“The migraine that shows stars in the daytime and gives nightmares in the night are caused not only due to hormonal changes or imbalances in your brain chemicals but also due to some other reasons as well and one among them is your eating habits”, says Dr Vikram Sharma – a migraine specialist doctor in Hyderabad. Several scientific studies have shown the role of some foods and a few substances in foods that cause migraine or headache in many people. You may also have noticed on several occasions that after eating some type of food your head began to throb. This might probably be due to some ingredients in the food that induced headache.

There is no specific diet as such for people with migraine, but you can do one thing: every time you get a headache owing to some food, then make a note of it and avoid that food completely. This is a general rule. However, there are some very specific foods that trigger migraine, they are mentioned below:


Can alcohol be your migraine trigger – next time when you drink just pay heed to it; if yes, then avoid it. For your information – if you ask this question to at least 3 people who get migraine: “Is alcohol causing your headache?” – one would definitely say yes; which means alcohol does indeed trigger migraine. Why is it so – the reason is simple: it dehydrates you and has some chemicals that prompt your headache, but many migraine specialist doctors are not sure why?

Processed foods and other preserved foods

Don’t blame boozing alone for your migraines, as there are few more culprits, which you normally think would not do so, but they do as evidence suggests their role in triggering migraines. The food additive – monosodium glutamate (MSG) is used by many fast-food centres and restaurants to enhance flavour. It is also added to many packaged and processed foods. Therefore, next time when you notice that your tasty and spicy potato chips, burgers, spring rolls, chicken pizzas, Franky’s are making you suffer, then immediately quit them because the culprit in all of them is your MSG.

Nitrates and nitrites: Nitrates or nitrites can cause headache, if you are sensitive to them. They are mostly found in processed meat and meat products – lunch meat, hot dogs, etc. Next time when you get headache after eating such meats and meat products, avoid them without blinking an eye.


If you ask me – “does coffee cause headache or trigger migraine?” read Best Foods for Brain

And, if I say yes, you would tell me, “What doctor! coffee relieves headache.”

Yes, you are partially right, but the real fact is this: Coffee both relieves and triggers headache. Coffee in combination with other pain relievers is quite effective in easing headache, but coffee in excess may cause coffee rebound or withdrawal, which may trigger migraine or headache. If you drink two cups a day and miss one or drink three cups and miss one –then you would get withdrawal. Therefore, set your routine and follow it, but remember don’t overdo – which means don’t drink coffee in excess. Apart from coffee, caffeine is also present in beverages, chocolates and over-the-counter pain relievers – therefore, check your intake judiciously to ensure that you are not becoming prone to coffee rebound or withdrawal.

Other Foods

Cheese and foods containing aged cheese including cheddar, parmesan and Swiss may trigger migraine because cheese contains tyramine – a chemical that triggers migraine. Even some nuts, beans, pickles, oils and processed meat contain this chemical –owing to which they trigger migraine.

These are the few foods and some constituents of foods that are capable of triggering migraines. Though the list is quite comprehensive but not exhaustive as there are many other foods that are capable of inducing migraine including chocolates, dairy products – buttermilk, curd, yoghurt; pastries, cakes, raisins, figs, avocados, and so on. In addition to these food items, the foods that are coloured with yellow dye (sweetened drinks, candy, snacks) and soda sweetened with aspartame can also trigger a migraine. You are the best judge to keep a track of them and avoid them when you find them troubling you a lot by giving you pulsating and throbbing headaches. If you want to learn more about the foods and beverages that may trigger migraines, it is better to see a migraine specialist doctor.

Dr Vikram Sharma

Consultant Neurologist and Migraine specialist doctor