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Migraines & Headaches Health Center

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Food Triggers for Migraines

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There are all sorts of things that can trigger migraines. For some people, it might just be lunch.

Studies have proven only a few foods, or substances in foods, seem to bring on headaches in a lot of people. 

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"I don't recommend a particular diet to anybody with migraines. But if somebody says, 'Anytime I eat Brie cheese I get a migraine,' well then, don't do that," says B. Lee Peterlin, DO. She's the director of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine Headache Research.

"The data does not support many of the often-cited food triggers, including chocolate. However, it is sound advice if a patient feels a particular food may be a headache trigger to remove it from your diet. If you put it back in your diet and headaches return, then it likely is a real trigger for you."

Here's a look at some of the common foods and drinks that have been linked to headaches in some people who are prone to migraines.

Alcohol

"Alcohol is definitely a trigger," says Cleveland Clinic neurologist Stewart Tepper, MD. "There are people who clearly cannot drink alcohol without having it trigger an attack. Some of the most common drinks that cause headaches are red wine, beer, champagne, whiskey, and Scotch.

Theories about why alcohol might cause headaches include:

  • In wine, it may be the sulfites, which are put in to preserve it.
  • Alcohol causes more blood to rush to your head, which might cause head pain.
  • When you drink alcohol, you can get dehydrated, which may trigger migraines.

The best way to dodge an alcohol-induced headache is to avoid drinking. But if you want an occasional drink,  don’t be surprised if a migraine follows.

Caffeine

Caffeine is a double-edged sword when it comes to headaches. In small doses, it can help ease the pain. You'll find it in many non-prescription migraine medicines.

But if you have a lot of caffeine -- say, more than two sodas or two cups of coffee a day -- you can get a migraine from withdrawal when you drink less.

"My best advice in regards to caffeine and migraines is to drink the same amount regularly," Peterlin says.

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