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Migraine (1) and tyramine rich foods - Aisling Murray

Posted by Eamonn Brady on

Migraine and tyramine rich foods

People with migraine are often told to avoid chocolate, cheese and red wine as these are known triggers for migraines. These foods may not be the biggest cause or trigger for migraines for many, but they have an influence for some people living with migraine.

Is this only a myth?

Some consider the influence of the likes of chocolate, cheese and red wine on migraine to be a myth. However studies indicate that a type of amino acid called tyramine in these foods is a potential trigger for migraines for some people. Experts are still trying to understand how tyramine can trigger migraines. One explanation is that tyramine can cause nerve cells in the brain to release the chemical norepinephrine. This produces a chain reaction resulting in constriction (narrowing) of blood vessels in the brain followed by re-bound dilation (expansion) of these vessels which results in the type of throbbing headache pain often associated in migraine. Thus I would advise that anyone living with migraine eating these products in caution; if they trigger migraine then they should avoid; if they find they don’t trigger migraine attacks then they continue to enjoy.

Influence of fat

Amines are more readily absorbed when fat is present, which may be a reason that chocolate and cheese seem to trigger attacks more than other foods and why fried foods and dairy products are implicated by some in migraine attacks.

Foods known as migraine triggers include:

Chocolate; Cheese and other dairy products; Citrus fruits like oranges and lemons; Caffeine (tea and coffee); Alcohol (especially red wine and some beers); Pork; Onions; Marmite; Wheat.

Foods rich in protein have higher levels of tyramine if they have been stored for a long period of time or if have not been kept cold enough. This can explain why aged and fermented foods are sometimes seen as culprits when it comes to triggering migraine. These include the likes of aged cheeses, smoked fish, cured meats and some types of beers.


Food craving prior to migraine

Some people find they experience food cravings, such as a craving for cheese, up to 48 hours before an attack (during the prodromal stage…see later). Some experts reckon these craving are the reasons these foods are sometimes mistaken as triggers. Eating a suspected food trigger on a migraine-free day will help you to ascertain if it is a real trigger or whether it is simply a food craving that acts as a warning of an impending migraine

What is the prodromal phase?

Several hours before the migraine begins (and sometimes up to 24 hours before) many with migraines experience unusual sensations. This is known as the prodromal phase. They may feel:

  • Energetic and excitable
  • Depressed
  • Irritable
  • Thirsty
  • Cravings for certain foods
  • Sleepy, with frequent yawning
  • Need to urinate more

Many who experience migraines recognise the prodromal phase and know a migraine is on the way so they know to take action to prevent an attack (eg) rest, avoid stress, avoid bright lights, avoid certain foods, take preventative medication, etc.  

 Upcoming Migraine Talk

Whelehans Pharmacy in conjunction with Migraine Association of Ireland is hosting a Migraine Information evening on Tuesday June 23rd at 7pm in the Greville Arms Hotel in Mullingar. Admission is free. Speakers on the night will include Dr. Martin Ruttledge, Consultant Neurologist from the Beaumont Migraine Clinic. Dr Ruttledge is one of the top neurologists in the country, and the top when it comes to migraine and headache. There will be other speakers including myself (Nutritionist Aisling Murray) and Pharmacist Eamonn Brady and help and advice from Migraine Association of Ireland on the night. Call the Whelehans Pharmacy at 04493 34591 for more information or to book a place.

 Aisling Murray has a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and offers a one to one specialist nutrition service at Whelehans Pharmacy. Call Whelehans at 04493 34591 for an appointment

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