Migraine and Dietary Triggers: Identifying and Avoiding Common Culprits

Migraine and Dietary Triggers: Identifying and Avoiding Common Culprits


As someone who has personally experienced migraine attacks triggered by certain foods, I understand the importance of tracking and identifying dietary triggers. In this article, we will explore the common dietary triggers associated with migraine attacks and provide tips on how to avoid them.

Understanding Dietary Triggers

Dietary triggers are specific foods or ingredients that can initiate a migraine attack in susceptible individuals. It’s important to note that these triggers can vary from person to person, meaning that what triggers a migraine in one individual may not necessarily have the same effect on another.

Some common types of dietary triggers include:

  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • Processed foods and additives
  • Chocolate
  • Dairy products
  • Citrus fruits
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Certain types of cheese

It’s also worth noting that food allergies and sensitivities can play a role in triggering migraine attacks for some individuals. If you suspect that you may have an allergy or sensitivity to certain foods, it’s recommended to consult with a healthcare professional for further evaluation.

Importance of Tracking Symptoms and Food Intake

Tracking symptoms and food intake can provide valuable insights into your migraine triggers and help you better manage your condition. By keeping a record of your symptoms and the foods you consume, you can:

  • Identify patterns and potential triggers
  • Enhance treatment plans
  • Empower yourself with information
  • Facilitate discussions with healthcare professionals

There are various methods for tracking symptoms and food intake, including traditional pen and paper methods, smartphone apps, and online platforms. Choose the method that works best for you and be consistent in recording your data.

When tracking your symptoms and food intake, be specific with food descriptions, noting any additional factors that may contribute to your migraine attacks such as stress or lack of sleep. It can also be helpful to use a rating scale to assess the intensity of your symptoms. Regularly reviewing and analyzing the collected data will provide valuable information for identifying and avoiding your personal dietary triggers.

Identifying Common Food Triggers


Caffeine is a common trigger for migraine attacks. It is found in various sources such as coffee, tea, chocolate, and energy drinks. Some individuals may experience migraine attacks triggered by even small amounts of caffeine. To reduce your caffeine intake, consider switching to decaf alternatives or herbal teas.


Alcohol, particularly red wine, beer, and certain spirits, can trigger migraine attacks in some individuals. The exact mechanisms behind alcohol-induced migraine attacks are not fully understood, but it is believed that byproducts of alcohol metabolism may contribute to migraine attacks. To avoid alcohol triggers, you can opt for non-alcoholic beverages or moderate your alcohol consumption.

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

MSG is a flavor enhancer commonly found in processed foods, fast food, and Chinese cuisine. It can trigger migraine attacks in sensitive individuals. To minimize your consumption of MSG, read food labels carefully and choose fresh, unprocessed foods whenever possible.

Processed Foods and Additives

Processed foods often contain additives such as preservatives, artificial sweeteners, and flavorings, which can trigger migraine attacks in some individuals. These additives can be found in packaged snacks, frozen meals, and convenience foods. To minimize your consumption of processed foods and additives, opt for whole, natural foods and cook meals from scratch when possible.


For chocolate lovers, it may be disheartening to learn that chocolate can be a trigger for migraine attacks. Chocolate contains a substance called tyramine, which is believed to contribute to migraine attacks. To limit your chocolate intake, consider opting for white chocolate or small amounts of dark chocolate.

Dairy Products

Dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt have been identified as potential triggers for migraine attacks. The exact mechanism is not fully understood, but it is thought that certain compounds in dairy may play a role. If you suspect dairy as a trigger, you can try dairy-free alternatives or opt for low-lactose options.

Citrus Fruits

Citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, and grapefruits are known to trigger migraine attacks in some individuals. The acidity and specific compounds found in citrus fruits may be responsible for the migraine-inducing effects. If you experience migraine attacks after consuming citrus fruits, you may want to reduce your consumption or explore alternative fruits.

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds, including peanuts, almonds, and sesame seeds, have been reported as possible triggers for migraine attacks. It’s important to note that not all individuals with migraine attacks are sensitive to nuts and seeds. If you suspect these foods as triggers, try reducing your consumption and observe any changes in your migraine frequency or severity.

Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame and sucralose, are commonly used as sugar substitutes in various food and beverage products. Some individuals may experience migraine attacks triggered by these sweeteners. To avoid artificial sweeteners, opt for natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup when needed.

Certain Types of Cheese

Certain types of cheese, particularly aged and fermented varieties like blue cheese and cheddar, have been associated with migraine attacks. The presence of tyramine in these cheeses is believed to contribute to migraine attacks. To limit your intake of cheese triggers, consider opting for fresh cheeses or other non-aged varieties.

Tips for Avoiding Dietary Triggers

  • Gradually eliminate potential triggers from your diet to identify the specific foods that may be triggering your migraine attacks
  • When eating out, be mindful of ingredients and ask about potential triggers in the dishes
  • Experiment with different cooking and meal preparation techniques to find alternatives that don’t trigger your migraine attacks
  • Consider seeking support from a registered dietitian or nutritionist who can provide personalized guidance in managing your migraine triggers
  • Incorporate stress management techniques into your daily life, as stress can also contribute to migraine attacks
  • Maintain a balanced and healthy diet that includes a variety of nutrient-rich foods
  • Prioritize regular sleep patterns and ensure you are getting enough restful sleep
  • Stay hydrated throughout the day by drinking an adequate amount of water


By tracking your symptoms and food intake, you can gain valuable insights into your personal dietary triggers for migraine attacks. Identifying and avoiding these triggers can help in managing your condition and reducing the frequency and severity of migraine attacks. Remember, consulting with healthcare professionals is crucial for personalized advice and guidance on managing your migraine attacks effectively. With a proactive approach to your diet, you can lead a migraine-trigger-friendly lifestyle and find relief.

Jenny from Migraine Buddy

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