If you suffer from migraine headaches, you already know that you’ll try practically anything to stop them. Unfortunately, the current medical understanding of migraines is so incomplete that for many people, the best chance at preventing migraines is simply to do your best to note what triggers them, and then avoid those triggers.
Common migraine triggers include stress, sleep deprivation, bright lights, and strong smells — unfortunately, things that are often out of our control. But what if your migraine trigger was within your control?
Is Food Triggering Your Migraines?
Statistics show that about 20% of migraine sufferers have food-related triggers. So far, experts can only speculate on the reasons some of these foods might cause a migraine to start brewing, but here are some possibilities:
- Candy and junk food — Just over 20% of those with migraines report chocolate as a trigger, but some researchers suspect that the chocolate may be the result of a migraine rather than the cause. This is because food cravings are a common precursor to migraine attacks.
- Caffeine — Caffeine can be a complicated player in the migraine game, because while some report it as a trigger, others report it as a treatment. Yet more people find that it’s coming down from the caffeine high that triggers migraines. Regardless, it’s clearly something to keep an eye on in your own diet if you suffer from migraines.
- Foods with tyramine — Tyramine is a naturally-occurring substance found particularly in foods that are aged or fermented. Aged cheeses, smoked or cured meats, and some beer may trigger migraines in some people for this reason.
- Alcohol — While it may not be the alcohol itself that triggers migraines, it comes hand-in-hand with other migraine triggers, such as dehydration or sulfites found in wine. Fact: although people believe sulfite levels are higher in red wine, the truth is that white wines actually contain more sulfites, and sweet wines can contain much more than dry.
- MSG — Monosodium glutamate, more commonly known as MSG, is a common migraine trigger. While this sodium salt occurs naturally in foods like tomatoes and cheese, it is also added to other foods as a flavor enhancer.
If you think food triggers might be involved in your migraine attacks, the next step is to keep a food diary so you can identify what foods correlate with your headaches.
What If It’s Not Food?
Unfortunately, for so many migraine sufferers, any attempt to pin down triggers will result in nothing but confusion and frustration. If your headaches are a result of TMJ, no food diary, no matter how thorough, will be able to identify the source.
The trigeminal nerve, which researchers know plays a role in the triggering of migraines, conveys signals to and from the bite muscles. The tension in these muscles may cause overstimulation of the trigeminal nerve, triggering migraines. Plus, the tension created by TMJ’s misaligned bite can trigger painful tension headaches. Fortunately, if TMJ is the cause of your headaches, TMJ treatment may be able to reduce or even prevent those headaches.