If you’ve ever suffered from a splitting headache or a migraine, you know how debilitating they can be. While there are many factors that can trigger these painful episodes, tannins and tyramine-containing foods have been known to play a significant role. Read below to learn what these substances are, how they can contribute to headaches and migraines, and what you can do to reduce your risk and take a first step to see if this lies at the root of your pain.
Tannins are naturally occurring compounds found in many plants and beverages, including tea, coffee, wine, and certain fruits. They’re responsible for the astringent flavor you might taste when drinking a robust red wine or black tea. While tannins are generally considered safe, some people have sensitivities which can lead to headaches in some people, particularly if consumed in large amounts. This is because they can cause blood vessels to constrict, which leads to reduced blood flow and oxygen to the brain, contributing to headaches or worse, migraines.
In addition to tea and coffee, tannins are also found in certain fruits like apples, apricots, and grapes. While these fruits are typically considered healthy and safe for consumption, they can also trigger headaches or migraines in some people, particularly if they’re consumed in large amounts.
Tyramine is another substance that can trigger headaches and migraines. Tyramine is a naturally occurring compound found in certain foods. It’s formed from the breakdown of the amino acid tyrosine, which is found in protein-rich foods. When consumed, tyramine triggers the release of a neurotransmitter called norepinephrine, which can cause blood vessels to constrict. This constriction reduces blood flow and oxygen to the brain, leading to headaches and migraines in some people.
Foods that are high in tyramine include aged cheeses, such as cheddar, blue cheese, and parmesan, as well as processed meats like pepperoni, salami, and hot dogs. Fermented foods, such as kimchi, sauerkraut, and soy sauce, are also high in tyramine. Certain fruits and vegetables, including avocados, bananas, and eggplants, contain varying levels of tyramine, too. Leftovers are another big source of tyramine. This end-point amino acid builds up more and more over time, so one thing to consider is how fresh your food is. Leftovers eaten more than 24-48 hours may trigger symptoms in sensitive folks.
If you do think that tyramine could be contributing to your headaches or migraines, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk. One option is to limit your intake of high-tyramine foods. You could also try eating fresh foods rather than aged or fermented ones, as these tend to have lower levels of tyramine.
It’s important to note that not everyone is sensitive to tannins or tyramine, and even those who are may not experience headaches or migraines every time they consume them. However, if you’re prone to headaches or migraines, it may be worth paying attention to how much tannin-containing foods and beverages you consume, and how they affect you.
So, what can you do to reduce your risk of experiencing headaches/migraines from these two compounds? Here are a few tips:
Limit your intake of tannin-containing foods and beverages: If you’re prone to headaches or migraines, try to limit your consumption of tea, coffee, and red wine.
Choose fresh over aged: Opt for fresher foods rather than aged cheeses and cured meats, which tend to contain higher levels of tyramine. Freeze leftovers you plan to eat more than a full day later.
Monitor your diet: Keep a food diary to track which foods trigger headaches or migraines, and avoid them in the future.
Stay hydrated: Dehydration can also contribute to headaches, so make sure you’re drinking plenty of water throughout the day.
Consult a healthcare professional: If you suffer from chronic headaches or migraines, it’s important to consult with your healthcare provider. They can help you identify triggers and develop a treatment plan.
Other tips to consider when trying to lessen headache frequency:
- Control stress and avoid extra obligations.
- Avoid smoking and alcohol consumption.
- Avoid use of toxic cleaning chemicals and recreational drugs.
- Practice good sleep habits and get between 8-9 hours of sleep a night.
- Avoid tyramine-ontaining foods such as aged cheeses, brewers yeast and yeast containing
foods such as bread and soups, pickled, aged, smoked and fermented meats including
frankfurters, pepperoni, salami, bacon, bologna, and ham, chocolate, citrus fruits, red wine,
- Avoiding tannin-containing foods may be helpful such as black teas, many herb teas, apple
juice, dates, kiwi, peaches, berries, coffee, carob, alfalfa, walnuts and pecans.
- Dairy products often aggravate sinus congestion which can contribute to migraines.
- Avoid known food allergens and foods that cause sensitivities and reactions.
- Eat a diet high in omega-3 fats including fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines.
Finally, Cambiati Wellness is proud to offer some supplements that can support head health:
Note: *In cases of premenstrual migraines, check hormone levels. Progesterone levels may need to be increased by direct supplementation or indirectly by giving Pregnenolone and/or DHEA.