Possible Triggers and Nutrient Deficiencies Related to Migraines

Cluster headaches, tension headaches and sinus headaches are common and most people have experienced one at some time in their life. Migraines are similar to headaches but more severe and come on suddenly with strong pain usually localized on one half of the head and may even include vomiting.


The actual process in our body that causes migraines is still unknown but we have learned about potential triggers. (1) These triggers can be difficult to determine, so keeping a journal that includes: diet, physical activity, stress, sleep and medications can be helpful in determining the trigger.


Nutrient deficiencies, food allergies and sensitivities have been known to contribute to migraine headaches. This article will review commonly known triggers and deficiencies to look for. As you will see there are many triggers, some of which provide a good source of nutrition in the diet. A journal can help you determine your personal triggers.


Triggers (2)

Phenylethylamine found in chocolate, aged cheese, red wine

Tyramine found in aged cheese, brewer’s yeast, chianti, canned fish, chicken liver, bananas, eggplant, tomatoes, raspberries, plums

Histamine found in aged cheese, fermented foods, processed meats, canned fish, smoked meat, kidney beans, soybeans, citrus fruit, avocado, eggplant, olives, tomatoes, chocolate, tea, yeast, alcohol

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) found in processed food and imported processed food. Other foods may have free glutamin acid, MSG specifically is of concern.

Nitrates and Nitrites found in processed food. Usually labeled as: sodium nitrite, sodium nitrate, potassium nitrite, potassium nitrate.

Artificial colors found in artificially colored candy, soda and drinks. Usually labeled as: tartrazine, FD&C yellow no. 5 and azo dyes.

Benzoates found in processed food and bleached food. Usually labeled as: benzoic acid or sodium benzoate.


Possible deficiencies

Riboflavin also known as vitamin B2 is found in cheese, non-fat milk, eggs, almonds, salmon, chicken, beef, broccoli, spinach and whole wheat bread. (2)

Vitamin D is generated during sun exposure and can be found in cold-water fish and sunned mushrooms. (3)

Omega-3 fatty acid to Omega-6 fatty acid ratio. (4) Omega-6 is common in the diet and found in corn oil, sesame oil, sunflower seeds and soybean oil. Omega-3 is found in flax oil, canola oil, walnuts, chia seeds and firm tofu.


  1. Migraine: Overview. (2015, November 19). Retrieved July 05, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0072557/
  2. Mahan, L. K., & Raymond, J. L. (2017). Krauses food & the nutrition care process. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier.
  3. Vitamin Deficiencies May Play a Part in Migraines. (n.d.). Retrieved July 05, 2017, from http://demo.vitaminpacks.com/healthNotes.cfm?resource=%2Fassets%2Fnews-item%2Fvitamin-deficiencies-may-play-a-part-in-migraines%2F~default
  4. Mauskop, D. (n.d.). Chronic migraine relieved by increasing omega-3 and reducing omega-6 fatty acids. Retrieved July 05, 2017, from https://www.nyheadache.com/blog/chronic-migraine-relieved-by-increasing-omega-3-and-reducing-omega-6-fatty-acids/
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This information is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional or any information contained on or in any product label or packaging. Do not use the information from this article for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing medication or other treatment. Always speak with your physician or other healthcare professional before taking any medication or nutritional, herbal or homeopathic supplement, or using any treatment for a health problem. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your health care provider promptly. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking professional advice because of something you have read in this article.

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