There are many things we don’t understand about migraines, but even with our incomplete knowledge, there are some things we have figured out. For example, we’ve figured out that in people with dietary migraine triggers, one of the worst is tyramine, an additive found in many common foods.

If you consume a lot of foods high in tyramine, you might experience a lot of headaches. But will eliminating tyramine from your diet actually help reduce migraines? It depends.

woman takes off her glasses to rub her head due to a migraine

What is Tyramine?

When tyrosine, an amino acid, breaks down, it produces a compound known as Tyramine. Tyramine is often found in plants, foods, and animals.

What Does Tyramine Do?

Tyramine triggers a flight or fight response in your body. The adrenal glands automatically send the fight or flight chemicals, catecholamines into the bloodstream after encountering tyramine. Catecholamines act as both neurotransmitters and hormones including epinephrine, dopamine, and norepinephrine. The combination can give a burst of energy while also elevating your blood pressure and heart rate. Most people do not experience side effects when consuming foods with tyramine. However, if one consumes too much, it can result in a life-threatening blood pressure spike and tyramine headache.

Tyramine Headaches

For some people, tyramines can be hard to process and can make it into the bloodstream even if you don’t eat very much of them. Starting in the 1960s, researchers suspected that these people were subject to migraine headaches. Numerous studies linked the compound tyramine to migraine headaches and found that avoiding it could help people reduce migraines.

Foods High in Tyramine

There are many foods that are high in tyramine and should be avoided if you suffer from food-trigger migraines. These include:

  • Strong or aged cheese including blue cheese, cheddar, and gorgonzola
  • Beers on tap or home-brewed
  • Fermented, cured, or smoked meats such as sausage, pepperoni, mortadella, or salami
  • Sauerkraut
  • Pickled products
  • Sourdough bread
  • Soy sauce
  • Broad beans
  • Snow peas
  • Pickles
  • Olives
  • Nuts
  • Overripe fruit
  • Fermented tofu
  • Fava beans
  • Bouillon-based sauces

Foods that moderately contain tyramine include:

  • Certain cheese such as:
    • Parmesan
    • Farmer’s
    • Havarti
    • Brie
    • American
  • Avocados
  • Anchovies
  • Raspberries
  • Wine

Foods with low to no tyramine include:

  • Fresh, frozen, or canned meats

Should I Consider a Tyramine-Free Diet?

Consuming foods or drinks high in tyramine can interact or alter how medications work. For example, certain antidepressants and Parkinson’s Disease medications can cause a buildup of tyramine.

Consuming too much Tyramine can cause a fatal hypertension crisis. This occurs when the blood pressure becomes so high that you can have a stroke or die.

If your body has a difficult time breaking down amines including histamine or tyramine, you might experience an allergic reaction to amines of small amounts. Your doctor might tell you that you’re “amine intolerant.”

Most people who have amine intolerance will experience the effects of tyramine when they have excessive amounts. At high levels of amines, you may experience heart palpitations, vomiting, nausea, and headaches.

If you think you’re sensitive to tyramine or take MAOI antidepressants, it’s important to report your symptoms to your doctor. A low-tyramine or tyramine-free diet may benefit your health. If you think you have tyramine intolerance, it doesn’t hurt to eliminate it from your diet to see if your symptoms improve.

Will Avoiding Tyramine Cure Migraines?

Unfortunately, as with most approaches to migraine treatment, avoiding tyramine is no magic bullet. It has to be part of a multi-pronged strategy to reduce migraines to a minimum and treat them if they do occur. In fact, there are many people for whom tyramine makes no difference in their migraines. If you are one of these people, avoiding tyramine will not help your migraines at all. If your headaches don’t improve, tyramine might not be the cause of your headaches and migraines. It could be something else.

TMJ Treatment in Columbia For Headaches

If you are avoiding tyramine, but are still suffering more migraines than you want, you might have TMJ disorder. TMJ disorder is a condition caused by an imbalance of the jaw joints, nerves, and muscles. The imbalance causes the jaw to try and correct itself but ends up straining itself in the process. It often causes jaw, neck, and back pain as well as frequent headaches. TMJ sufferers may also experience clicking and popping in their jaw, tinnitus, dizziness, and tingling fingers.

Fortunately, TMJ treatment in Columbia can help. If you have TMJ, the muscle pain and pressures can trigger migraines, so reducing TMJ severity can reduce your migraines and reduce their severity. Dr. Hahn will help rebalance your jaws to bring you long-term pain relief. 

To learn whether TMJ treatment can help your migraines, please call (803) 781-9090 for an appointment with a Columbia, SC TMJ dentist at Smile Columbia Dentistry.