The NHF’s “Low Tyramine Headache Diet”

The National Headache Foundation has posted a low tyramine diet on their website. It helps migraine sufferers identify and avoid diets containing large amounts of tyramine. In other parts of my blog I have discussed some of these low tyramine diets- I am not going to delve into each one. However, I will leave a link to the list so that each one of you can use this information. This list is a good starting point to identify certain foods with high tyramine content. Try a diet with lower tyramine in order to lessen migraines.

While the list is a very good starting point, there are many foods that you should avoid even though they are featured under “allowed” or “use with caution”. It is amazing to me that both tea and coffee are listed under “use with caution” even though they are very common triggers. Furthermore, water melon is not mentioned even though it contains a good amount of tyramine.

I would avoid the following:


* Milk
* American Cheese
* Coffee Cakes
* Onions Cooked in Foods
* White Vinegar


* Sausage
* Corned Beef
* Bologna
* Any Meats with Nitrates or Nitrites
* Sour Cream
* Parmesan
* Raw Onion
* Avocados
* Banana
* Papaya
* All Soups with Hydrolyzed Yeast, Meat Extracts, or MSG
* Coffee & Tea
* Scotch
* All Chocolate Based Products
* Apple and Other Fermented Vinegars

I know that I don’t leave a lot to work with here but from experience I know that it is better to start avoiding as many foods as possible in the beginning and only slowly introducing them after a certain period to see whether or not you are affected. However, you are most likely better off by avoiding all of the ones that I listed.

1. – “Low Tyramine Headache Diet*”


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  1. 1

    For so many years i tried to figure out my triggers, food journal,,but i’m not able to pin point, when i have good days, i will have have the same food, headache will come back, i,cannot find a pattern,,it’s like so many things triggers, can you give me a detailed list of what your triggers are, i eat very healthy, but i know there are some healthy food that are triggers
    Thanks again

    • 2

      Hi Annie,

      It can be very frustrating to find your particular triggers but don’t give up.

      Just because you eat healthy does not necessarily mean that you are avoiding your triggers. Avocado and onion are very healthy foods, but in my case I cannot eat them. Cayenne pepper is supposed to help with migraines and is otherwise very good for you, but again, in my case it is a trigger.

      As I have written in “The Cause of Migraines”, thresholds really do matter. If your migraine threshold is low, you are likely to experience heavier episodes until the threshold returns. It will take time for it to return to normal and during this time, you will experience more frequent migraines.

      In order to get a better sense for your particular situation, can you answer the following questions.

      – How are you compiling your food journal? How much detail? (including oils, spices, sugars, etc.)
      – What is the general duration between episodes (24hrs, 48hrs, or more)
      – How many times per week do you experience migraine episodes?
      – How long does an episode last?
      – What is your exercise regimen like?
      – Do you use any medications for your episodes?
      – Do you get tired a few hours before an episode sets in?



      • 3

        I write everything, but now i try to be really precise, like spices and oil, i’m very active, i have horses
        It’s been 12 years that i suffer from chronic headaches, that means everyday, sometimes the pain on a scale is 3 /4 which i consider a good day, sometimes it’s a 10 which happens less, i take advil liquid gel, usually it helps , but when it’s a 10 , nothing works,

        I know when you talk about the theshold, that’s why,it’s so hard to figure out my triggers,me too i think onion and avocado are a trigger,spinach also, it seems all my triggers are healthy, fresh cilantro i,think, when i have good days, i look at everything i ate, try to find a pattern, but with no luck

        • 4

          Do you drink coffee or tea regularly? If you do, I would suggest eliminating either of these from your diet.
          If you consume dairy products, I would suggest eliminating all dairy immediately.

          Avocado is very high in tyramine which is why you cannot consume those without getting migraines.

          Have you found any safe foods at all?

          The following are my safe foods. However, just because they are in my case does not mean that they will be for you:

          – Vegetables: celery, tomato, cucumber, parsley, romaine lettuce, spinach, potato (really a starch), corn, string beans, zucchini, broccoli, carrots, asparagus

          – Meat/fowl: beef (not ground), pork (not ground), chicken, duck, turkey (not ground),eggs (I tend to get migraines from lamb because the meat is too greasy too much grease acts as a trigger)
          * I never buy ground meat, pork, or turkey because they act as severe triggers due to additives. If you want ground products, have it ground from fresh products in front of you.
          * If you barbeque any of these, you cannot add olive oil, any type of off the shelf dry rub, or off the shelf barbeque sauce. In almost all cases these contain a variety of ingredients that you must stay away from.

          – Seafood: salmon, swordfish, white fish, fresh tuna, sole (Avoid: craw fish, mussels, oysters). All seafood should preferably be cooked/steamed/grilled/pan seared, again without olive oil.

          – Fruits (fresh!): grapes, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, apples, peaches, nectarines, pears. Avoid: grapefruit, oranges, tangerines, water melon, cantaloupe, figs, bananas, pineapple.

          Desserts are tricky and in my case they consist of fresh fruit. You should stay away from refined sugars and if you must, use only brown sugar and use it sparingly. Avoid all chocolates and products that contain cocoa or dairy if at all possible.

          In rare cases, I still get the migraines. What helps me immensely is a 30-45 minute exercise routine daily.

          Hope this helps.

          • 5

            Thankfully coffee is not a trigger, however tea is, dairy, i can drink milk, cheese that depends, i know cottage and other are triggers, chocolate seems to be ok, i,think sometimes it depends on the kind, a lot of time it depends of my threshold, or it is spices, something i eat often and not aware, or a combination of many things, i tried dairy, gluten free, not better, You talked about olive oil, is it the only one, ah and noticed also, pickles, olive, everything in brine? Ground meat, is it the same if it’s organic
            Thanks so much for all your help

          • 6

            If tea is a trigger, then it is likely the caffeine. Therefore, you should try eliminating coffee from your diet to see how your body reacts. I would eliminate both caffeine and dairy from my diet for at least one month. Anything pickled can be problematic and I avoid both olives and pickles. Anything in brine should be avoided. For me it does not matter whether something is organic or not if it is a food I should avoid.

            What I would really recommend is to start with a clean slate. Just consume rice with cucumber and light salt for a few days and try to establish a baseline. Then try to include other foods slowly over time and see if you have an episode. For instance, add boiled chicken. If you do not experience migraines, cook the chicken together with just olive oil in a pan to see how you react.

  2. 7
    Nancy Darling

    This diet has been invaluable to my son. I don’t know if it stops headache triggers, but it radically decreases the ‘fog’ he had all the time around his migraines. After a year, I can tell if he’s cheated just by how he acts. It combines well with a low tyramine diet.

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