Migraine Trigger: Biogenic Amines

Migraine Triggers: Biogenic Amines

What Are Biogenic Amines?

Biogenic amines, such as histamine and tyramine, are found in fruits, vegetables, and meats.

They play a crucial role in maintaining neurotransmitters (study link).

However, processed foods that combine large amounts of biogenic amines are known for triggering headaches and migraines.

Potent Biogenic Amines

Aged meats, aged cheese, soy sauce, wine, and beer are a few of the most biogenic amine rich migraine triggers.

Biogenic Amine Table

Biogenic amine table summary migraines.
Biogenic amine table summary migraines.

Fresh Fruits and Veggies are Ok

Fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats are of little concern.

For example, spinach is recognized as the vegetable with the most biogenic amines.

Blue Cheese, Not So Much

But some blue cheeses contain over 50 times the amount of histamine and over 100 times the amount of tyramine that can be found in spinach.

Blue cheese and other aged foods literally grow amines as they age, making them rapidly digestible.

Natural Foods Protect Against Biogenic Amines

Natural foods contain small amounts of biogenic amines within fiber and nutrients.

Fiber and nutrients give your body time to digest biogenic amines (study link).

How Biogenic Amines Break Down

Two enzymes in the gut break down biogenic amines: monoamine oxidase (MAO) and diamine oxidase (DAO).


MAOs break down tyramine.

Antidepressants that block MAO are known for triggering severe headaches after eating tyramine-rich foods such as cheese (study link).

MAOs will help prevent migraines by preventing a toxic buildup of glutamate and inflammation (study link).


DAOs break down histamine.

Interestingly, DAO production increases 500-fold during pregnancy and most women become completely migraine free during this time (article link).

A 2015 study found that a genetic defect in DAO production and its ability to break down biogenic amines may double a woman’s risk for migraines (study link).

There are a number of DAO supplements available, but the best way to treat this problem is to reduce processed foods with histamine.

Biogenic Amine Overdose

Pizza is a top headache trigger and the best example of a biogenic amine overdose.

Many people do fine eating the ingredients of a pizza separately. However, combining the biogenic amines of cheese, aged cheese, aged meats, wheat, and tomato sauce turns them into a headache trigger.

These biogenic amines may raise inflammation and glutamate levels in the brain (study link). Both are powerful migraine triggers.

On top of this, pizza may contain a large amount of glutamate and inflammatory fats, which may increase the release of biogenic amines (study link).

A Damaged Gut Leads to Poor Filtration of Biogenic Amines

The negative effects of amines are magnified by other headache triggers because they may damage the gut where amines are processed (study link).

It’s not just foods; even stress can inflame the gut and increase the probability of migraines (article link).

Reduce Biogenic Amines

It’s important to reduce all headache triggers, especially the headache triggers found in foods that contain high levels of biogenic amines.

This is not medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Read the disclaimer.

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