Migraine triggers

Step 1: Understanding the relationship between migraine and food
The cause of migraine is unknown but there is evidence that suggests that it is caused by a genetically transmitted disturbance of the blood flow to the brain and the scalp.

Certain trigger factors have been identified and include the following:

  • Certain foods, especially coffee, chocolate, nuts, dairy products, red wine, preservatives in cured or processed meat, biltong, chocolate, citrus fruits and aged cheeses, fried foods, shellfish, spicy foods, peanuts and yeast.
  • Emotional and physical stress. This includes anger, anxiety, depression, and excitement. Migraine headaches often start during the "let-down" period after a stressful time, such as a weekend or vacation.
  • Lack or excess of sleep.
  • Missed meals or fasting.
  • Loud noises.
  • Glaring or flickering lights (water reflections, television, rave parties).
  • Alcohol.
  • Oral contraceptives.
  • Menstruation.
  • Weather fluctuations – particularly from dry to humid conditions and bright overcast days.
  • Changes in temperature – such as when taking a hot bath.
  • Allergies – watch out for preservative allergies, and food allergies.
  • Smoking cigarettes.

Step 2: Adopting new healthy habits:

  • Know your migraine triggers and limit your exposure when and if possible
  • Eat correctly to avoid migraine
  • Get adequate sleep
  • Exercise three to four times weekly
  • Learn to relax

Step 3: The basic dietary guidelines to avoid migraine


  • 1. Eat a balanced diet and five smaller meals per day instead of two to three big ones
  • 2. Keep a food/drink diary to help you figure out if you are sensitive or allergic to certain foods, drinks or food additives
  • 3. In the aftermath of a migraine, simple, light, non-fatty food (such as fresh fruit) and plenty of water help you to recover more rapidly


  • 1. Avoid foods rich in tyramine:
    • Cheeses, especially cheddar
    • Red wines
    • Biltong
    • Avocado and bananas
  • 2. Avoid foods with Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) and other preservatives and colourants like processed meats
  • 3. Avoid coffee, chocolate and lemon meringue pie
  • 4. Avoid nuts
  • 5. Avoid diary products
  • 6. Avoid yeast products

Read more:
Headache? Or migraine misery?

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