Migraine Trigger

Migraine Doctor Winnie Sharon Lim Khoo


Be careful at cocktail parties! Beer, red wine, sherry, and vermouth contain large amounts of tyramine, one of the most powerful migraine triggers. A bigger reason to steer clear of booze is that any type of alcohol causes dehydration, which is a major cause of headaches. If you’re drinking, it’s always a good idea to alternate alcoholic drinks with water — but if alcohol is a trigger for your migraines, it’s best to refrain completely.


Hot dogs are canned meats all contain nitrites, another common trigger for migraines. Used mostly as a preservative and for added flavor, nitrites are also found in sausages (including chicken, turkey and soy sausages), jerky (beef and turkey), corned beef, or other foods that have been cured, smoked, pickled, or canned. To stay safe, look for nitrite-free varieties of these items at the grocery store and steer clear of them when dining out.


Sulfites, another preservative, are commonly found in most dried fruits (including prunes, figs, and apricots), wine (white and red), and many processed foods. Check labels carefully to avoid this sneaky migraine trigger.

Common Additives

Many other food additives are also known to increase the chances for a migraine. Check labels carefully and avoid foods that contain monosodium glutamate (MSG), yeast extract, hydrolyzed or autolyzed yeast, hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP), hydrolyzed plant protein (HPP), sodium caseinate, and kombu extract (often used in Japanese foods).


People with sensitivity to caffeine can develop migraines after drinking coffee, black tea, soft drinks, or other caffeinated beverages. But caffeine can also be used to stop a migraine that is just beginning — that’s why many over-the-counter migraine medications contain caffeine. Test your personal response to caffeine: If it gives you headaches, avoid it.


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