More than 29.5 million Americans experience migraine headaches, according to the National Headache Foundation. Migraines are categorized by throbbing pain on one side of the head that may be accompanied by light and sound sensitivity, visual problems and nausea or vomiting. Migraines last anywhere from hours to days. There are numerous triggers for migraines, including sleep patterns, diet and psychological concerns, such as depression and stress. Cheese is one dietary factor that affects many people with migraines; you might be able to avoid an attack once you know which cheese is safe and which you should avoid.
If you suffer from migraines, fresh cheeses, which do not go through the process of aging, will probably not trigger an attack. Fresh cheeses include farmer’s, cottage, American, cream, ricotta and mozzarella. Sometimes mozzarella is aged, so double-check the label. You might also be able to tolerate processed and soy cheeses.
Cheese that goes through an aging process is a migraine trigger for many people. Aged cheeses include cheddar, blue, brie, Parmesan, Gouda, Gruyere, Swiss and sometimes mozzarella. Cheese ages for different amounts of time, depending on the variety. Pay attention to the types of cheeses you eat and whether or not you get a migraine. This strategy can show you whether aged cheese is one of your migraine triggers and whether you need to avoid it.
The reason aged cheese generally causes migraines and fresh cheese does not is that aged cheese contains more of a substance called tyramine, a trigger of migraines. Tyramine is formed in foods as they age or are fermented; it comes from the amino acid tyrosine. Fresh cheese does not include as much tyramine as aged cheese, but use caution until you know your personal migraine triggers.
You might still be able to have aged cheese, except cheddar, if you are taking MAOI medication. The National Headache Foundation recommends eating no more than 4 ounces of aged cheese in a meal; if you have processed meat, the combination of meat and cheese should total no more than 4 ounces. Use caution and check with your doctor before experimenting with cheese.