The Link Between Chronic Headaches and Diet

The Link Between Chronic Headaches and Diet

While many factors contribute to chronic headaches, your diet can play a significant role. Certain substances in common foods and beverages can trigger headaches in some people, and regularly eating a trigger food contributes to ongoing headaches.

If you’re dealing with chronic headaches, you need a doctor you can count on to get to the bottom of your head pain and find a solution that brings relief. Dr. Samuel I. Fink continually strives to provide the best internal medicine to women and men in and around Tarzana, California. 

For those dealing with chronic headaches, Dr. Fink can help diagnose the type of headaches you’re having and recommend options to treat them. This includes exploring potential triggers, such as your diet. 

In this blog post, we explore the link between chronic headaches and diet and provide tips on how you can modify your diet to reduce the frequency and severity of your headaches. Here are some of the top dietary triggers of chronic headaches.

Food additives and preservatives

Many processed foods contain high levels of sodium, nitrates, and other additives that commonly trigger headaches in sensitive individuals. These additives are often found in convenience foods like frozen dinners, canned soups, and fast food. 

If you suspect that your headaches are triggered by processed foods and additives, try cutting them out of your diet for a few weeks to see if your symptoms improve.


Caffeine is another common dietary trigger for headaches. While caffeine can provide a temporary energy boost and improve focus, it can also cause headaches in some people. If you consume caffeine regularly and suffer from frequent headaches, try reducing your caffeine intake or eliminating it entirely.


Alcohol is a well known trigger for headaches, especially migraines. Red wine, in particular, contains high levels of histamines and sulfites, which can cause headaches in people who are sensitive to these chemicals.

Food sensitivities

Food sensitivities are another common dietary trigger for headaches. While food allergies are typically associated with more severe symptoms, food sensitivity can cause a range of symptoms, including headaches. 

Common food sensitivities include gluten, dairy, and soy. If you suspect that you may have a food sensitivity, consider getting tested or trying an elimination diet to identify the offending food.


It may surprise you to know that sometimes it’s not what you’re eating and drinking that may be triggering your headaches, but what you aren’t drinking. Failing to drink enough water and regularly allowing yourself to become dehydrated can cause your brain to shrink slightly, which can pull on the meninges (the protective layers that surround your brain), causing headaches. 

To prevent dehydration, drink plenty of water throughout the day — and avoid consuming too much caffeine and alcohol, which can dehydrate you.

Tyramine sensitivity

Tyramine is an amino acid that’s naturally found in many foods, including aged cheese, cured meats, and fermented foods. For some individuals, tyramine can trigger headaches, particularly migraines. Common foods that are high in tyramine include:

Dr. Fink may recommend trying an elimination diet to determine if your headache symptoms get better.

Salicylate sensitivity

Salicylates are natural compounds found in many foods, including fruits, vegetables, and spices. These compounds are strongly linked to triggering migraines. Foods rich in salicylates include:

Avoiding dietary triggers is often part of managing chronic headaches. Dr. Fink can help you determine which foods contribute to your headaches so you can adjust your eating habits accordingly. 

Expert headache management

If head pain is interfering with your life, it’s time for a comprehensive evaluation to get you on the path to improvement. Give us a call or request an appointment through our website to schedule a visit with internal medicine specialist Samuel I. Fink, MD, today.

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