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How Your Diet May Be Causing Your Headaches
Author: Dawn Flemming
March 15th, 2019
Categories : Nutrition

It’s not just specific food items that can give you headaches, but your dietary and eating habits can also cause headaches.

For many people, specific foods can trigger headaches. For some its coffee, for others its oily foods. But dietary habits in general can play a role in the intensity and recurrence of headaches.

Inconsistent fasting, not drinking enough water and skipping meals can lead to headaches. Just like a proper sleep pattern is needed to avoid headaches, so are set meal times.

There are also specific unhealthy foods and drinks that can cause headaches. Let’s take a look at three of them.



Alcohol can lead to dehydration which in turn can lead to headaches. But there is more to this story. Alcohol has sulfites which are used as preservatives, but sulfites are also associated with headaches and migraines. This is one of the reasons why people who get drunk often wake up with pounding headaches.


Processed Foods

Processed foods contain monosodium glutamate (MSG). MSGs are food additives that enhance flavor. MSGs, however, are also associated with headaches. Many packaged foods contain MSGs.

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Caffeine presents a double problem. On the one hand too much caffeine can trigger headaches and migraines. Another problems is that people often add artificial sweeteners in drinks that contain caffein (like coffee) which themselves are linked to headaches.

There are also some other foods that have been associated with headaches. Cleveland Clinic lists the following:

  • Peanuts, peanut butter, almonds, and other nuts and seeds
  • Pizza or other tomato-based products
  • Potato chip products
  • Chicken livers and other organ meats, pate
  • Smoked or dried fish
  • Pickled foods (pickles, olives, sauerkraut)
  • Sourdough bread, fresh baked yeast goods (donuts, cakes, homemade breads, and rolls)
  • Brewer's yeast found in natural supplements
  • Bread, crackers, and desserts containing cheese
  • Most beans including lima, Italian, pole, broad, fava, navy, pinto, snow peas, garbanzo, lentils, and dried beans and peas
  • Onions
  • Avocados
  • Certain fresh fruits, including ripe bananas, citrus fruits, papaya, red plums, raspberries, kiwi, and pineapple
  • Dried fruits (figs, raisins, dates)
  • Soups made from meat extracts or bouillon (not homemade broth)
  • Cultured dairy products, sour cream, buttermilk, yogurt

Sometimes migraines and headaches can be symptoms of an underlying and more serious condition. If you find yourself in this situation, make sure to consult with your doctor.

Dawn Flemming is Director of Business Services at Geriatric In-Home Care in Fresno, California.


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