Tyramine: Avoid These Foods and Drinks If You Suffer From Migraines
One of the leading triggers of migraines is a substance that’s naturally found in certain foods. It’s called tyramine. And if you experience crippling migraine headaches, it’s important to learn which foods have them.
A shocking number of people suffer from migraines. In the U.S. alone, over 36 million people get migraines. That’s more people than those with diabetes and asthma combined, according to the American Migraine Foundation.
Migraines seem to affect women more than men. In fact, statistics from The Migraine Institute reveal that 43% of women and 18% of men will experience a migraine at some point in their life.
There are several migraine triggers, especially chronic mental or physical stress. When it comes to nutritional migraine triggers, there are some well-known foods to avoid such as:
- Yeasty baked goods (bread, bagels, etc.)
But there’s also one food trigger for migraines that you might not know about.
Tyramine: The Amino Acid That Triggers Migraines
Who doesn’t like free food at a party with a spread that includes cheese and deli meats, washed down with a refreshing ice-cold beer.But there’s no such thing as a free lunch.
Consuming these typical party hors d'oeuvres and libations can come at a steep cost if you suffer from migraines.
That’s because several types of cheese, meats and drinks contain the amino acid, tyramine.
Tyramine is a migraine trigger.
Consuming lots of tyramine, which is a by-product of the breakdown of tyrosine, another amino acid, can spike your blood pressure.
The opposite of a blood-vessel-relaxing vasodilator, tyramine causes blood vessels to constrict.
And for those 36 million Americans with migraines, when the constriction reaches a certain level, that severe throbbing, pulsing sensation can manifest for several hours if not a few days.
To make matters worse, tyramine can exacerbate feelings of nausea and light sensitivity that often accompany migraine headaches.
Now, it’s not necessarily tyramine itself that triggers migraines. What’s really going on inside the body, then?
When we consume tyramine-rich foods, an enzyme called monoamine oxidase (MAO) breaks down tyramine into a harmless substance.
The problem for migraine sufferers is that they don’t have enough of this enzyme to break down tyramine.
And that’s when it’s time to draw the curtains and curl up into a ball in bed.
Foods And Drinks Loaded With Tyramine
But learning which foods are high in tyramine may help reduce the number of migraines or the severity of them.
For starters, eating a plant-based diet eliminates two main categories of foods that are rich in tyramine:
Now, just like anything in life, not all dairy and meat are created equal.
The particular type of dairy that’s high in tyramine are typically aged cheeses such as cheddar. As for meats, the main migraine triggers are cured like salami or deli meats.
For optimal health, let alone to prevent migraines, you shouldn’t be eating cured meats and conventional, factory-farmed dairy products anyway.
But there are some foods that are a health paradox for migraine sufferers…
Healthy Foods High in Tyramine
There are certain fruits that may trigger migraines because of tyramine. The ones that seem to be most problematic are citrus: oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, lemons and lime. According to WebMD, pineapple—not a citrus fruit—is also relatively high in tyramine.
Another example of a healthy type of food gone bad for the migraine sufferer are fermented foods.
Fermented foods such as sauerkraut and anything fermented made with soybeans (tofu, tempeh) may help populate the gut with good bacteria. But the downside is that they are high in tyramine.
If you experience migraines frequently, it may be best to take a probiotic supplement, instead of relying on fermented foods to improve your gut microbiome.
Another type of food many regard as healthy but can trigger migraines are legumes (beans and lentils.) WebMD says that fava and broad beans are the worst offenders.
Which Drinks Trigger Migraines?
You may think that nightly glass of red wine is fine. But the in vino veritas is that drinking red wine can trigger migraines because of tyramine. Especially if you top off your glass with another full pour.
And if you think beer is safer, think again. Pretty much all tap beers are potential ticking time bombs for migraines.
But the good news is that if you must have your nightly adult libation, a few spirits are low in tyramine: vodka, gin and rum. (Just don’t mix all three; that’s never a good idea regardless if you get migraines.)
Examples of low-tyramine drinks include decaffeinated coffee and tea. Many people don’t realize that iced tea, though refreshing as it is on a hot summer’s day, contains caffeine and can therefore trigger migraines.
If you want to geek out on the physiology behind tyramine and why this amino acid derivative can trigger migraines, check out this research article on ScienceDirect.com.
Here’s one interesting tidbit…
In 1909, two researchers studying tyramine showed that its effects were similar to that of adrenaline.
If you are already stressed out or have high blood pressure, eating and drinking things high in tyramine is like pouring fuel on the fire.
Avoiding foods and drinks that are high in tyramine may not eliminate migraine attacks 100%.
But doing so may reduce the frequency or severity.
Do you suffer from migraines? What do you do to limit attacks? Leave a comment below and get the conversation started.