Your head feels tight, the pressure builds, and pretty soon pain is all you can think about. Hello, headache. You're having one of the recurring tension or cluster headaches that afflict 45 million Americans every year, according to the National Headache Foundation. Another 29 million suffer from migraines.
Research shows that some headaches, primarily the severe migraine type, can be triggered by your diet. Keep a headache diary, say experts. Look for patterns. Do any foods or beverages consistently cause headaches? Once you've identified a potential trigger, cut it out of your diet and see if the result is fewer or less severe headaches. Start your hunt for triggers with these common pain-producing culprits:
Although painful and troublesome, most headaches are minor and can be easily treated with aspirin or another pain reliever. (Do not use aspirin in anyone under age 19 because it may increase the risk for Reye's syndrome, a potentially fatal disease.) But if your headaches are severe, recur frequently, or are accompanied by other symptoms, you need to see a health care provider.
Headaches are categorized according to their underlying causes. Common types of headaches include:
Tyramine Formed naturally from the breakdown of protein as it ages, tyramine is found in red wine, overripe bananas, beer, ale, nuts, seeds, soy, chocolate, pickled or fermented foods, and aged cheeses like Camembert and Parmesan. For a trigger-free cheese plate, choose fresh cheeses, such as jalapeno jack yogurt cheese, soy cheddar, mozzarella, chevre, and mascarpone.
Caffeine Drinking more than the equivalent of two cups of coffee a day means increased blood flow to the brain, which can bring on a nasty headache.
MSG The increased sodium intake from monosodium glutamate, or MSG-an ingredient commonly found in meat tenderizers and in Chinese food-may result in a hangover-type or migraine headache.
Tannins Usually associated with red wine, tannins are also found in apple juice, black-berries, coffee, tea, chocolate, and carob.
Nitrites This food additive, found in processed meats such as hot dogs and lunch meat, can increase blood flow to the brain and cause a migraine.
Ice cream This dessert and other very cold foods can irritate a nerve in the back of the throat and bring on "brain freeze," which can trigger a headache (although not a migraine).
Recipe: A Safe Substitution
White Sangria 12 half-cup servings
1/2 cup sliced oranges 1/2 cup strawberries or raspberries 1/2 cup sliced apples 1/2 cup sliced pears 2 cups sparkling cider or champagne 1 cup white grape juice 1 cup ginger ale, lemon-lime soda, or sparkling water Fresh mint and lemon slices (optional for garnish)
1. Slice fruit (substitute any fruit you desire) and place into a large bowl. 2. Combine all liquids, pour over fruit, and let marinate for a few hours. 3. Pour into festive wine glasses and (if desired) garnish each glass with fresh mint and a slice of lemon. 4. Enjoy!
Per serving: 65 calories, .2 grams protein, 9.25 g carbohydrate, .5 g fiber, 0 fat, 0 chol, 5.4 mg sodium.