Foods High in Tyramine

Medically Reviewed by Mahammad Juber, MD on November 29, 2022
3 min read

Tyramine is a natural compound found in plants and animals. It is a byproduct of the breakdown of tyrosine, an amino acid. Tyrosine and tyramine are commonly found in many foods.

High amounts of tyramine can cause several health problems, the most common being migraine headaches. People who suffer from migraine headaches often choose to avoid foods containing tyramine. High levels of tyramine in the body can also cause high blood pressure.

Tyramine is a type of compound called a monoamine. The body relies on an enzyme known as monoamine oxidase to break tyramine down. Some people don’t have enough monoamine oxidase to process tyramine, resulting in high tyramine levels. Some medications also interfere with monoamine oxidase production, making tyramine consumption dangerous.

If you are sensitive to tyramine, don’t make enough monoamine oxidase, or take a medication that blocks monoamine oxidase production, excess tyramine can cause serious side effects.

Migraine Headaches

Tyramine is a known migraine trigger, and doctors have long recommended a low-tyramine diet to their patients to reduce the frequency of migraine attacks.   

The link was discovered in the 1950s when doctors began prescribing monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) for depression. Some patients complained of headaches and symptoms of high blood pressure after eating foods high in tyramine.

Studies have confirmed the association between dietary tyramine and migraines, leading doctors to recommend a low-tyramine diet to reduce migraine headaches.

High Blood Pressure

Tyramine can trigger nerve cells to release norepinephrine, a hormone that increases blood pressure and heart rate. People who already have high blood pressure need to be careful when consuming foods with high tyramine levels.

The most common signs of a sudden increase in blood pressure are:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath

If you are taking MAOIs, it’s important to know these signs of increased blood pressure. If you experience any of these symptoms after consuming high-tyramine foods, you may need medical attention.

Many foods are high in tyramine, so it can be challenging to avoid it entirely. If you are especially sensitive to tyramine or taking MAOIs, you will need to be aware of these foods so you can eliminate them from your diet.

1. Aged Cheeses

Types of cheese that undergo an aging process will be high in tyramine. These cheeses include cheddar, blue, swiss, parmesan, feta, and Camembert. A study found that aged cheese contains a compound known as spermidine which can help prevent liver damage.

2. Cured or Processed Meats

The longer a food takes to process, the higher the tyramine levels. This relationship between aging and tyramine goes for meats as well as cheese. Cured, smoked, or processed meats include dried sausages like pepperoni and salami, hot dogs, bologna, bacon, and smoked fish.

3. Pickled or Fermented Vegetables

Sauerkraut, kimchi, pickled beets, pickled cucumbers, and pickled peppers have high tyramine levels. Also, fermented soy products like tofu, miso, and soy sauce contain tyramine.

4. Citrus and Tropical Fruits

Citrus fruits like orange, grapefruit, lemon, lime, and tangerine contain high levels of tyramine. Tropical fruits have higher tyramine levels when ripened. Ripe bananas, pineapple, and avocado should be avoided if you are particularly sensitive to tyramine.

5. Alcoholic Beverages

Fermented alcohol contains tyramine. Beer, red wine, vermouth, sherry, and some liqueurs have high amounts of tyramine.

Here are four foods for you to enjoy if you’re trying to reduce your tyramine levels:

1. Pasteurized Cheese

Cheese made from pasteurized milk has lower levels of tyramine than aged cheeses. American cheese, cottage cheese, ricotta, and cream cheese are safer alternatives.

2. Vegetables

Instead of consuming large amounts of fermented or pickled vegetables, eating fresh vegetables, raw or cooked, will help you avoid overconsumption of tyramine.

3. Non-cured Protein

If you’re trying to reduce your tyramine levels, fresh protein sources like beef, chicken, pork, and fish are a great alternative to cured or processed meat.

4. Bourbon, Gin, Rum, or Vodka

People with tyramine sensitivities are better off having bourbon, gin, rum, or vodka if they choose to drink alcohol.