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The Food You Eat Can Trigger Headaches & Migraines

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DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) - How do you know when a headache crosses the line from just everyday aches and pains into something more serious—like a migraine? According to Dr. Frederick Freitag at the Baylor Headache Center, there’s an easy way to tell. Just ask yourself these three simple questions:

1. Are you more sensitive to light than normal?
2. Do your headaches interfere with your activities?
3. Do your headaches make you nauseous?

If you answered yes to all three of those questions, there is a 97% chance your headaches are migraines.

A lot of people know that stress and lack of sleep can cause headaches, but what about the food you eat?

When Vicki Giallanza of Grapevine goes shopping she has to be careful. There are no oranges or grapefruit on her list. She says citrus is a trigger for her migraines. “When I drank orange juice or had a lemon in my iced tea, I noticed I had a migraine the next morning,” she said.

But citrus wasn’t the only link for Giallanza — coffee, red wine and even chocolate would leave her with debilitating pain.

Red wine and coffee are common headache triggers, but now research indicates certain healthy foods can also make your head hurt.

According to Dr. Frederick Freitag, with the Baylor Headache Center, foods containing a naturally occurring chemical called tyramine is what appears to cause the headaches. “If you are prone to migraine eating those foods can precipitate a migraine headache. If you don’t get migraine, nothing happens,” he said.

A doctor with the National Headache Foundation says up to 40-percent of headache sufferers could find relief just by limiting their intake of foods that contain tyramine.

Knowledge has been a good thing for Giallanza. Now she says she can have a slice of lemon in her tea and a bite of chocolate, because she’s being treated with medication.

Keep in mind that when you’ve eaten food that can trigger a headache, the pain can begin in just a few hours or up to two days later.

Doctors suggest keeping a log to see if there might be a connection between the food you’re eating and your headaches.

Click here to check out a list, from the National Headache Foundation, of foods containing tyramine.

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