Let's Talk About Pain Blog

Tyraine: Chronic Migraine Enemy #1?

Anyone that has had a migraine knows how horrible they are. They can be completely incapacitating. While much research has been done on the cause and pathology of migraines, there is still a lot to be learned.

Meanwhile, those of us treating migraines take a two fold approach: prevention and treatment. Today I want to focus on prevention. Specifically, can we prevent migraines by avoiding certain foods.

Maybe.

If you are a migraine sufferer, you’ve probably been told to keep a food diary so that you can identify possible triggers. You’ve probably heard that certain foods, such as chocolate, cheese, and bananas may cause migraines.

These foods seem like such a random combination. What could they possibly have in common?

What they have in common is a substance called tyramine.

Tyramine is the result of the breakdown of an amino acid called tyrosine. This amino acid is important because it helps build neurotransmitters. A neurotransmitter is a brain chemical that functions as a messenger between nerve endings. Problems with neurotransmitters will affect certain biological and mood functions.

Studies indicate that too much tyramine can adversely affect neurotransmitters. Some research has identified a connection between too much tyramine and migraines.

So it is possible that foods high in tyramine may spark migraines.

Tyramine is naturally present in many foods. Levels of tyramine in food tend to increase in aged, cured or fermented food. Foods with high levels of tyramine include: aged cheese, cured meats, fermented cabbage, soy sauce, fish sauce, chocolate, miso soup, bananas, avocados, figs, red plums, and broad bean pods, such as fava beans.

It is important to note that tyramine won’t affect everyone in the same way. Before you give up every food high in tyramine, keep a food diary so you can pinpoint potential triggers. If it turns out that you do have some food triggers, some simple dietary changes may help alleviate some of your chronic migraine pain.

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