By Sari Harrar
A tiny twinge tells Kelli Smith, 40, that The Headache is coming. "I feel pressure behind my left eye. Then my pulse starts pounding in my left temple. It feels like a bruise if I touch it," she says. "I get nauseous. The pain becomes so sharp I have to lie down in a dark room."
Raw onion, red wine, cigarette smoke, motion sickness, an off-kilter sleep schedule, hormone swings, and even weather changes can set off the skull-busting pain that has tormented Smith since she was 17....
"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 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 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.