Man in facemask holds his temples demonstrating a headache

Headaches are generally a pain in the nerves and muscles of the head and neck, and among them, migraines last longer with much more physical effects. The pain from migraines leads to vomiting, nausea, and sensitivity to light and sounds. There are countless headache triggers such as stress, sleep pattern changes, bright lights, the weather that can take you out of charge. Many causes or triggers are not always under our control, and the causes of headaches can differ from person to person. 

Among the many triggers of headaches, food additives are one of note. According to the Migraine Research Foundation, food additives that might trigger headaches may only be causal when combined with underlying triggers. If a person has a specific food sensitivity, then eating them can also trigger a headache. Although food intolerance may not cause the headache itself, it can make the pain worse or bring it on. At such a time, a natural alternative like shroom capsules can work wonders for the person to ease the recurring pain. They are a type of psychedelic medicine and have chemicals and compounds that work on the pain to eradicate it completely. 

There is no established common or universal headache trigger, but there are some general food additives that are more likely to cause headaches in some people. As there are many food triggers that cause headaches, we listed them separately under the categories of additives and ingredients (found in foods and beverages) for easier understanding.


This additive gives tea, beer, bananas, apple skins, and red wine, their bitter flavor and may cause a headache by triggering the release of the neurotransmitter serotonin. The compound present in the skins of the fruits and in red wine gives a spurring headache that may last longer than usual. 


This amino acid can be a significant source of headaches among many people. Tyramine is a naturally occurring acid in our body that helps to regulate our blood pressure. It is, however, also present in some food items. Some people might have difficulty breaking down the tyramine acid in their bodies or may be more sensitive to the acid effects. Some foods with high amounts of tyramine are:

  • Processed or cured meats such as bacon, hot dogs, sausages. 

  • Aged cheeses such as Swiss, feta, parmesan, cheddar.

  • Alcohol such as wine, beer, sherry.

  • Pickled and fermented foods such as pickles, sauerkraut, pickled okra, kimchi.

  • Yeast rich foods such as sourdough bread, fresh bread.

Nitrates and Sulfites

Nitrate is a naturally found compound in some vegetables and fruits and is a preservative in processed meats and chocolate. This can cause severe headaches.

Sulfites, found in fermented foods and beverages, wine and beer, are not proven to be headache triggers, but a small population has experienced allergies from this compound. 

Monosodium glutamate (MSG)

MSG is a naturally occurring sodium salt from glutamic acid. It is another food preservative that can raise the body’s blood pressure and pulse rate, leading to a headache trigger. MSG can be found in most heavily processed foods such as salty snacks, frozen meals, and powdered gravy. 


Caffeine is often regarded as an active ingredient in headache medications that can relieve tension better than a placebo. However, for some, it could be making their headaches worse. This happens when a daily exposure to caffeine may cause a dependency, which can eventually cause withdrawal symptoms that also include headaches.

Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners are present in many processed foods. They are alternatives to sugar that are added to foods and drinks. Aspartame and other sweeteners have been labeled as headache triggers for several reasons over the years. It might be because of their effect on the brain’s serotonin levels, causing ache in some people.

Ways to Determine Particular Migraine Triggers

A beneficial and effective way of determining ones’ food triggers is by keeping a food and symptom journal. This includes carefully logging all the factors that might have caused a headache. On days when the headache hits on consistently for 20 minutes to 2 hours, try writing down what you ate or drank, the amount of sleep you got, your menstrual cycle dates in women, how often you were eating particular foods in the days leading up to it, and all such minute details. This can help you to spot the trends in your diet and days of headaches. 

Food Substitutes

Certain foods can act as an alternative for the food additives mentioned above, some of which are: 

  • Natural and minimally processed foods that do not contain preservatives or artificial flavorings such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and eggs

  • Among meats: fresh beef, chicken, fish, and salmon; among nuts and seeds are pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds.

  • Natural sweeteners such as raw honey and maple syrup

  • Anti-inflammatory supplements and foods such as turmeric and omega-3


It is essential to maintain a balanced and healthy diet with more emphasis on fresh fruits and vegetables to prevent headaches. Avoid the food additives! It is also necessary to ensure not to miss meals in a day and get a fair amount of regular sleep.

by Rebecca D

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