Identify Tyramine Buildup in Certain Fruits and Vegetables

 

For the majority of us, certain odors allow us to determine when we should not consume particular foods anymore. The more pungent the odor, the more likely it is that the foods have gone bad. Unfortunately for migraine sufferers, it is not that easy. For us, the buildup of tyramine is one of the major triggers of migraine headaches. Tyramine builds up as the food ages and certain foods contain higher amounts of tyramine than do others. Sometimes there is no particular smell to alert us that we should avoid a particular food.

In this article, I describe easy ways to identify high levels of tyramine in a few every day fruits and vegetables.

For a more detailed discussion on tyramine, you can read the “Tyramine” article, located in the “In Focus” section.

Cucumber:

Cucumbers are used regularly in a lot of what we eat and most people know the larger variety known as English cucumbers. English cucumbers are much longer than Armenian or Persian cucumbers. In addition, English cucumbers tend to come wrapped in plastic. It is impossible to know how fresh the cucumbers are and, a lot of the time, the plastic can conceal the deterioration in the vegetable. Before you buy, make sure that there are no soft or indented dark patches. This usually signifies a higher than normal buildup of tyramine. If you buy an English cucumber after making sure that it contains no dark soft patches, but discover that the cucumber tastes bitter, you should shave the outer layer of the vegetable. Although it is not tyramine related, this usually means that the particular cucumber contains higher than normal levels of cucurbitacin. This forms naturally in cucumbers but makes the fruit more acidic. For migraine sufferers, high levels of acidity will usually trigger migraine headaches. If you have bought Persian or Armenian cucumbers but discover after a few days that the cucumbers have a sticky or white shifting liquid on them, they are past their expiration date and should be thrown. If the cucumber only contains a small amount of the sticky substance, wash it and peel off the outer layer. The cucumber should be fine to eat.

Tomato:

There is nothing more delicious than a crisp, red, and juicy tomato. There are so many varieties of tomatoes and they are consumed regularly in most of the dishes that we eat. Sometimes, I will grab a tomato, cut it in half, sprinkle a little salt and pepper on top, and eat it like an apple. It is fantastic. However, tomatoes, as most other vegetables, tend to go bad if unconsumed after a period of time. It goes without saying, that tomatoes need to be thoroughly washed before consumption. Due to the softness of the fruit, it is a favorite among garden pests and therefore will have pesticides sprayed on. When tomatoes start going bad, they will also develop dark and softer patches in certain areas. However, the defining characteristic of a tomato that contains higher levels of tyramine than normal is the relative softness of the fruit. I have a fairly easy test that I use as a rule of thumb. I will squeeze the fruit and if the flat side of my thumb goes deeper than one quarter of one inch, it is time to chuck the tomato. Remember to cut away any dark and soft patches if they develop and the entire tomato does not display the softness.

 

Watermelon:

As summer comes, high quantities of watermelon get consumed. Watermelon will contain high levels of tyramine after a certain period. Most people think that the outer shell of the melon will keep it fresh for weeks. This is simply not true. I will not leave a watermelon sitting outside of the refrigerator for longer than one week. Ideally, you want to cut up the watermelon immediately and put it in the refrigerator to keep it fresh. When temperatures reach 60 degrees or above, you should be careful storing the watermelon outside for long periods of time. If it is 80 degrees or hotter, cut up the melon within two days. I know a lot of sites tell you that a water melon will keep for two weeks but they are not migraine sufferers. Do not risk it! Once you cut the melon, it should be the same color across the interior. As with the vegetables described above, darker patches usually signify deterioration and higher levels of tyramine. Just cut the melon in half and place both sides in the fridge. With the outer shell gone,tyramine will build up faster. If you suffer from migraine headaches, do not eat any watermelon that has been cut into pieces and has been sitting in the refrigerator for more than three days. Throw away any pieces that look darker than the rest.

Banana:

As most migraine sufferers know, bananas should be avoided if possible. Bananas contain high levels of tyramine. Unfortunately, the problem with this is that bananas contain very essential nutrients. For instance, they contain vitamin B6, vitamin C, magnesium, and potassium. In addition, they are an excellent source of fiber. If you have read my article “The Cause of Migraines”, you know that there are times when it is easier for you to develop migraine headaches because you are closer to the migraine threshold. Obviously, bananas should be avoided if you have been consuming other offending foods that can act as triggers for the last few days. Nowadays, there are many different supplements that allow you to get all of the vitamins and nutrients that bananas hold. However, they do not give you the same pleasure. As a rule of thumb, the more green or light yellow the banana is, the less tyramine it contains. Naturally, this also means that the banana is less sweet but that may be a small price to pay for not getting a migraine headache. Avoid bananas that have any brown patches on them no matter how small the patch is. If you plan to make banana bread because the bananas are starting to look less than fresh, do not. Instead throw the bananas away. You are not going to get rid of the tyramine by putting the bananas in the oven.

 

If you suffer from migraine headaches like I do, you always have to make sure that your fruits and vegetables are fresh. There are plenty of ways to spot aging foods that contain higher levels of tyramine. By being able to do so, you guarantee that you will experience fewer migraine headaches as a result of the foods that you consume.

12 responses to Identify Tyramine Buildup in Certain Fruits and Vegetables

  1. Betty

    I have been eating a lot of watermelon lately. Often I will get a migraine afterward. I don’t recall watermelon being on the “Tyramine” diet, so I looked it up and found this article. I hate that watermelon is a trigger, because I love it, but it’s good to know I wasn’t just making it up!

