About half of the world's population struggles with headaches. As it turns out, there might be a connection between certain foods, such as garlic, and headache disorders. This side effect may also occur with garlic supplements.
If your headaches occur 20 minutes to two hours after eating garlic (or any other food), consider avoiding it in your diet. Keep a daily food diary to track your symptoms and how they relate to what you eat.
What Causes Headaches?
Headaches are often debilitating. Depending on their severity, they can affect your ability to work and diminish your productivity. The pain can be so severe that you may not be able to get out of bed and get through the day. As the Cleveland Clinic notes, there are more than 150 types of headaches, ranging from mild forms like tension headaches to severe forms, such as visual migraines and cluster headaches.
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According to the Mayo Clinic, headaches can be primary or secondary. Primary headaches result from problems affecting the brain, nerves, muscles or blood vessels in the head and neck. Stress, sleep deprivation, alcohol use and certain foods may play a role, too.
Secondary headaches, on the other hand, may indicate underlying conditions, including blood clots, acute sinusitis, stroke, ear infection, concussions, glaucoma and more. Dehydration may trigger this problem, too. Certain medications and food ingredients, such as monosodium glutamate, may cause secondary headaches as well.
Read more: How to Relieve a Headache in 10 Minutes
There also appears to be a connection between garlic, migraine, nausea, fatigue and palpitations, according to a February 2014 case report published in the journal Headache. Foods in the Allium family, such as garlic and onions, contain alliaceous compounds that may trigger migraines, among other symptoms.
Garlic and Headache Disorders
It's no secret that garlic benefits overall health. This herb has long been used as a natural antibiotic, antimicrobial, antitussive and pain-relieving agent, as reported in a review featured in the January-February 2014 issue of the Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine. Studies suggest that it may help protect against heart disease, reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels, destroy disease-causing bacteria and regulate blood sugar.
Read more: 10 Incredible Garlic Hacks
Despite its potential health benefits, garlic isn't entirely safe. Like many foods and spices, it may cause adverse reactions and interact with certain drugs. Additionally, some people are allergic to it, according to the University of Manchester.
Garlic allergy is rare, but it may result in serious symptoms, from itching and swelling to indigestion, vomiting, hay fever and anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction. Headaches, though, are not a typical symptom.
A June 2018 study published in the Journal of Pain Research suggests that dietary factors play a role in the onset of migraines and tension headaches. As the researchers note, "heaty" foods, such as garlic, as well as fried foods, spicy foods, coffee, chocolate, onions and fatty meals, may trigger these symptoms. "Heaty" foods, for example, caused migraines in 20 subjects and tension headaches in 17 subjects out of 684 patients.
Similarly, Cleveland Clinic reports that garlic, onions, tomato-based products and caffeinated beverages are common migraine triggers. Aged cheese, pickled foods, avocados and processed meats fall into the same category. In fact, about 20 percent of headache sufferers develop this condition because of what they eat.
Read more: Effects of Too Much Garlic on the Body
Consult a doctor if your symptoms persist or worsen. Watch out for red flags, such as headaches accompanied by fever, confusion, numbness, pain near the temples or vision problems, warn the experts at Harvard.
If your headaches are unusually severe or occur suddenly, they may indicate an underlying condition. Your healthcare provider is the only one who can determine the exact cause and recommend an appropriate treatment.
- World Health Organization: "Headache Disorders"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Headaches in Adults"
- Mayo Clinic: "Headache - Causes"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Headache: When to Worry, What to Do"
- Mayo Clinic: "Ice Cream Headaches"
- Headache: "Alliaceous Migraines"
- USDA: "Classification for Kingdom Plantae Down to Genus Allium L."
- Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine: "Garlic: A Review of Potential Therapeutic Effects"
- Penn State Hershey: "Garlic"
- University of Manchester: "Allergy Information for: Garlic (Allium sativum)"
- Journal of Pain Research: "Dietary Trigger Factors of Migraine and Tension-Type Headache in a South East Asian Country"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Headaches and Food"