Expert Author Duncan Smith

No one knows for certain exactly what causes migraines. Currently it is thought a series of small irritations or events build up until the dam bursts and a migraine headache is triggered. What causes migraines, or triggers them, varies from individual to individual. What affects one person won't have the slightest affect on others. Migraine triggers are very personal. The experience of many who suffer from these headaches is that a particular food or mix of foods will tip them over the edge into a headache.

The problem with food triggers is that science can find no common basis for them. There is no conclusive evidence linking certain foods with the onset of headaches, almost all the data is anecdotal and there is a lot of that, no matter what the scientists say.

Whilst almost any food can be a trigger there are some foods that are to be more common as a cause than others, some of which are listed below:


Many who suffer from migraines find cheese to be a common trigger. More prone to starting an attack are hard or specifically aged cheeses. Soft cheeses like cream and new cheeses do not appear to pose as much of a problem.

Processed Meats

One of the major triggers is believed to be nitrates. The most prevalent source of nitrates for many people is processed meat such as hot dogs, bacon, sausages, lunch meats and the like.


Many have found salad dressings to be a fairly common trigger for them. There is no known reason for this although it may be related to a combination of several other triggers gelling in one place.

Spices and Additives

Any spices or items with a pungent smell can be a trigger. With many of these it may not be so much the pungent odor of the spice or item of food in question that is the problem but perhaps may be more about the sensitivity of the person smelling the odor. The most problematic seasonings or spices for those susceptible to migraines include monosodium glutamate, commonly known as MSG, artificial sweeteners, vinegars and food dyes.



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