Migraines affect 39 million Americans according to the American Migraine Foundation, and understanding the role of food triggers is crucial in managing this debilitating condition. Tyramine, a naturally occurring compound found in certain foods, has been linked to migraines in individuals who are predisposed to the condition. By gaining insight into how tyramine can cause migraine and the foods that are rich in it, individuals can make more informed dietary choices to better manage their migraine disease.
What is Tyramine?
Tyramine is a naturally occurring compound that forms as a result of the breakdown of the amino acid tyrosine. It is found in varying levels in different types of foods. Tyramine acts as a vasoactive substance, meaning it can influence blood vessel constriction and dilation, which can potentially trigger migraine attacks. After all, migraine attacks occur when blood vessels in the brain dilate.
For individuals who have migraine disease, consuming foods high in tyramine can be a trigger for migraine headaches. Tyramine triggers migraines by stimulating the release of neurotransmitters like norepinephrine, which can cause blood vessels in the brain to dilate and potentially trigger a migraine attack.
Foods High in Tyramine
It's important to be aware of the various foods that contain higher levels of tyramine. While the levels of tyramine in these foods can vary, it's recommended that individuals prone to migraine exercise caution when consuming the following:
- Aged and fermented cheeses: Blue cheese, cheddar, feta, gorgonzola, and Swiss cheese are examples of aged cheeses that can have higher levels of tyramine.
- Cured and processed meats: Certain cured or processed meats like bacon, pepperoni, salami, and hot dogs have higher levels of tyramine.
- Fermented and pickled foods: Sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, and some soy products like soy sauce and miso contain tyramine.
- Certain fruits and vegetables: Bananas, raspberries, avocados, onions, and tomatoes are among the fruits and vegetables that may contain tyramine. Additionally, citrus fruits like pineapple, orange, lemon, lime, and tangerines contain tyramine.
- Alcoholic beverages: Some alcoholic drinks like red wine, beer (especially craft beer), and certain types of vermouth have higher levels of tyramine.
Managing Tyramine Intake
While it may not be necessary for everyone with migraine to completely eliminate tyramine-rich foods, being aware and cutting down on the level of intake can potentially reduce migraine frequency. In order to understand your level of sensitivity between tyramine and migraine, it could be beneficial to try an elimination diet by removing these items for your diet for a time period that mirrors your typical migraine cycle. If you see a decline in migraine frequency, you can begin adding one item back at a time to see if that food is a more potent trigger for you. Here are ways to help in this process:
- Keep a food diary: Maintain a record of your diet and any associated migraine attacks to identify patterns and potential triggers.
- Moderation is an option: Instead of completely eliminating tyramine-rich foods, consider consuming them in moderation and monitoring your body's response.
- Fresh is best: Opt for fresh foods whenever possible, as tyramine levels tend to increase as foods age or ferment.
- Be cautious with leftovers: Leftover or aged foods can have higher levels of tyramine, so it's advisable to consume them within a reasonable time frame.
Understanding tyramine and its potential impact on migraines is an essential step in managing this condition. By being aware of the foods that contain higher levels of tyramine, individuals prone to migraines can make informed choices to minimize their risk of triggering an attack. Remember, everyone's sensitivity to tyramine can vary, so it's important to pay attention to your own body's responses. By incorporating these strategies and seeking guidance from healthcare professionals, individuals can take control of their migraines and improve their overall well-being.