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Nutrition and Headaches: How One Impacts the Other

It is no secret good nutrition affects your health. People are often surprised to realize just how much the food they eat affects how they feel on a daily basis. If you are curious how nutrition affects your energy level, your ability to concentrate, how you sleep, and your overall sense of well-being consider eating only healthy, whole foods for a few days. You might be stunned by the difference in how you feel.

One of the most common ways in which foods affect health relates to headaches. There are certain foods that can immediately trigger headaches, some of which are quite intense, for certain people. Likewise, there are nutritional deficiencies that can also lead to headache pain.

Common Headache Inducing Foods

Research shows reduced consumption of simple carbohydrates, such as sugary foods and pasta can have a positive effect on headaches. In addition to caffeine, you should also avoid: 

  • Meats that contain nitrates, including hot dogs, lunch meat, bacon
  • Alcohol, especially red wine
  • Foods containing glutamate, including MSG, natural flavorings, whey protein, caseinate, and hydrolyzed proteins

Ideally, you should eliminate all of these foods from your diet and add each one back individually until you identify what triggers your headaches. None of these foods is essential for a healthy diet, so you might choose to not return to eating them once you stop.

Foods containing the amino acids tyramine and phenylethylamine might also trigger headaches. Many of these foods are relatively unhealthy, including foods that are pickled, aged, smoked, fermented, or marinated, most pork products, most cheeses, fermented foods, and soy products. However, there are also a few fruits and vegetables with these amino acids such as red plums and raspberries. But eliminating healthier foods should not be your first concern when it comes to headaches. If problems continue once you eliminate the less healthy headache triggers, a food allergy test can help you identify the cause.

What You Don't Eat Can Also Affect You

Research has shown increased consumption of foods rich in fiber, especially those high in folate (vitamin B9), thiamine (vitamin B1), and vitamin C may have a positive effect on headaches, including those that are intense and very painful. Researchers believe it is the high levels of magnesium in these foods that prevent headaches.

To protect against headaches and avoid headaches caused by nutrient deficiencies, consume plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains (complex carbohydrates), and lean protein. Also drink a sufficient amount of water each day. For most this is about 64 ounces, but if you suspect dehydration might be causing headaches, add a few extra glasses.

If you want to learn more about how nutrition can affect your health, we can help. Contact Primo Health Solutions for more information.