The Foods and Drinks That Trigger Your Migraines

Migraine headaches are more common than you may think. A shocking 12% of the population, including children, regularly suffers from migraines. Another thing that you may not know is that certain foods and drinks can actually trigger your migraines.

In this helpful guide, David Wu, MD, with offices in Torrance, California, identifies the foods and drinks that can trigger migraines. We also go into detail on how migraines can affect your life. If you have migraines, read on to learn more about what you should cut out of your diet. 

What are migraines

While the occasional headache is normal, experiencing regular migraines is not. A migraine is a headache so debilitating that it impacts your daily life. The pain of a migraine usually presents with a throbbing pain on one side of your head.

Patients who experience migraines are also prone to accompanying symptoms, including:

Migraines may be genetic or they may be caused by an underlying neurological condition. Regardless, there are certain foods that can bring on or worsen your migraines.

Foods that trigger migraines

Because everyone’s biology is different, we don’t all have the same triggers or sensitivities. However, with migraines there are some common foods and drinks that can trigger them, including:

Caffeinated beverages

Beverages that are high in caffeine may trigger your migraines. This includes drinks like coffee, tea, and soda. While a moderate amount of caffeine can alleviate your headache, too much can have the opposite effect, triggering a migraine. In addition to these beverages, chocolate also contains caffeine and should be eaten with caution. 

Artificial sweeteners  

Artificial sweeteners are sugar-like substances that contain zero calories. While they don’t impact your blood sugar, they can trigger migraines. Avoid processed and sugar-free foods, which typically contain artificial sweeteners.


Alcoholic beverages are among the most common triggers of migraines. In one study 35% of participants with migraines reported alcohol as a common trigger of their migraines. Alcohol is thought to lead to headaches because it can raise your blood pressure and cause dehydration.


According to The American Migraine Foundation, 10% to 15% of migraine sufferers are sensitive to monosodium glutamate, more commonly known as MSG, a high-sodium seasoning. To prevent migraines it’s best to stay away from foods that are high in MSG, and to drink plenty of water when eating foods that are high in salt. 

Cured meat

Cured meats, like sausages, hot dogs, and ham, are high in nitrates, a preservative that helps maintain the meat’s color and flavor. This same chemical is believed to dilate the blood vessels in your brain, which can trigger a migraine. 

Aged cheeses

Aged cheeses contain a chemical called tyramine, which can trigger migraines. The more a cheese has aged the higher its thiamine content. Cheeses that contain the most amount of thiamine include parmesan, blue cheese, and feta. 

Pickled and fermented foods

Pickles, like cheeses, contain high amounts of thyamine. If you have migraines you’ll want to avoid pickles, kimchi, and kombucha.

Frozen foods

Also known as brain freeze, drinking or eating cold food quickly can trigger a migraine. When eating ice cream or drinking frozen drinks you’ll want to take care to eat and drink these foods slowly to avoid bringing on a migraine. 


Foods that are high in salt can trigger migraines because of their tendency to increase your blood pressure. It’s best to avoid salty, processed foods that are high in preservatives. 

If you have chronic migraines, David Wu, MD, can help you get relief. To learn more, book an appointment online or over the phone with the office of David Wu, MD, today.

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