One of the most painful yet undiagnosed ailments that millions of adults are living with is migraines. You’re going about your day as usual, or your at your daughter’s graduation, your son’s ball game, or in the middle of a meeting–a migraine doesn’t care what you’re doing or where you’re at. When suddenly, it strikes right at the base of your brain or in the frontal lobe. You can’t help but wonder what causes migraine headaches?!
You can’t recall any additional stress or external factors as you replay your day (even though it probably hurts just to think right now!).
Have you ever considered it may have nothing to do with external influence and everything to do with what’s going on inside? This article unfolds the mystery of how food sensitivities you don’t even know you have may be the culprit to those dreadful migraines.
The Gut-Brain Connection
What happens in your gut has a direct and significant effect on your brain. From emotions to cognitive processes, memory, and migraines, your stomach and what you put in it are in constant communication with your mind. The bacteria or gut flora, make a significant impact on how you feel and your quality of life. This includes whether or not your diet is what causes migraine headaches or not.
Fortunately, the connection between the gut and brain are highly sophisticated and capable of letting you know something is wrong. These are called symptoms.
Beyond migraines, there are other symptoms that stem from gut-related issues caused by food sensitivities:
- Poor concentration
- Trouble remembering things
- Loss of sense of humor
- Difficulty completing work assignments
- Changes in the amount of alcohol or food you consume
- Taking up smoking, or smoking more than usual
- Increased desire to be with or withdraw from others
- Shakiness or tremors
- Diminished sex drive
- Weight loss or gain
- An overwhelming sense of tension or pressure
- Trouble relaxing
- Quick temper
- Grinding teeth
- Stiff or tense muscles, especially in the neck and shoulders
- Sleep problems
- Shakiness or tremors
Symptoms are your body’s way of displaying an imbalance or disruption to its natural processes. Sometimes, symptoms related to food are immediate because it only takes moments to reach your stomach.
As you can see. Food sensitivities don’t only cause physical ailments like migraines, they can affect your mood and overall quality of life. Though, migraines don’t make you that happy either!
However, more often than not, food sensitivity related symptoms build up over time. This build-up is notable because that’s exactly the root issue. When your body can’t properly digest or absorb foods you may be sensitive to, a build-up of bacteria, inflammation, mucus, and water invade your intestinal tract.
What Causes Migraine Headaches?
Migraine headaches are the result of irritants. These intense headaches cause us to want to retreat from light, sounds, and people. This may lead you to believe that everything that causes migraine headaches is an external irritant. All though, according to science, internal irritants (what you ingest) are just as much at fault.
According to the National Headache Foundation, the following are a list of foods that can trigger migraine headaches.
- Ripened cheese, such as cheddar, Emmentaler, Stilton, Brie, and Camembert
- Pickled or dried herring
- Anything fermented, pickled, or marinated
- Sour cream
- Nuts and peanut butter
- Sourdough bread, bread, and crackers containing cheese or chocolate
- Broad beans, lima beans, fava beans, and snow peas
- Foods containing monosodium glutamate (MSG), including soy sauce, meat tenderizer, and seasoned salt
- Figs, raisins, papayas, avocados, and red plums
- Citrus fruits
- Excessive amounts of tea, coffee, or cola beverages
- Sausage, bologna, pepperoni, salami, summer sausage, and hot dogs
- Chicken livers and pate
- Caffeinated beverages
- Alcoholic beverages
It’s not to say this food can’t be enjoyed in small amounts. However, depending on the severity and frequency of your migraine headaches, proceed continuing to enjoy these foods with caution.
Again, you may not be sensitive to all of these. Test to find out exactly which food sensitivities you have.
Sulfites Can Trigger Headaches
Most peoples are able to enjoy sulfite-containing foods because they naturally produce a sulfite antibody. High-sulfite content foods include:
- Dried fruits (except prunes or raisins)
- Bottled lemon juice (non-frozen)
- Bottled lime juice (non-frozen)
- Sauerkraut (and its brin)
- Grape juices (all grape juices besides purple)
- Pickled cocktail onions
Ever notice your head started to pound after enjoying any of these foods? You may have a sulfite sensitivity.
Caffeine: Cure or Cause
Doctors say a little caffeine can cure a migraine. However, more than 200 mg a day may, in fact, trigger one. Or, it may be causing you to get less than adequate sleep which can lead to an exhaustion-induced migraine.
Caffeine is found in more than just coffee. It’s in soda, some juice drinks, energy drinks, and even chocolate. Other foods with caffeine include:
- Pain or headache medication/natural headache remedies
- Chocolate pudding
- Hot chocolate
- Breakfast cereals
- Frozen Yogurt
- PMS Medication
The next time you reach for a stimulate, note any headaches that follow. Energy drinks and coffee are also very acidic and can cause or worsen leaky gut or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Tyramine Migraine Triggers
Tyramine is a substance found in high-protein foods that have been aged or fermented. Foods highest in tyramine include:
- smoked fish
- cured meats
- aged cheese
- some beers
Tyramine can also develop if meats aren’t stored at an appropriate temperature or are kept too long.
The enzyme responsible for digesting foods high in tyramine is called monoamine oxidase (MAO). This enzyme was discovered in the ’50s when an anti-depressant went on the market. It turned out that this medication was inhibiting the development of MAO, and many patients began to complain of severe headaches.
The research developed was among the first to ask what causes migraine headaches.
Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)
MSG can be found in many processed foods. If you’re a fan of ordering Chinese take-out…beware! One of the primary ingredients used in this fast-food favorite is MSG.
10-15 percent of people who get severe migraine headaches are due to the consumption of MSG. Limit your intake of the following foods and ingredients as part of your elimination diet to discovering what you’re sensitive to.
- Glutamic acid
- Monosodium glutamate
- Calcium caseinate
- Textured protein
- Monopotassium glutamate
- Sodium caseinate
- Yeast Nutrient
- Yeast extract
- Yeast food
- Autolyzed yeast
- Hydrolyzed protein (any protein that is hydrolyzed)
- Hydrolyzed corn gluten
- Natrium glutamate
- Malt extract
- Natural pork flavoring
- Citric acid
- Malt flavoring
- Bouillon and broth
- Natural chicken flavoring
- Soy protein isolate
- Natural beef flavoring
- Soy sauce
- Barley malt
- Soy sauce extract
- Whey protein concentrate
- Soy protein
- Whey protein
- Soy protein concentrate
- Whey protein isolate
- Protease enzymes
- Anything protein fortified
- “Flavoring”-this label usually means MSG has been added
- Anything enzyme modified
- Anything fermented
- Natural flavor(s) and flavoring(s)
- Enzymes anything
- “Seasoning” -this label usually means MSG has been added
Turn to Whole Foods
Testing for your food sensitivities is an ideal way to discover what you need to eliminate from your diet and what you can continue to enjoy. However, to diminish the likelihood of getting migraine headaches, include more whole foods to your meals.
Whole foods don’t usually come with nutrition labels so you won’t have to worry about hidden ingredients. Go to your produce section, bulk grains, and local butcher to source your food. Avoid the center aisle of the grocery store and you should see significant improvements to your overall health and not have to worry about food-induced migraines.