Why are chocolate and cheeses such common triggers for migraines? Is it because of the tyramine?

  • I read once that saturated fat makes the red blood cells to stick together and make the blood to become more viscous. Thicker blood would make blood flow through the smaller capillaries in the brain more difficult. A guess is that this might cause headache, or at least contribute towards it. Aug 18, 2019 at 2:47

3 Answers 3


It's the tyramine content as you rightly pointed out. The aspect of craving during stress could be an additional factor but the major culprit here is Tyramine



There are numerous papers on foods that appear to induce headaches. One recent paper (part 1) is Martin & Vij (2016).

It goes into detail into the major players in foods that induce headaches. Tyramine has a strange history with headaches, because originally, as Martin and Vij (2016) point out, people noticed that individuals on MAOI drugs who ate tyramine rich foods developed hypertensive headaches. When thinking about migraines, it's strange to think that a vasoconstrictor would induce a migraine, since triptans and caffeine are used to treat migraines.

However, this paradox leads to the thought that while the treatment of migraines may be vascular, the disease itself may be one of metabolism, as I mentioned in another migraine post and referenced Kokavec, A. (2016).

The question is a good one, and likely, as has been mentioned, tyramine may play a role in the answer. To your point, though, tyramine is only one of the biogenic amines. Histamine and phenylethylamine are also thought to play a role in headaches, which are also found in food we eat.


Kokavec, A. (2016). Migraine: A disorder of metabolism?. Medical hypotheses, 97, 117-130. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2016.10.029

Martin, V. T., & Vij, B. (2016). Diet and headache: part 1. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain, 56(9), 1543-1552. doi: 10.1111/head.12953

  • Welcome to MedicalSciences.SE. 2 great answers here clearly explained and referenced. I would like to suggest, if I may, that references are put at the end and inline citations used in the main body of the answer as this would then improve readability because the flow is maintained. I have edited both answers to reflect this, but feel free to revert them back if you prefer. Feb 7, 2019 at 8:11
  • Thanks, the edits look good. I'll work on my formatting and style. Feb 7, 2019 at 8:13
  • Yes another good answer, thanks for joining us @ThomasTJCheckley! We have recently had only a couple other physicians, so I am thrilled to have you join us! Please let us know in Meta if you have any questions, concerns, or suggestions. We've been working on refining this site quite a bit. :)
    – DoctorWhom
    Feb 7, 2019 at 19:21


Some who suffer from migraines list chocolate as a possible trigger food. Some neurologists say it is a migraine trigger because it contains the amino acid tyramine. But the connection could be that women tend to crave chocolate during stress and hormonal changes, both of which also may trigger headaches.



While what triggers a migraine is different for everybody, the most common food culprits out there contain tyramine or phenylethylamine, two amino acids found in chocolate, aged or fermented cheese (including cheddar, blue, Brie, and all hard and “moldy” cheeses), soy foods, nuts, citrus fruits, and vinegar


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