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Diet for Headache Patients

This list of foods may provoke headaches in some people. This list should be used in collaboration with your Headache Diary. If you consistently get a headache after eating any of the foods listed, it would be wise to avoid those particular foods fo a period of 2-4 weeks. Then slowly begin reintroducing the food(s)one at a time to see if they have an affect of causing a headache for you.

Headaches may also be triggered by chronobiologic factors (sleep schedules), hormonal changes, environmental factors, head or neck pain (of another cause), physical exertion, stress and anxiety and trauma to the head. Dietary factors such as alcohol and tyramine containing foods are also known triggers. Tyramine is an essential amino acid made in the body. It is a protien found in foods, which is chemically broken down and used by various cells in the body. Tyramine cannot be found on food labels, but it's sister chemical phenylalanine can and should be avoided.

Food Groups   Foods Allowed  Foods to Watch/Caution
  • Decaffeinated coffee and colas
  • Caffeine sources should be limited to 2 cups a day including coffee, tea, colas
  • Fruit juices, club soda
  • Wine (especially red)
  • Beer
  • Vermouth
  • Champagne
  • Non-alcoholic fermented beverages
  • Whole
  • 2%
  • Skim
  • Chocolate
  • Buttermilk
Dairy Products
  • Cottage cheese
  • Velveeta, American or synthetic cheese
  • Yogurt in 1/2 cup preparations or less






  •  Ice Cream
  • Aged or processed cheeses including cheddar, swiss, mozzarella, parmesan, romano, brick, brie, camembert, gouda, gruyere, emmantaler, stilton, provolone, roquefort, blue
  • food containing cheese such as pizza, macaroni and cheese, yogurt and sour cream
Meats, Poultry, Fish
  • Freshly prepared meats, fish, poultry
  • Eggs
  • Tuna fish
  •  Aged, dried, salted, smoked, cured or processed meats and those containing nitrates
  • Pickled, dried or smoked herring
  • Chicken livers
  • Sausage, bacon, salami, pepperoni, bologna, hot dogs, pates, liverwurst, and marinated meats
  • Any meat prepared with tenderizers

Asparagus, string beans, beets, carrots, spinach, pumpkin, tomatoes, squash, zucchini, broccoli, potatoes, onions cooked in foods, Chinese pea pods, navy beans, soy beans

Raw onions, fava or broad beans, lima beans, pea pods, snow peas, pickles, olives, sauerkraut


Apples, applesauce, cherries, apricots, peaches

Limit to 1/2 cup per day: oranges, grapefruit, tangerine, pineapple, lemon, lime, avocados, bananas, figs, raisins, dried fruits, papaya, passion fruit, plums

Breads, Cereals
  • Commercially prepared yeast products leavened with baking powder such as biscuits, pancakes, coffee cakes, etc.
  • All cooked and dry cereals
  • All pasta
  • Homemade yeast breads
  • Fresh coffee cake
  • Donuts
  • Yeast and yeast extracts
  • Sourdough breads
  • Breads or crackers containing cheese, chocolate and nuts

Flavor Enhancers / Food Preservatives

  •  Foods containing MSG, nitrates, nitrites, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, Chinese foods,
  • Instant foods such as canned soup, TV dinners
  • Processed meats
  • Potato chips
  • Self-basting turkeys
  • Many boxed food items
Nuts and Seeds  
  • All nuts, peanuts, peanut butter, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds


The St. John Providence Health System Chronic Headache and Migraine Institute is open Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m to 5:00 p.m. To schedule an appointment, please call (248) 967-7988.


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