Veronica Tonay, Ph.D.


David Buchholz, a neurologist at Johns Hopkins University, says that chemicals in various modern foods and beverages trigger headaches for many people. More triggers mean more risk, and when people are under stress, these are the foods they tend to consume the most! A headache due to food may appear right away, or as long as a day or two after you've eaten. Does spicy food cause headaches? No!


Caffeine. The top dietary cause of headaches! Constricts blood vessels, and when it wears off, vessels swell. And we all know about those withdrawal headaches--due to swelling blood vessels.

Chocolate. Chemicals in cocoa are the ones that likely cause headaches. White chocolate doesn't contain them.

Strong, hard cheeses. Old cheddar, Roquefort, Gorgonzola, Stilton, Gruyere. Some react to yogurt, sour cream, and buttermilk, too.

Nuts. All nuts and coconut (including nut butters).

Certain fruits. Bananas, citrus fruit and juice, papayas, raspberries, avocados, raisins, plums, and passion fruit. Any dried fruit preserved with sulfites.

Fresh yeast-risen baked goods. Sourdough bread especially, but any freshly made bread: doughnuts, bagels, soft pretzels, etc. Okay to eat if you've let them sit for a day.

Monosodium glutamate. We think of MSG as being associated with Chinese food. However, many croutons and bread crumbs are seasoned with it, also. It hides under the names 'natural flavoring.' Want to avoid it? Eat food made from fresh ingredients.

Processed meat and fish. Anything you buy already cooked or ready to cook (hot dogs, salami, bacon, lunch meat, pepperoni...) may have been preserved with nitrates, which trigger headaches. Some packaged fish provokes headaches, also.

Certain vegetables. Pea pods, lentils, whole onions, and lima and navy beans.

Alcohol. Red wine, dark liqueurs, sparkling wines, cognac. White wine or vodka are safer. (Some people react to balsamic vinegar, as well.)

The information on this page was culled from a variety of sources, including Jean Carper's article, 'Sidestep Your Headaches,' It should not substitute for a visit to your healthcare practitioner.

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