Such a headache! Must have been something I ate!
November 17, 2007 7:05 PM   Subscribe

RE: food-induced migraine triggers. Certain foods trigger, others don't. Common denominator is caffeine.

These don't cause migraines: bottled white tea beverages, decaf coffee (which is suppose to contain a small amount of caffeine), white chocolate, Excedrin Migraine and Country Time Lemonade. Urban Legend says the lemonade contains caffeine.

These cause migraines: caffeinated beverage (colas, Mountain Dew), coffee, tea, and milk/dark chocolate.

Any ideas on why certain foods trigger and others do not? Thank you, MetaHive!
posted by D Dear to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Because the caffeine in the decaf and Excedrin (and in the lemonade, if it does contain caffeine) isn't enough to trigger a headache.
posted by Airhen at 7:32 PM on November 17, 2007

Interesting, especially since Excedrin Migraine has plenty of caffeine. It has 65mg of caffeine per tablet, which means a two-pill dose has more caffeine than an 8oz cup of coffee, which has about 107mg.
posted by cerebus19 at 7:35 PM on November 17, 2007

There is quite a bit of caffeine in Excedrin, 65 mg per tablet, and I'm guessing you take two of them--that's 130 mg. That's more that Mountain Dew (55 mg).
posted by 6:1 at 7:40 PM on November 17, 2007

Incidentally, Country Time Lemonade does not contain caffeine. It's not listed in the ingredients, nor is anything that contains caffeine naturally. The makers would be in direct violation of the law if it did have it but didn't declare it, and they must have lawyers who make sure they don't do anything that stupid.
posted by cerebus19 at 7:40 PM on November 17, 2007

As a migraine-sufferer myself, I think your trigger is tannins, and has nothing to do with caffeine at all.
posted by cerebus19 at 7:44 PM on November 17, 2007

I had quite serious migraines as a teenager- 4 or 5 a week. My super expensive drugs had as active ingredients: acteominophan and, caffeine. Now, when I get migraine (which is pretty rare) I have some coke and tylenol. And I know that it is not a caffeine withdrawal headache because I usually still have/have had my regular cafffeine for the day (maybe 1 or 2 cups of coffee.)
posted by typewriter at 7:49 PM on November 17, 2007

Maybe aside from the Excedrin, the items that don't trigger migraines have less caffeine that the ones that do, and it's the medicine in the Excedrin that stops it from falling into the triggering groupp?
posted by daisyace at 7:53 PM on November 17, 2007

The items in your first list* don't contain much, if any, caffeine.

The items in your second list have significant amounts of caffeine and often contain lots of sugar. The sugar-caffeine combo is a known migraine trigger.

*Except for the Excedrin Migraine, which in addition to 130mg of caffeine is also delivering one thousand milligrams of pain relief in the form of acetaminophen and aspirin, and has no sugar in it.
posted by cocoagirl at 7:53 PM on November 17, 2007

Yeah, uh, what is the confusion here? The stuff with caffeine in it gives you migraines, the stuff without caffeine doesn't. The Excedrin contains a lot of painkillers.

Is it just that you don't want to face the idea of cutting out caffeine?
posted by Justinian at 8:16 PM on November 17, 2007

Also, although there are some common migraine triggers (caffeine, chocolate, msg), every person is different, and certain things that are triggers for one person may have absolutely no effect on another. For me, for example, aspartame is a huge trigger.

If you haven't read it yet, i highly recommend reading Head Your Headache by David Buchholz. His full program can be a little hard to take (it involves eating almost nothing for months in order to figure out what your individual triggers are), but there is a lot of really good info and explanation in there as well.
posted by cgg at 8:39 PM on November 17, 2007

Caffeine, as I understand it, can be both/either a migraine trigger and a migraine cure (hence its presence in Excedrin).

Some other common trigger foods you didn't list in either list are aged cheeses and red wine. Though from what I've read, pretty much any food has been a migraine trigger for someone. They're very idiosyncratic.
posted by hattifattener at 11:09 PM on November 17, 2007

As I understand it, caffeine can make painkillers more effective. This is why it's in migraine medicine even though it's a migraine trigger. (And in a pinch if I don't have migraine medicine, regular Tylenol with a shot of cola will work just as well--but if it's a whole glass of cola, it'll just make it worse.)
posted by Jeanne at 4:23 AM on November 18, 2007

I actually had a doctor once recommend to me that I hammer down my migraine medication (midrin, at the time, so this was about fifteen years ago) with a can of Coke, because the caffeine would help jump-start the pain relief process even though it's a trigger.

Of course, it didn't work, but that's only because Midrin is shit for treating migraines, and we've come a long way since then. I would totally bottom for whoever invented Relpax, it's been that much of a godsend to me.

Second the suggestion above that tannins may be the problem. You'll want to be very careful with wine, particularly red wine and fortified wines like port. I've discovered how to drink reds without puking my goddamn guts up and writhing in pain, but if I even eat food that has a sauce made with port (like about 60% of duck recipes in restaurants, and I love duck), I'll be seeing auras about fifteen minutes after I clean my plate.
posted by middleclasstool at 10:00 AM on November 18, 2007

I came here to mention aspartame, but I realized cgg already mentioned it. It seems to me that all the foods you mentioned that trigger your migraines contain aspartame, so it could possibly be the aspartame and not the caffeine.
posted by micayetoca at 3:45 PM on November 18, 2007

i get migraines triggered from aspartame, and from oranges (and varieties thereof, but not other citrus fruit). most beers give me migraines as well (stella is migraine juice as far as im concerned).

im alright with caffeine though.

i nailed things down by keeping a very detailed food diary, which helps identify the things that you ate before a migraine attack. then going through the ingredients.
posted by dnc at 4:08 AM on November 19, 2007

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