What U eat & drink can trigger the pain – especially during seasonal stress.

       At least 40 million Americans suffer chronic, recurrent headaches & spend $40 billion a year on medications. Migraine sufferers’ alone account for 65 million workdays lost each year. 1 of the most common kinds of headaches is the tension headache, which accounts for about 90% of all headaches. Tension headaches involve, continued contraction of head & neck muscles. Another common variety R vascular headaches, which involve changes in the pressure of blood vessels serving the head.  Migraines R vascular.

3rd kind of headache can be the result of some other disease, which has nothing to do with muscle tension or vascular movement.

Believe it or not, food is 1 of the main culprits that can cause headaches. Scientist aren’t sure why this happens, and it’s not like clockwork. A specific food will not prompt a headache every time in everyone or even the same person, although it contributes to the likelihood of headaches by pushing your tolerance level over the top.

If U suffer from any types of discomfort, U should be aware that chemical irritations may be the root cause of your pain. Nerves R irritated by a host of environmental toxins, such as cigarette smoke, prescription drug use & even microscopic allergens in the air & water, (see asthma article) all of these cause a chain reaction that often leads to inflammation & migraines.

      I stumbled upon an article about a Neurologist at John Hopkins University School of Medicine named David Buchholz, he says Chemicals in foods & beverages R common headache triggers in the 1000’s of patients he has treated. What kind of headaches? All Kinds. Buchholz, makes no distinction between migraine, tension & sinus headaches, considering them all forms of migraines.

(The good news is that proper diagnosis means better treatment)

Food constituents called amine may simply strike your brain all wrong. Such amines R well recognized headache – activating agents.

Caffeine.  It’s the top dietary cause of headaches. It constricts blood vessels, which eases pain, but when it wears off, the vessels swell with a vengeance & the pain returns. So caffeine can relieve a headache but then start a vicious cycle. If you give up caffeine, you may have withdrawal headaches, lasting a few weeks, but eventually the blood vessels will calm down.

*  Monosodium Glutamate & Sodium (MSG). This flavor enhancer is a potent trigger, even in tiny amounts. & it’s everywhere, hiding under names such as “natural Flavorings”& hydrolyzed protein. “The best way to avoid MSG is to eat food made from fresh ingredients,”Buchholz advises. “Otherwise, read food labels carefully”.

*  Aspartame.  (NutraSweet).

      Chocolate Probable culprit: the chemicals Theobromine & Phenyl ethylamine in cocoa, which is the foundation of chocolate candies & baked goods. White chocolate, which doesn’t contain cocoa, does not cause headaches. It’s unclear whether the chocolate substitute carob triggers headaches.

 Processed meat & fish. If U R headache – prone, be aware of hot dogs, bacon, salami, ham, pepperoni, & other foods preserved/cured with sodium nitrites or nitrates, Check labels. Certain sea foods – smoked salmon & trout, caviar, anchovies & pickled fish, such as herring – provoke headaches because of fermentation or chemicals.

 Strong cheeses. Aged hard cheeses – blue cheese (Stilton, Maytag, Roquefort, Gorgonzola), old Cheddar, Gruyere – R highest in tyramine, (tyramine is am amino acid that causes the body to release hormones that cause blood vessels to constrict at some point the blood vessels rebound & dilate setting off the familiar throb.) a headache inducing chemical. Some people also react to yogurt, sour cream & buttermilk. Safe: cottage cheese, ricotta, cream cheese & processed American cheese.

 Nuts. Virtually all nuts – Pistachios, Walnuts, Cashews, Brazil nuts, Pecans & Almonds – as well as Peanuts (technically a legume) & Coconut contain high concentrations of the headache culprit tyramine. That also means Nut butters, including Peanut butter. Seeds, such as Pumpkin & Sunflower seeds, R not a problem.

 Alcohol. Red wine (contains phenols, natural chemicals that R inactivated by enzymes during digestion, if U have a faulty enzymes & the phenols R not properly inactivated, thus the migraines), cognac, brandy & other dark liqueurs, spirits & sparkling wine, including champagne, R most likely to trigger headaches. 1 reason is that they contain more “congeners” & including tyramine. Chemicals that give the beverages their distinctive color, flavor & aroma as well as inspire headaches. White wine is safer for those prone to headaches. Although some wines contain sulfites which can induce headaches. Vodka, which has the lowest concentrations of congeners, & is likely to cause hangover symptoms. That doesn’t mean you can get away with swilling vodkas with no expectation of consequences. Drink enough alcohol &, of course, U can get a headache. Suspect: balsamic vinegar, because of fermentation.

  Certain Fruits. Citrus fruits (which contains octopamine) & juices, bananas, raspberries, red plums, papayas, passion fruit, avocados, & raisins R potential troublemakers. Also: other dried fruits, if they R preserved with sulfites, which is noted on labels.

 Certain Vegetables. Whole onions (especially when raw), sauerkraut, pea pods, lentils, lima/navy beans.

 Fresh yeast – risen goods. That includes freshly made doughnuts, bagels, bread (especially sourdough), soft pretzels & coffeecakes. Solution: let them sit a day, or buy a day – old products. Packaged commercial breads in supermarkets pose less of a threat. Beware of croutons & breadcrumbs that R seasoned with MSG.


