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May 16th, 2011
07:32 AM ET

What foods trigger migraines?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Mondays, it's pediatrician Dr. Jennifer Shu.

Asked by Dana of Jacksonville, Florida

I have migraine headaches. What foods should I avoid to prevent my migraines?

Expert answer

Thanks for your question. There are many possible triggers of migraine headaches, including foods, stress, sensory stimulation (such as bright lights, strong smells, loud noises or changes in weather), hormones and more.

Skipping meals, taking certain medicines or being very tired can also bring on a migraine.

Although there is a long list of foods that can trigger migraines, the causes vary from person to person, so you won't have to avoid everything. The following are some common ones to watch out for.

Alcohol: especially darker drinks like red wine, beer and sherry.

Chocolate/cocoa: such as in candy, desserts and hot chocolate.

Caffeinated beverages: Although caffeine is often used to treat headaches, these drinks can actually cause them in some people.

Tyramine: found in aged cheeses, bananas, raisins, chicken livers, nuts, beans, cultured dairy products, soy sauce, processed meats (such as hot dogs and sausages), pickles and many others.

Cold foods: Ice cream has been reported to cause migraines and other headaches in individuals sensitive to the sudden temperature change in the mouth.

Preservatives, additives and artificial colorings: MSG, artificial sweeteners and food dyes have all been identified as possible headache triggers.

Your particular trigger(s) may not be on this list, so it may be helpful to keep a diary and look for any patterns, keeping in mind that it can take as much as 48 hours for a food to set off a headache.

Good luck!

Follow Dr. Jennifer Shu on Twitter!


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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.