There are also cures to treat headaches, and they also might alleviate your pain.

Here is what you should do when you get a migraine:

  • Lie in a dark, quiet room. Due to sensory sensitivity, which can worsen your headache, it is recommended that you simply lie down in a room in which the blinds are drawn shut. If you live in a noisy part of the city, use earplugs to make sure the noise doesn’t bother you.

  • Cool your head down. Experts believe that cooling the head reduces the blood flow to the brain, which might lower the pain you’re feeling. When you get a migraine, you should put an ice pack on your forehead or neck. Or, if that’s too cold for you, use a washcloth that has been put under cold water and drained. The only problem is that you will have to rinse it often because it can heat up quite fast.
Woman snacking

The Science Behind Your Snack Attacks

When you get a snack attack, most probably the only science you’re thinking about is how you can most efficiently get a bag of chips into your stomach. However, when it comes to cravings, there really is a good amount of science behind them, and it doesn’t just concern the rate of food traveling to your tummy. The fact is, certain foods, especially those high in sugar, salt, and fat, trigger a release of dopamine, which means they are hitting the pleasure center in your brain at the same time they are hitting the hunger center in your belly and the reaction is an unfailing, “Give me more!” Here are some of the most addictive foods and how they work their magic.

Cheese
Besides being high in fat and cholesterol, cheeses also contain a high level of casomorphin, which binds to the feel-good receptors in the brain. According to Neal Barnard, MD, mice aren’t the only ones susceptible to the lure of a good cheddar. “Casmorphins attach to neurotransmitter in our brain and release dopamine, feel-good chemicals that often lead us to wanting more.” Apparently, Americans are getting cheesier as time goes on. The doctor notes that the average American consumes 30 pounds more cheese per year than he or she did 100 years ago.

Woman eating chips

Carbs
It’s the quick glucose release of carbohydrates like potato chips and pretzels which keep our hands going back to the bag to reach for another. Celina Jean, nutritionist, says, ” Simple carbohydrates are seen as an addictive because they cause a quick glucose release, and this quickly increases a person’s energy. The energy will quickly be used up, and the then you’ll be forced to eat more simple carbohydrates to keep your blood sugar raised.”

Sugary Drinks
Not only do sweet sodas, lemonades, and iced tea provide us with empty calories, a 12 ounce can of the stuff can contain up to 35 grams of sugar. Sodas also trigger dopamine release. That, along with the caffeine jolt can provide a quite a hit of energy. Ashvini Mashru, registered dietician warns, “Once you’re hooked on caffeine, you can suffer symptoms of withdrawal if you try to stop, including sluggishness, headaches, and emotional distress.

French fries

French Fries
Crisp, hot, and salty, french fries have all the classic ingredients of addictive food. Mashru tells us that the fat content in the fries sends signals to our gut and brain telling us to eat more. He says, “Those little potato sticks are also a comfort food. Therefore, every time you go through a line in a restaurant and see them on the menu, you may find the urge to order them as a side to your entree irresistible.”

Chocolate
Chocolate gives you kick because it binds to the same pleasure centers in your brain as drugs and alcohol. A study conducted by Drexel University found chocolate often provides a nice “mouth feel” which triggers the production of the feel-good hormone oxytocin. Dan Defigio, author of Beating Sugar Addiction for Dummies, explains, “Over time, our brains start looking for that dopamine hit, and every time we eat chocolate, it reinforces that wiring.”

What foods are you addicted to? Tell us your shocking stories of how your battles with food addictions. We want to know!

Spaghetti and wine

Resveralife Eat Well: Merlot Food Pairing Guide

The Merlot grape is the second most prominent grape variety in the world when it comes to planting. Second only to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot is also the most consumed red wine in the United States. Often, what comes to mind when you hear the world Merlot are notes of red fruits, easy tannins, a velvety texture and a smooth finish. While it is often considered an “easy” drinking wine, Merlot can have concentrated, firm tannins that rival the best Cabernet Sauvignons. The majority of Merlot, however, is a lighter, fruitier wine that pairs well with a large variety of foods. Most Merlots feature flavors of:

  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Raspberries
  • Currants
  • Black cherries
  • Plums
  • Cassis
  • Chocolate

Merlots may also have hints of black olives, cedar, licorice and tobacco. The type of Merlot you drink will largely depend upon the climate in which it was grown. Cool climates yield a silky, soft-tannin Merlot while warmer climates lean towards a full-bodied, acidic Merlot. While Merlot is a joy to drink on its own, Resveralife has put together some foods that help bring out and enhance the flavors of Merlot.

Cheese platter and wine.

Cheese
Truthfully, Merlot and cheese are not the best pairing. Merlot pairs better with meatier, more substantial foods. However, that does not mean you can’t pair Merlot with cheeses. Here are some well-paired cheeses for Merlot:

  • Camembert
  • Smoked Cheddar
  • Gouda
  • Gruyere
  • Smoked Provolone
  • Parmesan

Juicy hamburger and fries.

Main Courses
Merlot is a highly versatile wine and pairs with a number of dinner options from hearty vegetarian dishes to meals featuring red meat. One of the easiest food pairings is a classic, thick and juicy hamburger. If you prefer a cheeseburger, add some medium sharp cheddar to your burger. Another relatively easy to make dish is classic spaghetti and meatballs. Not only are the meatballs a great accompaniment to Merlot, but the tomato sauce cuts through the acidity of Merlot as well. You can also create a charcuterie platter that features an assortment of smoked meats.

For vegetarians and others who enjoy main courses that use vegetables as the center, there are multiple Merlot pairings that you can create. One of the tastiest vegetarian dishes is to create a vegetable red curry. The vegetables you choose are completely up to you, but some suggestions are eggplant, potato, and asparagus. Another great vegetarian pairing for Merlot is eggplant rollatini. This blends creamy, tomato based sauce and eggplant for a dish that seems made for Merlot.

Dessert and wine

Sweets
As a general rule when pairing food and wine, desserts are paired with dessert wines, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a Merlot with sweet foods. A fruit tray full of blackberries, red grapes, black cherries and plum is a perfect end to a meal served with Merlot. You could also serve Merlot with a creamy dark chocolate mousse topped with blackberries and raspberries.

Merlot is an incredibly popular wine worldwide and with the generous pairings the wine allows it is no surprise that people love to drink it. Experiment with Merlots produced in different climates for the full effect of what the Merlot grape is capable of. Remember that when it comes to wine and food, the most important rule to follow is to eat, and drink, what you like.