Cluster headaches are marked by excruciating pain that may be centered around the eye or other area of the head. Like migraines, they can occur very suddenly and cause an intolerance to light and sound. Food triggers do not usually cause headaches, but they increase your risk of having one. The good news is that you can determine the culprit foods by keeping track of your diet with a food journal. Eliminating the food triggers helps reduce your risk of cluster headaches.
Chocolate might be your guilty pleasure, but for some it is a trigger for headache pain. According to the American Council for Headache Education, patients linked chocolate to their headaches in almost 22 percent of self-reported cases. This may be due to a food intolerance to compounds called biogenic amines that are found in chocolate. However, a 2003 review in the "Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology" found that there is no conclusive clinical evidence that chocolate is a food trigger for headaches.
Sausages and Sandwich Meat
A summer barbecue might leave you with a cluster headache if you are sensitive to foods that are high in nitrites and other preservatives. This chemical is used to preserve hot dogs, sausages, bacon and sandwich meats. Research published in 2002 in the medical journal "Cephalalgia" reported that individuals with migraine pain or cluster headaches had high levels of nitrite in their blood. The cluster headache patients showed greater concentrations of nitrites both during the pain phase and after while in remission.
Foods With Tyramine
The American Council for Headache Education advises that foods that are high in an amino acid called tyramine can trigger headache pain. Tyramine is found in foods such as bananas, citrus fruits, nuts and beans, in aged foods such as some types of pungent cheeses and in dairy foods such as yogurt. If you think one or more of these foods is causing your cluster headaches, try eliminating them from your diet one at a time to confirm this.
Alcohol and Smoking
Lifestyle factors such as alcohol abuse and smoking increase your risk of getting cluster headaches. The University of Maryland Medical Center advises that any type of alcohol, particularly beer, can trigger an attack. If you are sensitive to cigarette smoking, your cluster headaches may continue even after quitting.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Cluster Headaches
- University of California, Berkeley: Migraine Triggers
- American Council for Headache Education: Controversies in Headache Medicine: Migraine Prevention Diets
- Cephalalgia: Increased Plasma Nitrites in Migraine and Cluster Headache Patients in Interictal Period: Basal Hyperactivity of L-Arginine-No Pathway?
- Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology: Intolerance to Dietary Biogenic Amines: A Review