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What Not to Eat Over the Holidays with Chronic Migraine Headaches

Dec 13, 2023
What Not to Eat Over the Holidays with Chronic Migraine Headaches
The holiday season can be headache-inducing for anyone, but even more so for chronic migraine sufferers. Find out which favorite holiday foods could be making your migraines worse.

The holiday season should be a time for warm, happy memories with family and friends, but people who suffer from chronic migraine headaches often notice an increase in migraine activity at this time of year. The added stress of hosting, traveling, or other festive goings-on can play a role, but have you considered that food may be the culprit?

Indulging in certain favorite holiday dishes could factor into why you experience worse or more frequent migraine episodes. The headache specialists at HealthyU Clinics are here to advise you about what not to eat over the holidays when you suffer from chronic migraines.

Preservative-heavy foods

Sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite are added to foods, commonly processed meats, as preservatives. These chemicals can cause blood vessels to dilate, triggering the onset of a migraine episode in individuals who are sensitive to them. Cold cuts, sausage, ham, and bacon are often high in added nitrates and nitrites and should be avoided if you’re trying to keep migraines at bay.

MSG, or monosodium glutamate, is a food additive used to enhance flavor in dishes. It’s often advertised on product labels as a “natural preservative;” however, it too can intensify migraine symptoms.

Aged Cheeses

Unfortunately for holiday charcuterie board fans, aged cheeses should also be avoided to sidestep a headache. The reason for this is the high content of the amino acid tyramine, which people commonly find aggravates their migraines. 

Aged cheeses with a strong flavor are usually high in tyramine; parmesan, camembert, cheddar, brie, and feta are ones we suggest leaving on the cheeseboard. 

Baked goods

Not all festive baking is off-limits, don’t worry, yeast is the ingredient you want to look out for if you’re prone to migraines. Breads, biscuits, and cakes leavened with yeast are also high in tyramine, a common migraine trigger. 

Another potential landmine on the dessert table is chocolate. A study by the International Headache Society showed that 42% of migraine sufferers involved in the experiment had an episode after consuming chocolate. 

Alcohol and caffeine 

While you don’t munch on a cup of coffee or a cocktail, beverages can also be migraine triggers.  Cut back on caffeine and alcohol to ease through the holiday season. Consuming alcohol, in general, is known to induce headaches, but red wine specifically is high in tyramine and contains sulfites, two of the big villains when it comes to migraine episodes.

Excess caffeine consumption has been found to aggravate symptoms in patients prone to migraines. Caffeinated beverages containing artificial sweeteners can be a double hit of migraine-inducing chemicals, so reduce or eliminate these entirely. 

Don’t let migraines hold you back from enjoying quality time with your loved ones this holiday season. At HealthyU Clinics, we offer headache medicine consultations to determine the cause of your headaches or migraines and prescribe medication to manage pain or prevent the onset of symptoms. Book an appointment online or by phone today at any of our conveniently located offices.