Tyramine is a chemical in foods and in the body that forms from the breakdown of certain proteins. It belongs to a category called monoamines. Levels of monoamines are regulated by an enzyme found throughout the body called monoamine oxidase, or MAO. Some foods contain substantial amounts of tyramine. Eating too much of high-tyramine foods has the potential to increase blood pressure suddenly. This is usually prevented by a type of MAO produced in the intestinal tract that degrades tyramine before it is absorbed. If you’re taking certain medications, eating foods high in tyramine can cause serious side effects. Always talk to your doctor about drug-nutrient interactions when starting a new medication.
When To Avoid Tyramine
Some people take a class of antidepressant called Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors. MAO produced in the brain regulates levels of certain neurotransmitters such as dopamine. MAOIs are sometimes prescribed to increase levels of these neurotransmitters by preventing their breakdown. Unfortunately, MAOIs also prevent the breakdown of excess tyramine, allowing it to be absorbed into the body. So, if you eat foods high in tyramine while taking this medication, you could experience a dangerous blood pressure spike called a hypertensive crisis.
Animal Protein Foods to Avoid
Various amounts of tyramine are found in animal protein sources such as meat and dairy. The amount increases as foods age or spoil, or when they are fermented, cured or pickled. Therefore, avoid aged cheeses such as cheddar, Swiss, blue, Brie, Stilton and Camembert. Other animal protein foods to avoid are sausage, pepperoni, bacon, salami, aged steaks, pickled herring, smoked salmon, corned beef and aged chicken livers. To help reduce excess tyramine, eat meat, fish and chicken that are as fresh as possible, and avoid leftovers. Fresh dairy foods such as yogurt, ricotta, mozzarella, cottage cheese, cream cheese, processed American cheese and milk, contain very little tyramine.
Plant Foods to Avoid
Certain plant foods and condiments contain high amounts of tyramine. Fermented cabbage such as sauerkraut and kimchee, soy sauce, yeast extract spreads such as Marmite, and vinegar can have large amounts. Yeast extracts are also used as flavor enhancers in many processed foods, so you should read labels. Ripe bananas, citrus fruit, over-ripe fruits in general, dried fruits, snow-pea pods and fava beans contain varying amounts of tyramine. Other soybean products, especially fermented varieties such as miso and tempeh, are also sources. Some breads, particularly home-made yeast or sourdough breads can contain tyramine. Avoid unpasteurized beer and most wines. Bottled or canned beers are usually OK in moderation.
If you take MAOIs, avoid dietary tyramine whenever possible. Since you could unknowingly ingest a food with high amounts, you should also be aware of the signs of a hypertensive crisis, such as intense headache, nausea, sweating and rapid heartbeat. Consult a physician or go to the emergency room if you notice these symptoms. Some people who do not take MAOIs may be sensitive to tyramine and may experience migraine headaches. If you have migraines, discuss a low tyramine diet with your doctor.