Dodge These 10 Trigger Foods To Reduce Migraines In The New Year

(NEW YORK, NY) – January 9, 2024 – A healthy diet resolution in the New Year may include eating more fruits, nuts and fermented foods like kombucha. But you may want to rethink what you eat if you are one of the millions of Americans who suffer from migraines, according to new research.

“Many foods that benefit our bodies contain natural or added compounds that can cause painful headaches,” says Dr. Fred Cohen, Assistant Professor of Medicine and Neurology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, and co-author of the new study. “Some contain histamine, phenylethylamine, and tyramine, which are established headache triggers. Monosodium glutamate (commonly referred to as MSG) has garnered much controversy, not just as a headache trigger, but also a cause of numerous ailments such as indigestion, palpitations, chest pain/tightness, flushing, and dizziness.”

In addition to Chinese food, MSG is found in some processed foods, snacks, and used as a flavor enhancer. Cohen’s December 2023 article “Unraveling the MSG Headache Controversy: an Updated Literature Review” explores previous studies dating back to 1968, when Dr. Ho Man Kwok published symptoms occurring after the consumption of American-made Chinese food that he dubbed Chinese Restaurant Syndrome. Since then, there has been confusion over which foods contain MSG and if there is any correlation.

“While there are several MSG studies that demonstrate a statistically significant increase in headaches when compared against placebo, the evidence is still mixed and further research is needed,” said Cohen. “For individuals who are worried that MSG could be a trigger for them, an elimination diet might serve as an effective diagnostic method.”

Cohen explains an elimination diet involves the exclusion of a suspected dietary component for a period of 4–6 weeks to analyze how it affects an individual’s symptoms. If there’s no noticeable improvement in headache symptoms after the removal of MSG, then it is likely that MSG is not a contributing factor to their headaches. It is paramount for the individual to ensure that their diet is free of MSG, as there might be various foods and/or additives containing it that they are unaware of.

“It is a common misnomer that Chinese and other Asian cuisines are the most common sources of MSG,” said Cohen. “Many fast-food and chain restaurants frequently contain MSG in their dishes. In fact, MSG use in the USA is widespread and often found in frozen vegetables, condiments, breakfast cereals, spices such as Sazón, a popular seasoning used in Hispanic dishes, and even baby food.”

To follow a migraine-free diet, Cohen recommends avoiding these 10 foods:

1. Caffeine – coffee, tea, chocolate, and certain soft drinks
2. Alcoholic beverages, particularly red wine, beer, and spirits
3. Dairy products – milk, yogurt, ice cream, and aged cheeses (blue cheese, cheddar, feta, and Parmesan)
4. Nitrates found in processed meats like hot dogs, sausages, and deli meats
5. Citrus fruits – oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruits
6. Artificial sweeteners – aspartame and sucrose, often found in diet sodas, fast food and baked goods
7. Tyramine-rich foods – aged meats, smoked fish, fermented foods (sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi, and kombucha), and certain beans
8. Onions or foods cooked with onions, green onions, and shallots
9. Nuts and legumes – peanuts, walnuts, almonds, and cashews
10. Gluten – breads, baked goods, cereals, barley, and rye

Lifestyle changes may also be beneficial for controlling migraines, including proper sleep, regular exercise, and managing other migraine triggers such as stress and allergies.

“While much about migraines remains unknown, new medications and individualized treatment plans have reduced the number of headaches for many patients,” explains Dr. Cohen. “I encourage everyone to work with their healthcare providers to find the solution that works for them.”

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