Is Your Diet Causing Those Chronic Headaches?

Chronic headaches are a source of misery for many people. In fact, more than 45 million Americans deal with chronic headaches. Chronic headaches occur more than 15 days of the month, but many people live with daily headaches. Twice as many women as men suffer from chronic daily headaches.

Chances are good that you’ve already tried some type of treatment for your headaches, even if it’s just an over-the-counter pain reliever. Chronic headaches can have many causes, including overuse of over-the-counter pain relievers. However, Dr. David Wu, located in Torrance, California, suggests that your diet could be a cause you haven’t considered.

Types of headaches

Although chronic headaches are common, their symptoms can differ from one patient to the next. Some types of headaches can occur every day, while others happen only intermittently. The primary types of headaches include:

Tension headache

Migraine headache

See Dr. Wu if you have headaches two or more days a week, if you need to take pain relievers for headaches regularly, if your headache pattern changes, or if your headaches are disabling.

How diet plays a role

Although headaches can have many causes, diet is often overlooked as a possible culprit. Many common foods and drinks in the American diet can contribute to developing headaches. These foods and beverages are linked to chronic headaches:


Alcohol is dehydrating, which in itself can be a factor in headaches. But ingredients in specific types of alcohol can also present a problem. Many people react to wine, particularly red wine. This is because the sulfites it contains as a preservative are a common cause of headaches.

Some of the most common alcoholic beverages that cause headaches are wine, beer, champagne, Scotch, and whiskey. Alcohol also causes more blood to rush to your head, which can also trigger headaches.


Caffeine is a tricky ingredient when it comes to headaches. A little bit of caffeine can often take the edge off of a mild headache. However, caffeine withdrawal can also cause pretty severe headaches.

The key is to consume caffeine in moderation. If you have more than two cups of coffee every day, you are at an increased risk of developing withdrawal headaches. Caffeine is also dehydrating, so make sure you increase your water consumption if you’re also drinking caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea, or soda.

Food additives

Common food additives can contribute to headaches. Monosodium glutamate, or MSG, is present in many processed foods and in Chinese food. It’s known as a flavor enhancer. However, MSG also can cause reactions including pain in both sides of your head, facial flushing, stomach pain, and dizziness.

Nitrites and nitrates are preservatives in some types of cured meats, including bacon, cold cuts, and hot dogs. Some people are sensitive to these ingredients, causing the blood vessels in the head to swell, causing pain.

Some people are also sensitive to artificial sweeteners, such as NutraSweet and Splenda. Typically, you will know you are sensitive to any of these food additives if you experience a headache shortly after consuming them.

You shouldn’t have to live with chronic headaches. It’s an issue that can significantly interfere with your quality of life. If you have headaches more than 15 days a month, or if your headaches are disrupting your life, call our office today at 424-235-6565, or request an appointment online.  

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