Weekend Wellness – Headaches

Week-End Wellness
By Tammy Parkinson
CPT, ACSM, NASM, Nutritionist
Body Firm Personal Training & Nutrition

wellness headacheI’m doing a seminar this week about foods which cause headaches and foods which help reduce headaches.  It dawned on me that probably every person alive has had at some point a headache.  There are of course, many factors and instigators of why a person has a headache…but if there are certain foods which provoke this painful issue, wouldn’t you want to avoid them?  Here’s a simple list of what foods are commonly known to provoke this uncomfortable problem:

First, it’s good to know many headaches are caused by tyramine.

Unfortunately, for cheese lovers, aged cheeses have more tyramine in them than others.  Some of these cheeses include blue cheeses, Brie, Cheddar, Stilton, Feta, Gorgonzola, Mozzarella, Muenster, Parmesan, Swiss and processed cheese.

Other foods high in tyramine include processed meats, pickles, onions, olives, certain types of beans, raisins, nuts, avocados, canned soups, and even red wine.

Certain food additives, including nitrites and some food colorings, are also common headache triggers. Like tyramine, these additives may increase blood flow to the brain causing headaches in some:

Other common foods which are known to cause headaches in my research are:

  •  Aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal), Splenda, and other artificial sweeteners; foods with meat tenderizers or yeast or yeast extracts
  • Caffeine in even in small amounts can trigger a migraine in some people
  • deand cocoa
  • Alcoholic beverages in addition to red wine, beer, and sherry
  • Aged, canned, cured, or processed meats such as chicken livers and other organ meats, and sardines. Also foods prepared with nitrates (like packaged meats) can cause problems.
  • Cultured dairy products such as sour cream or buttermilk
  • Dried fruits including figs, raisins, and dates
  • Breads and crackers containing cheese including pizza
  • Canned soups, or soups made from bouillon or based with MSG
  • and (drum roll...) Sugar!

The good news is there are certain nutrients and foods which HELP when you have a headache.

One of the most used mineral is magnesium (about 400mg) in a supplement.  Deficiency of magnesium interferes with transmission of nerve and muscle impulses, causing irritability and nervousness which might trigger headaches. A lot of headaches/migraines are caused by hormonal changes as well.

Look to add these in if experiencing a migraine or a headache.

More water is number one.  Dehydration can cause a plethora of ailments…headaches being the top of the list.

In addition add in…

  1. Fiber rich foods, such as:
    • vegetables, fruits and berries: papaya, avocado, mangos, bananas, apples, carrots, winter squash, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, collard greens, turnip greens, yams, brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potatos, fresh figs
    • legumes: all beans (kidney beans, black beans, black-eyed peas, garbanzo beans, etc.) and lentils
    • seeds and nuts (walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds)
  2. Magnesium rich foods such as almonds, apples, apricots, avocados, brown rice, garlic, leafy vegetables, grapefruit, cantaloupe, sesame seeds, spinach, wild salmon
  3. Potassium rich foods: apricots, avocados, lima beans, bananas, garlic, raisins, nuts, winter squash, yams and yogurt
  4. Vitamin E rich foods: oatmeal, sweet potatoes, watercress, dandelion, flax seed, legumes, seeds and nuts, olive oil

So, next time you experience some pain between the ears, consider if it might be food related and pull out this list!


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