Foods that Might Cause Headaches

Headaches can be incredibly distracting, and can make it difficult to concentrate on your work. Heck, if they’re bad enough, they may actually become debilitating, forcing you to stop what you’re doing, close your eyes, and give your head a break. Stress and fatigue are two of the primary causes of headaches, but did you know that the food you eat could also trigger the ache? Here are a few foods that might cause headaches:

Red Wine

We’re not talking about the hangover headache you get when you’ve had too much wine! In this case, we’re talking about the headaches you may get if you are sensitive to the tannins in red wine. These flavonoids can affect your brain’s production of certain neurochemicals, increasing prostaglandins, compounds that may cause headaches. The lower-tannin wines (such as Merlot and Cabernet) are less likely to trigger a headache, so stick with them if you have a tendency to develop headaches after a glass of wine.

Aged Cheese

You can’t help but love those aged cheeses: blue cheese, Swiss cheese, cheddar, and Camembert. They’re rich, creamy, and delicious, and they make for one heck of a dinner party! Sadly, they contain tyramine, an amino acid that may cause headaches. A normal person is able to process tyramine with no problems, but some people are deficient in the enzyme that’s needed to break down the amino acid. If this is the case, tyramine can build up in your bloodstream, increase your blood pressure, and trigger the production of norepinephrine. The combination of high blood pressure and increased neurochemical production could play a role in both regular and migraine headaches.

Sauerkraut and Kimchi

These probiotic foods are great for your digestive tract, but perhaps not as good for your head. They are similar to aged cheese, in that they contain tyramine. If your body is unable to process the amino acid, excessive consumption of tyramine (via these probiotic foods) may cause headaches.

Cured Meats

You’d be surprised by how many cured meats and fish contain tyramine: lox, pickled fish, pickled herring, salami, sausage, chorizo, and the list goes on! For normal people, the tyramine isn’t a problem, but if you have a problem with sauerkraut and aged cheese, you may get headaches as a result of cured meats and fish. However, meat products like hot dogs, bacon, ham, and pepperoni are often overloaded with nitrites and nitrates, both of which can lead to an increased flow of blood to the brain, triggering a headache. Be VERY careful with the meat products you eat!

Dried Fruit

How the heck could dried fruits cause headaches? Oddly enough, dried and preserved fruit often contain tyramines at levels that get higher the longer they are dried. Dried apricots and raisins are two of the worst culprits, as they contain tyramine and sulfite preservatives (used to prevent the fruit from turning brown). Sulfite-rich foods are known to cause headaches, so they’re best avoided if you have a tendency to develop migraines or headaches after meals.


Coffee is usually used as an anti-headache remedy, thanks to the fact that it constricts the blood vessels and reduces the flow of blood to the head. However, drinking coffee (and other caffeinated drinks) may lead to headaches. This is the result of the “crash” that sets in after the caffeine “high”. It’s basically your body dealing with caffeine withdrawals. If you want to avoid the headaches that often occur after a lot of coffee, stick with drinking just one cup–less than 200 mg of caffeine per day!

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