Posted by The Vigilant Mom on May 14, 2012
I am a big believer in trying out kitchen cabinet cures whenever someone in my family is sick. At the first sign of a sniffle, I’m grating ginger, grinding garlic, and juicing lemons into some concoction that will inevitably bring howls of dismay and protest from whomever is sick — but usually ends up helping. Food really can be a great healer. But sometimes it can also be the culprit.
Migraines run in my family, but somehow I escaped their misery. However, I do occasionally get a headache (what mom doesn’t?), so I decided to look into what might cause them. As a working mom, I had assumed that stress was the major culprit, so imagine my surprise when I learned that some of my very favorite foods in the world actually contain an amino acid that has been linked to headaches.
If I were to do away with any attempt at being health conscious, I would happily live on the Stinky Cheese, Red Wine and Chocolate Diet. It turns out that would be a really bad thing for my headaches. Both red wine and aged cheeses (like my beloved Blue) contain tyramine, which has been linked to headaches. (It’s amazing, isn’t it, that the entire continent of Europe isn’t crippled by migraines?) Some other foods that contain tyramine are olives, raisins, pickles, canned soups and some kinds of beans. And tyramine isn’t the only substance linked to headache pain. Monosodium glutamate (commonly referred to as MSG) and nitrates (often found in cold cuts) have also been linked to headaches. So much for my back up: The Chinese Take Out and Pepperoni Diet.
The silver lining here is that while some people consider caffeine to be a headache trigger, others feel that it might actually alleviate headache pain. In fact, many common headache medications contain caffeine. And as someone who once bravely gave up caffeine for, oh, about fourteen hours before dragging her miserable, head-throbbing self to a Starbuck’s, I can certainly attest to its healing properties.
If you suffer from headaches, it might be worth your while to see if you can figure out if there is a specific food that triggers them. In the long run, it might be better to see if you can heal your headaches by avoiding the food that triggers them than by living on Advil or Aleve. As for my favorite foods — my aged cheeses and lush red wines — as the experts advise, I’ll practice moderation.