Processed food is without a doubt the largest migraine trigger because there are so many tiny triggers hidden within. And these tiny triggers add up. Research shows that: multiple foods can build up to trigger a migraine, it takes an average of 2-3 days for the migraine to hit, and non-food triggers (such as, weather, stress, hormones, etc.) may also contribute to this headache threshold (study link). So yes, the combination pizza you ate 3 days ago could trigger a migraine today and this probability increases if you are stressed out. Fortunately, eliminating the top food triggers is a proven way to eliminate migraines and headaches (study link).
Watch the video for this article above! It is really good.
The Success Rates of Elimination Diets
Migraine is the leading cause of disability among neurological disorders (2013 study link), yet the following research is unknown to the majority of migraine sufferers— and even to those who treat migraine sufferers.
Let’s look at a few of the successful studies that eliminated food triggers and showed higher success rates than any drug on earth. In the chart below, you can see how successful each of these treatments were at reducing migraines. The first two studies, the ’79 Diet and the ’01 Diet, were elimination diets that successfully reduced migraines in 100% of patients participating in the studies. The ’83 Diet, the Ketogenic Diet, and the ’52 Diet also showed high success rates in the 80%-90% range. Compare that to popular migraine prevention drugs which reduce migraines in merely 50% of patients.
Now let’s look at the studies that measured complete migraine elimination. (Complete elimination of migraine is what some would call a “cure.”) Next-generation migraine mediation ALD 403 has been astronomically more successful than any other drug on the market at complete migraine elimination, yet, as shown in the chart below, elimination diets blow even ALD 403 out of the water.
The common theme among all of the migraine research is that individual migraine triggers lead to an increase in either glutamate or inflammation. And when combined, glutamate and inflammation levels can reach a point where they exceed your headache threshold, bringing on a headache or migraine. Migraines may be a warning sign of the deadly conditions associated with toxic levels of glutamate and inflammation. Elimination diets eliminate this excess.
Pizza = Migraine, but Why?
A slice of pizza beautifully explains how processed foods trigger migraines. “Pizza = migraine,” say our most trusted medical websites, but that’s all they say. That tells us nothing. You want to know why the ingredient combination of a combination pizza triggers migraines.
Let’s break down a typical pizza into a simple migraine equation:
aged cheese + bleached flour + canned tomato sauce + herbs + aged meats + MSG + food additives = HEADACHES & MIGRAINES
Now take this one step further and break down the top documented migraine triggers in that pizza’s ingredients: histamine, tyramine (both biogenic amines) and glutamate. Each of these triggers raise glutamate and inflammation levels in the brain (study link).
|Food (100 grams)||Glutamate (mg)||Histamine (mg)||Tyramine (mg)|
|Aged cheese (blue)||5,179||104.1||105.1|
|Parmesan cheese||8,208||Not measured||Not measured|
|Bleached flour||5,016||Not measured||Not measured|
|Canned tomato sauce||586||0.1||0.4|
|Aged meats (dry sausage)||2,298||5.7||3.9–27.3|
The ingredients in that pizza contain gastronomical amounts of glutamate and biogenic amines. To put this in perspective, spinach is considered one of the most potent natural sources of histamine (with 2.0 mg) and tyramine (with 0.4-3.2 mg). Blue cheese (an example of an aged cheese) has up to 52 times the histamine and up to 262.5 times the tyramine found in spinach.
Pizza is dangerous because it contains not only large quantities of glutamate and biogenic amines, but potent quantities. The fiber in vegetables slows down the digestion of histamine and tyramine, resulting in less histamine and tyramine entering your blood stream. The histamine and tyramine in pizza, on the other hand, with little fiber to slow it down, will hit your blood stream in full force. That pizza may also contain Parmesan cheese which is high in rapidly digestible glutamate (8,208 mg). In contrast, something like an apple will only have 25 mg of glutamate and you will slowly digest the glutamate because of the fiber and nutrients in the apple.
MSG is a top migraine trigger that is often sprinkled on pizza and proves that concentrated glutamate—even small quantities—can be dangerous. MSG can destroy your health, which is why they feed it to rats to induce problems such as obesity, seizures, and cancer (study inflammation, headaches).
It’s no wonder why pizza, with all that bad, potent shit in it, will give you a headache.
