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tyramine and migraines

Is Tyramine Causing Your Headaches? What It Is and How to Avoid It

A migraine trigger could be hiding in some of your favorite foods

Migraine triggers can vary widely between individuals. And in some people, particular foods and drinks can trigger a migraine. Tyramine, a naturally produced compound found in protein-containing foods, is one of these potential triggers.1,2

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What is Tyramine?

Tyramine is not a food additive. This compound is organically produced when the amino acid tyrosine breaks down, which can happen when foods are preserved, fermented, or aged for a long time. Examples of foods that contain tyramine include:

  • Aged cheese such as blue, brick, and cheddar
  • Aged, dried, fermented, smoked, or pickled meats or fish
  • Broad beans such as fava beans and snow peas
  • Fermented cabbage or sauerkraut
  • Fermented soy products such as miso, soy sauce, or teriyaki sauce
  • Nuts
  • Wine
  • Improperly stored or spoiled foods

Normally, your digestive system breaks down tyramine, stopping excessive amounts of it from building up in the circulation. But higher-than-normal tyramine levels may cause the wrong signals to be sent within the body.3 For example, within the sympathetic nervous system, tyramine is thought to stimulate the release of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, and may also cause certain receptors to be activated, which in turn could induce head pain. Although scientists continue to explore exactly how tyramine may trigger migraines, one explanation may lie in unusual levels of such neurotransmitters.

Is Tyramine a Trigger For You?

Keeping a migraine diary can help you and your doctor find out if your migraines are related to tyramine or another trigger. This diary should include when your migraine occurs, how severe your migraine pain is, what you’ve had to eat or drink, and if you’ve been exposed to other potential triggers.

You may need to record this information for several months, as food triggers may not always be consistent, and some migraines may happen as late as 24 hours after you eat the specific food. But knowing whether certain foods affect your migraines can help you manage your migraines better.

Tyramine in Your Diet

Although there’s no consensus on the role that foods play in triggering migraines, some sufferers find that eliminating selected foods from their diet reduces the number of migraines that they experience.

Learn more by checking out this low-tyramine diet suggested by the National Headache Foundation. You can also make some simple changes to your everyday eating habits that could help reduce migraines for some. For example, swap aged cheese for fresh varieties, choose raw vegetables over pickles, and use fresh herbs instead of soy-based condiments for seasoning.

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