coaching busy moms through postpartum and beyond

Suffer from Migraines? Avoid These Four Foods

My mom and my little sister have both been chronic migraine sufferers for the past four years. These migraines can be completely debilitating: think blurred vision, light sensitivity, nausea, etc. Both family members have tried nearly every conventional treatment out there, from Botox treatment to being accepted into a clinical trial done through the Mayo clinic where, unfortunately, the treatments worked for most migraine sufferers, but not for my little sister.

If you’ve ever watched a family member go through something like this, you might know how easy it is to feel completely helpless. For the past few years, that’s exactly how I’ve felt. I have no medical training, I don’t suffer from any type of headache myself, and I don’t even live close enough to them to offer assistance when they are in the middle of a migraine. But through my training as a Culinary Nutrition Expert through The Academy of Culinary Nutrition, I’ve learned that our lifestyle choices (diet, exercise, how we handle stress, our jobs, etc.) should be the first thing we examine when trying to heal our bodies.

Through the course of the program, I focused my research on foods so damaging to our brains that they can actually trigger migraines. Now, migraine food triggers vary from person to person, and some triggers can be non-food related (stress, smells, etc.). However, the following four foods are consistently proven through my research to be major migraine triggers.

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

MSG, which is a popular flavor enhancer, is harming to our body in so many ways it’s scary. One of the major affects it has on people is as a migraine trigger. Unfortunately, MSG is in nearly every processed food or restaurant food that is out there. One of the surest ways to avoid it is to process all or most of your own foods and to read labels carefully. MSG goes by many different names: yeast extract, whey protein, soy protein, etc. For a complete list of “hidden names” and for more information, read more here.


I know, I know: this one will be especially disappointing to those of you who still eat dairy. Cheese is, in fact, delicious! But dairy products in general are a commonly reported migraine trigger, and cheese is especially harmful. Cheese contains biogenic amines, which are known for maintaining neurotransmitters in the nervous system, but when they are condensed in such large amounts as they are in cheese, they can cause brain deviations that trigger the pain of a migraine.

Cured and Processed Meats

Say goodbye to that classic ham sandwich you always have for lunch! Processed meats like cold cuts, bacon, sausage, etc. often contain preservatives called nitrites which triggered migraines in multiple studies. The government has recently limited the number of nitrites allowed in food, but it’s still best to check labels or avoid processed meats entirely.


Confusing, right? Most people seem to think caffeine will help a headache. But caffeine does more harm than good; scientists believe that caffeine releases stimulating neurotransmitters inside the brain while at the same time blocking any inhibitors of those neurotransmitters. So, say goodbye to chocolate, coffee, tea, caffeinated sodas, and energy drinks. Chocolate alone was shown to trigger a migraine in 20% of patients in one study!

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