Milk is for baby cows, not you
Low-fat milk consumption has been linked to migraine (2015 study link) and unbound glutamate may be to blame. Low-fat milk not only contains more glutamate, but it is rapidly digestible glutamate because low-fat milk is processed into a powder that is later mixed with water. All they need to do to make it 1% milk is just add a little more water. It’s like blending a doughnut with water to make it healthy. Of course that doesn’t work.
Low-fat milk is more likely to increase migraines and obesity (study link) than regular milk, as detailed in numerous studies in The 3-Day Headache “Cure.” Low-fat and regular milk are migraine triggers. It is sad that numerous healthcare professionals ignorantly recommend milk, based on the poor advice of numerous health organizations.
Low-fat milk is an example of a highly processed food, that you might incorrectly consider whole and healthy, but it’s likely to contribute to your migraines.
While all types of milk are potent, a 2010 migraine study (study link) found that food additives were a larger trigger than the combined groups of twenty-six vegetables, thirty-seven fruits, and even nineteen milk products. The study also found a significant reduction in headache and migraines after eliminating top triggers.
Migraine sufferers are often told to eliminate numerous whole foods while continuing to consume processed foods with additives that may be more potent headache triggers than all fruits and vegetables combined. Additives MSG and Aspartame are documented by the FDA as top migraine triggers with thousands of complaints filed (FDA link). MSG even has its very own IHS headache classification, previously termed “Chinese food headache.” Food additives are also linked to brain damage, cancers, obesity, and more (research link), all of which are conditions that will increase headaches.
Processed foods may hide inflammation in any can, bottle, or package you pick up at the grocery store. The food industry is legally allowed to add .49 grams of inflammatory trans fat without telling you. This could increase inflammation levels and migraine probability. Trans fats are so deadly that the FDA (FDA Report) has just labeled partially hydrogenated oils (the primary source of trans fats) unsafe and has implemented a ban of use in food starting Jun 18, 2018. The decision may prevent millions of deaths (trans fats increase risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes AHA Link) and reduce the inflammation levels associated with migraine.
Whole wheat by FDA standards only needs to contain 51% whole wheat (FDA link), the other 49% (according to Harvard, study link) is usually more sugar, bleached flour, and things you don’t want. Migraine sufferers will think that they are eating a healthy whole wheat bread, when in reality they are consuming something that will create large sugar and glutamate spikes without providing sufficient nutrition. Real food, such as vegetables, will give migraineurs minerals and nutrients, while processed foods with low mineral content, require minerals to digest. It is no surprise that up to 50% of migraine sufferers have a magnesium deficiency (study link).
Pick up any bag of processed food and you will probably find a derivative of corn or soy. Corn and soy were once used to make MSG because both contain a heavy concentration of glutamate. The combination of low nutrient corn and soy with other headache triggers makes processed foods dangerous.
Let’s look at some of the top migraine triggers found in processed foods:
Wheat, Sulfites, Cooking oils, Milk products, Nitrites, Trans fats, Orange juice (Commercially squeezed), Yeast, Sugar, Caffeine, Alcohol (especially wine, beer, and dark liquor), Refined grains, Chocolate, Free glutamic acid (glutamate), Food additives, MSG, Biogenic Amines, Artificial sweeteners, Processed meats, Processed corn, Processed soy
You might be thinking, “holy BLEEP balls I can’t eat anything processed.” Who knows how many preservatives are in any given food or what will happen when we mix these chemicals together as the FDA doesn’t require quantities in food labeling or appropriate testing for these chemical concoctions.
Right this second you can eliminate 90% of food triggers by eliminating or reducing processed foods from your diet. The ingredients in most processed foods, hidden and not-so-hidden, equal a combination that fills the headache threshold. So, simply eating more whole foods and less processed foods could keep that threshold from overflowing, while also providing the nutrients and minerals that prevent migraines.
Try eating real foods for 2 meals per day to give your body a break from excessive quantities of biogenic amines and glutamate. You might end up with the success of rural Tanzanians who eat very little processed foods and have the lowest migraine prevalence worldwide (2.5%, study link). Continue to consume biogenic-amine-heavy-hitters like Parmesan cheese, Parma ham, sourdough bread, and wine, and you might end up like residents of Parma, Italy, where you can find the highest migraine prevalence in the world (24.7%, study link).
Lowering your intake of processed foods will lower the probability of migraines and headaches.