    • LWM LWM– Author

      Hi Betty,

      Yes, unfortunately it is a serious trigger and the longer the watermelon sits, the more the tyramine builds up. Always be on the lookout for dark red patches on the watermelon and always refrigerate within a few days after bringing it home. Who knows how long it has been sitting on the shelf or out in the sun.

  2. naser tataei

    thanks,i have been eating watermelon and afterward i got headache.it was a bad headache,now i find out that the cause/trigger of my headache was watermelon.

  3. Andrea

    this is my first experience hearing about tyramine and headaches, it is very interesting and certainly related to my recent issues. It is odd that i have not had a problem in the past with “older” bananas that were made into banana bread?? It might have to do with the “build-up”issue? Thank you!

    • I am a Ph.D. Physical Chemist. It took me years ( before excellent info on the internet ) to discover that Blueberries really give me intense migraines. My question is: How do you do your quantitative testing for tyramine? ( my background is 50 years in many types of spectroscopy. ) Thank you.

      • LWM LWM– Author

        Thanks for your question.

        Like yourself, it took me years to understand that I suffer from migraines, and specifically food intolerance. I started keeping a daily food journal in MS Excel (detailed) and scoring my migraines in terms of type of pain and severity. I say detailed because I would get down to the actual spices and herbs used in the dish as well. Once I had approx. 3 months of daily data, I charted it and started seeing recognizable patterns.

        The ALCAT test is highly recommended to understand your latent food intolerance. This information will not show up in a regular allergy test.

        I have not scientifically tried to quantify tyramine buildup but I suspect that testing certain foods overt time as they decay would allow you to gather data on tyrmaine as well.

  4. Michelle

    I have suddenly developed migraines. Cluster migraines every 2 hours for almost 10 days. Hospital twice,CT scan, sediment test (blood test). I am a type 2 diabetic. I don’t eat bread, pasta, milk, of any type dessert (s). All tests came back clean. But..I decided to have a cup of regular hot tea with splenda everyday for 3 weeks and sometimes twice a day. I have been eating the same thing everyday for at least a year. It consists of a wrap (6 carbs), 2 pcs turkey bacon, cheddar cheese, 2 smokies links ,to mates cooked and cut like a pizza. Lunch is same wrap, pepperoni (14pcs), tomato, mozzarella cheese. Snack: bowl full of pepperoni. I have at least a mild migraine to medium migraine now just once a day. Could the above meals be a possible build up of Tyramine?? Nothing in my life has changed nor my medication. I am now taking some medication to help with migraines. Can’t figure out what is causing them. I’ve not had a headache of any kind for over 2 years I am 54 and female.

    • LWM LWM– Author

      A suggestion would be to leave out the pepperoni, smokies, and cheese for 2-4 weeks. It is also suggested o switch to herbal tea and not add any splenda. In 2-4 week’s time, provided that the migraine episodes have subsided, add cheese back into the diet but not anything else and see if any changes are noticed over the next two weeks. If none, then add one more of the possible offending foods and so on. It is also not recommended to eat the same foods over extended periods of time. Rotation between different food groups is important. Snacks, such as almonds, peanuts, and/or other nuts could be substitutes.

  5. f. strulovitch

    I have recently developed migraine associated vertigo. I have discovered that soy sauce and barbeque sauces trigger headaches, and recently ate some prepared pico de gallo (on ice, it looked and tasted fresh) which triggered symptoms. i assume that’s because the vegtables were old enough to develope tyramine. I guess making everything fresh myself is the ony safe way to go.

  6. Jeremy S

    Hi, I’m a long time migraine sufferer and I just ran into this site. I like what your doing and I have questions but I’m first wondering if anyone has read “Understanding Histamine Intolerance & Mast Cell Activation” by ‘Mariska de Wild-Scholten’

    She deatails some amine counts in some common foods (mostly Dutch foods I think maybe a lot), and she lists cucumber as having extremely high tyramine content. Her list matches yours but it’s a lot more specific reguarding the amine content.

    My question is have you been able to get specifics reguarding amines in any of the above listed foods? Specifics if possible. I am trying to compare any data out there because I’m fairly convinced that cucumbers and watermelon should be avoided at all costs to migraine sufferers … even if they are fresh off the vine I think the tyramine is too high.

    I have several maoa and dao polymorphisms and I think this might have a lot to do with my migraines also. Without maoa, maob, hnmt, and dao fully functional, I think migraines are almost destined to be a problem.
    Any research into any of those snp’s reguarding migraines?

    • LWM LWM– Author

      Hello Jeremy and thanks for the questions. Unfortunately, I have not been able to determine specific levels of tyramine for either of these. In terms of avoiding them altogether, that is certainly one way to go if they constitute significant triggers. As far as MAOA, DAO, and HNMT go, I have read a good amount and without supplementing with dimaine oxidase, it is almost always necessary to follow a near-zero-histamine diet as even the smallest amount of BA will cause symptoms.

      It is worth noting that it may not always be a permanent condition and could be due to leaky-gut. To the extent that the situation inside your gut is such that foods are not being properly broken down and escaping into the intestinal tract, it may also mean that the permeability of the tract is causing issues. I have more on that in this post. Getting to the cause of the leaky-gut is not always straight forward but low stomach acid is certainly a condition that could cause foods in general to be improperly digested.

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