Migraines affect more than 1 in every 10 Americans. 12% of the U.S. population is effected by migraines, making it a more prevalent epidemic than both diabetes and asthma combined. Despite this, many of those who suffer from migraines often do not seek medical help, and those that do are often unsatisfied with their treatment. Migraines have been attributed to many different factors, both nutritional and environmental, but one that often gets overlooked is the presence of a certain chemical found in many of our foods called “amines”
What Are Amines?
Amines are chemicals that are found in many different types of food and they play an important role in the biochemistry of migraines.
Catecholamines are a group of highly reactive amines that include adrenaline and noradrenaline, which the body releases in response to different kinds of stimuli (stress, caffeine, low blood sugar etc.). The release of these amines stimulates the overproduction of serotonin, which is an amine itself.
The overproduction of serotonin is something that is consistent with migraine sufferers, and researchers believe that it is linked to sensitivity to certain types of food and that it may be one of the causes of blood clotting, which leads to constriction of the cerebral arteries. One the cerebral arteries constrict it is considered “the point of no return” as it is impossible to stop a migraine from happening once this occurs.
What Kind of Foods Contain Amines?
Amines can be found in the most common and typical forms of food available. The reason that not everybody is experiencing migraines is that researchers believe that amines only cause migraines in people who are sensitive to it’s consumption. If you, for some reason, believe that consuming amine-containing foods is the cause of your migraines, then continue reading for a list of the most common amine-containing foods and alternatives to them that won’t cause you to suffer from migraines.
Hard cheeses are considered to be one of the worst migraine-inducing foods for people who are sensitive to amines. This is because they contain tyramine, a dietary amine that is notorious for the fact that it’s content increases during fermentation and the aging process, something that is necessary to make cheese.
Different types of hard cheeses include: asiago, canaria, parmesan, paneer and romano. Semi-hard cheese also contains high amounts of tyramine, cheeses such as cheddar, colby and swiss. Daiya cheese is a great alternative to these types of cheese. It is made from cassava and arrowroot and is very popular due to it’s cheese-like consistency and melting properties.
Like cheese, yogurt contains high amounts of tyramine due to the fermentation and aging process that it must go through to become yogurt. Since it tends to be fermented dairy products that contain high amounts of dietary amines, try using coconut kefir as a plant-based substitute to yogurt.
Yes, unfortunately, chocolate contains high amounts of dietary amines. The general rule is, the darker the chocolate, the bigger the migraine, as dark chocolate contains incredibly high amounts of amines.
Thankfully, the carob plant exists. The carob plant’s pods can be dried and ground down into carob powder, which is often used to replace cocoa powder as a healthier alternative. Carob contains little to no dietary amines, and many health food stores sell both carob powder and carob chocolate bars, so you can get your migraine-free chocolate fixes from there.
Pork and pork products, especially bacon, are all incredibly high in dietary amines (as well as other ingredients that have been known to cause migraines, such as sodium). To add to this, browning, grilling and charring your pork products increases the amount of amines in your food.
The only advice I can give you is to just stop eating pork and choose another meat to become the basis of your meal. I know that a lot of people will have trouble trying to find something to eat with their eggs in the morning, so I am recommending you go out and buy chicken bacon. Chicken contains incredibly low amounts of amines, and although it does not taste the same it comes pretty darn close. Think of it as a Nicorette for bacon eaters.