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Health: Food That Triggers Pain

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By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Everyone gets headaches, but did you know they could be caused by something you ate? 3 On Your Side Health Reporter Stephanie Stahl finds out if one of your favorites is on the list.

Raspberries, nuts, avocados, and bananas, super healthy, right? But they could be headache triggers. Even things like olives and onions can cause debilitating pain.

“I would be in the bed incapacitated ya know couldn’t do anything,” said Ellen Jasinski, who suffered with severe migraine headaches.

“I would have to take off two days of work,” said Ellen

You’ve heard the warnings about stuff like coffee, wine, and MSG in things like soy sauce, but now some research indicates certain healthy foods can also give you a headache.

“Much more common than most people realize,” said Dr. David Buchholz a Neurology Professor at Johns Hopkins University. He wrote a book called Heal your Headache. He says food that contains a naturally occurring chemical called tyramine appears to stimulate parts of the brain that cause headaches.

“Tyramine is a chemical that’s a common thread among many of the dietary items that trigger headaches,” said Dr. Buchholz.

Foods that contain high levels of tyramine include aged cheese, like brie or cheddar, aged meats, like pepperoni and salami, and pickled products.

“It’s never been well studied in a scientific way, but that doesn’t diminish the reality,” said Dr. Buchholz.

A doctor with the National Headache Foundation says up to 40 percent of headache sufferers could find relief by limiting tyramine.

The best evidence for Dr. Buchholz comes from patients like Ellen who change their diets and eliminate tyramine and then have less pain.

“I saw a big effect. It cut the number of headaches in half, and it cut the severity in half,” said Ellen

Dr. Stephen Silberstein, with Jefferson’s Headache Center, says other research shows a different kind of food connection, that migraines actually are already starting and trigger food cravings.

“If somebody has the desire to eat chocolate and hours later they get a migraine headache they’ll blame the migraine on the chocolate, but it was really the migraine that gave them the desire to eat chocolate,” said Dr. Silberstein.

When food does trigger a headache, the time frame can be anywhere between a few to 48 hours.

RELATED LINK:

Jefferson Headache Center- http://www.jefferson.edu/jmc/departments/neurology/programs/headache.html

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