Food Triggers

I never realized how easy it would be to discover which foods trigger my migraines.  I’m not referring to the process of figuring out what to eat instead, which has required a lot of time and hard work.  However, determining the scope of what I am dealing with has been so easy that I don’t know why a medical professional didn’t suggest it sometime during the 15 years that I have been struggling with migraines and looking for help.

For a really long time, I didn’t realize that foods were even an issue.  I just kept going to doctors and physical therapists thinking that the rabbit trails we were going down with exercises and medications must eventually work, because these people knew about this stuff I was paying them to know about – right?  I did have a doctor recommend that I stop eating wheat, which reduced my overall body pain, and for that I am thankful.

About 5 years ago, chocolate became something that I didn’t want after I had a hallucination within an hour of eating it.  Caffeine decided that it no longer even wanted to stay in my body – or maybe it was my body that didn’t want the caffeine in it anymore after 20 years.  I literally just couldn’t “stomach” it anymore.  The logical part of my brain reasoned that human-created substances added to food simply couldn’t be good for me since God designed my body and the food that that would fuel it.  So, I stopped eating processed foods.  While elimination of wheat, chocolate, caffeine, and additives helped with my overall health, I continued to have migraines, vertigo, heart palpitations, fatigue, periods of brain fog, and severe neck and upper back pain.  At this point I really didn’t think that other foods could trigger migraines since I was still having them after eliminating some foods; I don’t know why I considered chocolate, caffeine, and additives to be “foods,” but wheat certainly is:)  So, I mistakenly thought that foods were not a problem for me.

However, as I discussed here, last fall I remembered someone telling me a long time ago that she couldn’t eat tomatoes since her head always hurt after she ate them.  Internet searching revealed many lists of foods that have the potential to do this.  So, I made a list and eliminated 3 or 4 of the items – I still had migraines.  I eliminated another one – I still had migraines.  I had to conclude 1 of 2 things – either food was not the issue or I hadn’t found all (or any) of the triggers yet.  Since I had spent 15 years in the “food isn’t my trigger” camp, I decided that the other conclusion was worthy of consideration.  As Buchholz points out in Chapter 4 of his book, “Heal Your Headache,” it is very difficult to figure out which foods trigger migraines without eliminating everything on the list at first to gain pain control.  Once this has been achieved, one food item at a time can be attempted to see if it triggers a migraine.  In this way, if I have a migraine following a food trial, I’m not left wondering, “Was it the beans I had 2 nights ago, the banana I had for breakfast, or the cheese in my salad dressing?”  I know exactly what to target, because there is only 1 thing it could be at any given time.  Admittedly, weather changes and fragrances are also triggers for me, but I simply don’t try to reintroduce a food on a day that these things are also present.  Now, weather changes and fragrances are the only triggers I have, and the resulting migraines no longer include vertigo and heart palpitations:)

The detective work involved in figuring out triggers is neither quick nor pleasant.  However, it is quicker, less painful, and more conclusive when the potential triggers are eliminated all together and reintroduced one at a time.  Some people may even find that no foods are triggering their migraines!  However, if you’re still having migraines, wouldn’t it be great to know for sure?  What if there is a food trigger in there waiting to be rooted out so that you could feel better able to do what you are called to do each day?

I don’t know if the following information is helpful to anyone, but it is a list of where I currently stand with my food triggers.  My recipes reflect this list.

Wheat (not currently able to eat)
Chocolate (will never try to reintroduce!)
Caffeine (will never try to reintroduce!)
Additives (not currently eating any)
Dairy (not currently able to eat)
Nuts (eat a small portion of almonds 1x/week with this recipe – my treat:))
Eggs (1 migraineur in the family is able to eat, but the other is not)
Beans (will never try to reintroduce because this is a vicious trigger for me)
Onions (able to use broth that contains onions, but I don’t eat onion otherwise)
Citrus (not currently able to eat)
Raspberries (not currently able to eat)
Tomatoes (not currently able to eat)
Apples (not currently eating but plan to try again soon)
Bananas (not currently able to eat)
Yeast (let homemade yeast bread sit 24 hours before eating or freezing)
Vinegar (only able to eat distilled white vinegar)
Soy (not currently able to eat)
Avocados (not currently able to eat)
Alcohol (haven’t had in a long time and don’t plan to reintroduce)
Corn (successfully reintroduced:))


9 thoughts on “Food Triggers

      • I can only have homemade baked goods so that they have no preservatives. I have completely eliminated caffeine with no reason to try to reintroduce it. As long as I control the amount of cheese I have I am ok. This is the only dairy product I react to. Every time I drink, it is an instant migraine, so no… I will not be trying this again. Raspberries, onions, avocados cannot have at all.
        Other triggers are strobe lights, rain, being in the sun for too long (too hot or too bright, either or depending on the day), lack of sleep, florescent lights, hormones, dehydration, white noise, not eating…

        Liked by 1 person

    • I started out only eating cranberries and pears. However, cranberries aren’t that great without a lot of sugar, and it is difficult to determine when a pear is ripe. I have had migraines after eating a pear that got too ripe. So, pears are rather “iffy” for me.

      Now, I still sometimes eat cranberries, but I am also able to eat mangoes, blueberries, Craisins, and a moderate number of strawberries. I hope to be able to eat peaches when I test them later this summer.

      The other person in my family with migraines is able to also eat apples, but I haven’t tried them again yet. According to some online sources, it may depend on the type of apple.

      Note that there is also a difference between fresh or frozen fruit and dried or canned fruit. Evidently, the dried and canned fruits tend to build up more tyramine. Eating the fruit just ripe or frozen prevents this. So, with the fruits that I am able to eat, I only eat them just ripe or I get them into the freezer for later. The exception for me is that I haven’t had any problems with Craisins even though they are dried.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. When you eat a trigger food how soon do you have a headache? I’m on a very limited diet because I have Fructose Malabsorption. Taking out everything will be very hard. Some I already don’t eat. I normally wake up with a migraine. I’m wondering how long before a migraine would the offended food need to have been consumed.
    I look forward to reading more of your blog.
    If I can reduce my headaches by changing what I eat, I’ll do it, no matter how hard it is. Heck, my diet is already pretty darn hard.
    Thank you for sharing your information.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Evidently, a migraine from a food can occur for up to 72 hours after eating the food, but I usually have mine within 24 hours.

      Once I eliminated all of the food possibilities, it was easier to sort out what foods were causing problems, because I would just eat one at a time. Some of the foods that have been easier to eliminate (like bananas) have just remained out of my diet, because I just don’t want to go through the potential migraine to find out if I could start eating them again. Others (like beans) have been harder to eliminate, but I absolutely know that they give my migraines. So, it is totally worth it to leave them out.

      Cooking around here has become very time consuming. I actually don’t even like cooking very much anymore as a result. However, the pain reduction has made it worth the effort. I still get migraines, but they definitely aren’t as severe or as often. That is why I started this blog. At first, I only ate turkey and rice while I was trying to figure out what else to eat. I’m hopeful that sharing recipes that don’t have the most likely triggers will make it easier for others.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Are Your Migraines Under Control? | Peanut-Free Migraine Mom

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