Lisa Moskovitz, RD, CDN: The cause of your pounding headache might be what you ate for lunch. Certain foods have been shown to trigger headaches; among the most common culprits: chocolate, tea, alcohol, sugar-free drinks, nuts, soy, and dairy.
Scientifically speaking, substances in these foods, such as non-nutritive sweeteners, refined sugar, and caffeine, can cause changes in blood sugar or hormonal balance which ultimately result in relentless head-pounding.Artificial sweeteners in particular, especially aspartame have also been associated with headache-like side effects
Here are some general tips on how to keep those headaches at bay:
- Keep a food journal:
- Anytime you experience a headache write down exactly what you ate within the hour it began.
- Be aware of the common triggers:
- Chocolate, tea, cured meats, MSG, artificial or non-nutritive Sweeteners (aspartame), common food allergens (dairy, nuts, soy, eggs, wheat, oats and fish) caffeinated drinks, or alcoholic beverages.
- Consider other factors:
- Of course, headaches can also be an indication of hormonal changes, seasonal allergies, and food allergies and they can also be caused by stress or tension.
- If all else fails, try an elimination diet:
- Eliminate all foods that you think may be causing headaches which can be gathered from your food journal plus the list of common triggers above. After a few days of no headaches, it is safe to assume the headaches are coming from something in your diet. Gradually add in one food at a time until you start to feel pain again. At that point, you will likely know which food or food substances to avoid for the future!