Research also indicates chronic snoring may be the cause of Ur pounding head pain maybe due to the lack of O2.


If U have sinus trouble that may trigger a headache see Asthma article.

 Discovering your own headache triggers will take trial & error. Clouding the picture: A food – induced headache might appear immediately or take a day or 2 to show up.


Get a massage If you have been battling a tension headache all day, or if U feel 1 coming on, there’s nothing like a good neck rub or body massage to release it all. The power of human touch has already been shown to be so beneficial for so many other reasons. It is a very powerful weapon against tension headaches. What to do is get someone to rub your shoulders & the back of your neck, when he/she finds a knot or a sore spot ask them to rub their thumbs in a circular motion for a min. or so.


Get Adjusted Great information on chiropractic adjustments Subluxation is a major culprit in headaches and spinal misalignment. Get an X-ray.  


Acupressure. Certain acupressure points can relieve tension headaches as well as neck pain, explains Michael Reed, Ph.D., director of the acupressure Institute in Berkeley, California. Dr. Gach says to use the thumbs of both hands to press 2 points, which R situated 2 inches out from either side of the middle of your neck, underneath the base of the skull. He suggests sitting in a chair & bending over, with your elbows propped on a table or desk, to make holding points most comfortable. Breathe deeply & press firmly for 1 to 2 minutes.

Heating. Common sense tells u that if U have tight, constricted muscles anywhere in your body, a source of warmth & heat will help loosen & comfort those muscles. Applying a heating pad to the neck, or sitting in a hot – tub with some aroma and your eyes closed will loosen U up all over, & may quickly chase a headache away.

How to kick Caffeine without Headaches.

      To keep your body from expressing its displeasure at suddenly being deprived of caffeine, cut down gradually. Here is advice from experts at Trufts University: Try cutting back by 1 cup every day until you feel comfortable. Or mix regular & decaf coffee to dilute the amount of caffeine, gradually increasing the amount of decaf over the caffeinated coffee. Of course, cut back on other sources of caffeine, such as colas, opting for “caffeine – free” soft drinks, note on labels.

Herbal remedies recommended by Earl Mindell.

Feverfew. This herb not only helps to prevent migraine headaches, but can stop a headache before it hits. If you feel a headache coming on, take a capsule & lay down.

(I have tasted the tea & I personally recommend the capsule)

Feverfew was forgotten until 1978, when British newspapers told of a woman who had cured her migraines with feverfew leaves. The article caught the attention of serious medical researchers who decided to further examine the phenomenon. In 1985, the well respected British medical journal Lancet reported that extracts of feverfew inhibited the release of 2 inflammatory substances – serotonin, from platelets & prostaglandin, from white blood cells – both throughout to contribute to the onset of migraine attacks & perhaps even to play a role in rheumatoid arthritis. The primary active ingredient in feverfew is parthenolide, which inhibits the release of chemicals in the body that can cause inflammation. It may take many months before migraine sufferers notice an improvement, but it is well worth the wait. It seems to work well for most people as a preventive in migraine headaches. Some herbalists suggest taking an additional dose if you feel a migraine coming on.

Caution: Feverfew can interfere with blood clotting; therefore, if you R taking any anticoagulants, you must be closely monitored by your physician if you R also taking Feverfew.

Feverfew should not be used during pregnancy or nursing mothers. Chewing the whole leaf can cause mouth ulcers.

    *White willow bark. This herb is an excellent aspirin substitute

    For centuries, a derivative of this bark, called salicum was used to break fevers, soothe headaches, & reduce pain & swelling in arthritic joints. Based on their studies of salicum, researchers derived a synthetic drug called acetyl salicylic acid, better known today as aspirin, unlike aspirin, which can cause stomach irritation; white willow bark contains tannins, which R actually good for the digestive system.


*Peppermint Tea. A cup of peppermint tea is soothing for a headache, & that nauseated feeling that may accompany it.

Peppermint is excellent for heartburn & stomachache, as well as nausea & vomiting. Migraine headaches, which R frequently accompanied by nausea, R often relieved by peppermint. This herb has a calming effect on the body & can help soothe a nagging cough.

This is an excellent substitute for regular coffee & tea. For a headache, try a strong cup of peppermint tea & lie down for 15 to 20 min. Peppermint extract has been used for centuries for colic infants & for older children. Like any other herb check with your pediatrician before giving this or any other herb to your child.


*Water. We were in a restaurant having a late dinner with a friend, and started up a conversation regarding headaches, the topic of Drinking water came up, an intriguing way to look this is because, when the body becomes dehydrated the blood becomes thicker lessening the circulation of oxygen to the brain which can contribute to headaches. 


 Notice: This site is intended as a reference Volume only not as a medical manual. The information given here is designed to help you make informed decisions about your health. It is not intended as a substitute for any treatment that may have been prescribed by your doctor. If you suspect that you may have a medical condition, please seek a competent Medical Herbalist/ Doctor.



Source of reference: USA weekend 12.2002, Proven Health Tips Encyclopedia, Earl Mindell’s Herb Bible. , Food Your Miracle Medicine.19, 20, Instead of the Pharmacist, New Foods for Healing, 4.10.03, Natural Health Aug. 2003 pg 19.