Can these foods cause headaches? - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Foods that cause headaches

Our busy lives are often the main cause of our headaches. A long day at work or dealing with the kids can lead to stress and painful pressure. But there may be another culprit -- something you could be consuming!

Headaches are always an unwelcome experience – a tightening in your temples, tension in your neck and upper shoulders. So many of us suffer from these and other symptoms, but the causes vary. One factor we often overlook is our diet. Certain foods can fuel headaches, especially migraines.

The Cleveland Clinic's Registered Dietitian is Kristin Kirkpatrick. She says that you want to stay away from processed meat, red wine and chocolate if you're prone to migraines.

All three of these foods contain chemicals that can constrict the brain's blood vessels and trigger that terrible throbbing sensation. Similar chemicals can be found in aged cheeses like Parmesan, Swiss and brie. Also, eating refined grains like white rice or white bread can induce a sudden spike and subsequent drop in sugar levels that potentially produces a headache. If you think what you're noshing on may be the reason your head is hurting, there's an easy way to find out.

"You definitely should keep a food diary," recommends Kirkpatrick. "Share that with your dietitian or with your physician. And keep it for at least two weeks, so you can really look at the trends or what you're eating and what are some of the symptoms that you're feeling."

And hold the cheese! The following cheeses can cause headaches:

  • Blue cheeses
  • Brie
  • Cheddar
  • Stilton
  • Feta
  • Gorgonzola
  • Mozzarella
  • Muenster
  • Parmesan
  • Swiss
  • Processed cheese

Here is an additional list of headache-causing foods:

  • Aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal) and other artificial sweeteners; foods with meat tenderizers or yeast or yeast extracts
  • Caffeine in even in small amounts can trigger a migraine in some people
  • Chocolate, cocoa, and foods containing nuts
  • Alcoholic beverages especially red wine, beer, and sherry
  • Aged, canned, cured, or processed meats such as chicken livers and other organ meats, and sardines. Also foods prepared with nitrates or tyramine can cause problems.
  • Cultured dairy products such as sour cream or buttermilk
  • Dried fruits including figs, raisins, and dates
  • Breads and crackers containing cheese including pizza
  • Cheese: Blue, Gouda, Gruyere, provolone, and Stilton
  • Smoked or dried fish
  • Canned soups, or soups made from bouillon or based with MSG

A diary can help you identify patterns and pinpoint the offending fare. Kirkpatrick says it only takes a small amount of food to set off a headache, so learning how to avoid triggers can help you stop the pain before it starts.

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