No one explains it quite like Twenty One Pilots in the lyric, “waging my wars behind my face and above my throat.” The song, “Migraine,” tries to capture the pain of a migraine. A headache can be brutal, and apparently 30 percent of them are triggered by the foods and drinks we consume. To top it off, it’s hard to understand why our head hurts a lot of times, because there are actually different types of headaches you can suffer from.

There are certain ingredients in many foods that cause our blood vessels to contract and cause a headache. One of the major triggers, tyramine, is found in more foods than you might realize. Next time you have a headache, stay clear of these foods.



Photo by Alex Vu

It may be hard to avoid, especially if you have a sweet tooth like I do, but chocolate contains something called phenylethylamine. This causes your blood vessels to contract and dilate, which then causes a headache. Thus, if you already have a headache, chocolate is not the answer.

Preserved Meats


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Meats such as hot dogs, bacon, ham, and salami shouldn’t be your go-to foods when you have a headache. These meats tend to have preservatives in them and contain nitrates, which often trigger headaches. Typically, headaches are caused by high traces of nitrate in the blood, so by consuming more you’re only making your headache worse. There’s a lot that goes into processed meat that isn’t too pretty, especially when you already don’t feel well.

Foods with high amounts of MSG


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MSG, or salt, tends to excite certain nerves in the brain and makes your headache worse. If you have a headache, make sure to eat foods with low levels of MSG. You can even ask for no MSG if you are out to eat and want to avoid it so your headache doesn’t worsen or come back. MSG is one of the foods that should be avoided when sick, as well.

Foods with Tyramine


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Food with tyramine, an amino acid, is known to trigger headaches, as it reduces the levels of serotonin in the brain. There are tons of food with tyramine in them, including avocados, olives, bananas, some citrus fruits, and more.

Red Wine/Alcohol


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Wine also contains tyramine, and newer research suggests that red wine contains phenols, which are also headache triggers. Wine might seem like the answer when you want to relax, but unfortunately this is the one time wine isn’t the answer.

Snow Peas


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Snow Peas are also something that you might never have realized or even thought could worsen your headache. Snow peas also contain certain amines which will cause you more pain than anything else if you have a headache.

Yeast Breads


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The naturally occurring chemical in yeast breads, coumarin, is a migraine trigger. Be careful when consuming yeast when you have a headache, as it contains amines which are not friends to the pain behind your face.

Artificial Sweeteners


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The excitotoxins in artificial sweeteners cause neurons to fire sporadically, and can thus be migraine triggers. On that note, artificial sweeteners are pretty ugly in general, and should be avoided even when you don’t have a headache.