In this article, I describe straightforward ways to identify higher levels of tyramine in a few every day 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.
How well do you know your migraine triggers?
We recently did an interview with the author of the new book the DATA Protocol, which provides migraine sufferers with a clear path to identify and eliminate triggers like tyramine. I would encourage each and everyone to read the 3-part series and hear from someone who, after years of struggle, came up with their own program because there was nothing out there that could help.
What is Tyramine
Tyramine is an example of a biogenic amine and 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.
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.
For many of us, there is nothing more delicious than a crisp, red, and juicy tomato. Many varieties of tomatoes exist 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 may also 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.
Equally important to remember is that the tomato is part of the nightshade family. For many of us with migraines, consuming nightshades can trigger severe episodes. This is another reason why tomatoes may be an issue.
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.
Bananas may also need to be avoided for many migraine sufferers. The reason is that bananas will normally contain high levels of tyramine. But bananas also contain essential nutrients that help our bodies in a variety of ways. For instance, they contain vitamin B6, vitamin C, magnesium, and potassium. In addition, they are an excellent source of fiber. While there are different supplements that allow you to get many of the vitamins and nutrients that bananas hold, nothing beats the real thing. And, supplements do not give you the same satisfaction; quite the contrary. As a rule of thumb, the more green or light yellow the banana is, the less tyramine it contains. Naturally, this also tends to imply that the banana is less sweet but that may be a small price to pay for not getting a migraine headache.
It is usually a good idea to avoid bananas that have any brown patches on them no matter how small the patch is. Furthermore, if you plan on making banana bread because the fruit is starting to look less than fresh, you should think twice. You are not going to get rid of the tyramine by putting bananas in the oven.
This one in particular will have many of us going “you got to be kidding, right?” But just like every other fruit we discuss, strawberries go from fresh to not so fresh fairly quickly. How much time do you spend in the store picking out the right box of strawberries? Some of us hover over the station ten minutes, trying to pick out a box of strawberries that will last. Here is the thing. For migraine sufferers, this is not necessarily the best use of our time. Instead, learn how to distinguish between berries that can be consumed, ones that may need a little work, and the ones that should be thrown away. I have written s short article on strawberries to help you get started.
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. Before you do, a good starting point can be NHF’s low-tyramine foods list. By being able to do so, you guarantee that you will experience fewer migraine headaches as a result of the foods that you consume.
It is interesting to read that some people know instantly their migraine trigger from a food right after eating that food. With me that’s not the case. Because the foods I ate the days of a migraine are all different. Iam unsure how to pinpoint what is what. I definetely eat a lot of tomatos with salads, guacamoli, and nuts, and drink my daily mug of coffee in the morning. And these are all tyramine-rich foods. I will avoid these foods and see what happens. I also am constantly blowing my nouse which maybe related to the diet I eat which is laso probably causing all my migraines. Thanks for this info-sharing sight!
In your opinion would heating something with an already escalating level of tyramine make more or less migrain-toxic?
Do you know if there is any known preemptive for tyramine much like lactose intolerant people take preemptive enzymes?
I have found that the best thing to do is limit/ avoid tyramine-rich foods. Tyramine does degrade as food is heated but it does not disappear. It is tricky to find anything that is preemptive because the cause may likely be different for different people. In many cases, the tyramine/ histamine problem may be due to an imbalance between good/bad bacteria in the small intestine. Some of the harmful bacteria to the small intestine could be increasing the bigenic amines as they utilize carbs/ sugars as energy. Therefore, balancing the gut bacteria may assist in lessening the effects of tyramine-rich foods.
Well, I do not have migraines at all but being on a MAOI I have to be very wary of high tyramine content foos as well. I think this source of information will be very useful for you all as well.
The most comprehensive guide on tyramine related diet is here:
There is an abbreviated PDF and a full blown one.
The quantities depends on how sensitive to tyramine you are. Trial and error is the only way to know if you really like one of the forbidden foods.
I can have some Parmiggiano within some limits for instance.
Do yourself a favour and make sure to read this entry as well:
It can apply to you or some relative given how genetics play a role.
I’m suffering from migraines for over 22 years and before I knew I’d get them pretty bad either a few days before my cycle or during the cycle or usually the 2nd or 3rd day after the cycle. Meanwhile because of hormonsl changes the migraines are all over the place and for the most part I know my triggers and I’m really staying away from that food. But today I made a big mistake – I put only a half of a cucumber in my salad ( I normally dont like to eat them because they make me burp a lot) since it had such a nice smell…it gave me a terrible throbbing headache not a migraine because I thought my temples are about to explode….so I had to research because the other day I used Stevia to sweeten my drink and out of the blue a massive migraine struck me. Found out its a huge migraine trigger. No more cucumbers and Stevia on my menu thats for sure. Thank you for sharing your experiences.
A question, was it pure Stevia or it has other sweeteners? aspartame, sorbitol, etc.
Aspartame is known to increase the blood pressure in some people.
Sometimes they say it has stevia (a small quantity just for marketing) but it has really a low content on it.
Once said this, I have tried pure Stevia (three drops) and it does increase my diastolic blood pressure and gives me a slight headache. And I do not suffer from migraines.
For me headaches are rare and linked to blood pressure variation due to tyramine.
This case has nothing to do with tyramine. The plausible and possible explanation for this applies to any sweetener:
Solution: get sugar/honey, just not much. It tastes better as well.
Hope it helps !
Give Pyure brand Stevia a try. I think it’s the best Stevia sweetener on the market. All the other artificial sweeteners are bad for anyone, not just migraine sufferers. It’s good to know about cucumbers because I didn’t know that. I will definitely stay away from them now.
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?
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.
No, not necessarily !
Just follow a diet low in tyramine and see what happens. I take a MAO inhibitor to deactivate MAO-A and B, go figure!
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.
I too have recently suffered with vertigo with my migraines. I think I have figured out though what the problem is. I recently fell into the trap of drinking “beet juice” for “healthy” living. Not realizing that raising NO levels in migraine sufferers is a real no-no! I have quickly stopped drinking beet root drinks and hope this will clear up the vertigo.
Thank you for this site.
You are most welcome. Tyramine is a real problem for those of us with migraines and it is essential to ingest foods/drinks with this in mind. It can be somewhat difficult at times, but positive results tend to follow.
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.
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.
“Snack: bowl full of pepperoni.”
OMG, that is a tyramine bomb !! No wonder !!
Never eat processed meats like pepperoni, sausage and bacon because they all contain nitrites in them which definitely trigger migraines. You can buy nitrite free bacon and that is ok to eat. If you are a cheese eater you need to cut out cheddar and ANY kind of aged cheese because something in the aging process causes migraines. I’ve learned I can safely eat goat cheese and mozzarella because neither are aged. There are some very good goat cheeses on the market today. I once tried a blueberry goat cheese that was like having dessert. It was delicious! Splemda is not good for migraines either. I made the switch to Pyure brand of organic Stevia and love it. It took about a week to completely adjust to it but now I love it and would never go back. The same is true for aspartame sweeteners. They are bad anyway but especially if you’re prone to migraines. My doctor just recently told me not to eat tomatoes either or any vegetables that are considered to be in the night shade family as they trigger migraines. Msg is another migraine trigger and is hidden in a lot of food under different names. My migraines were getting so severe that I now don’t eat anything unless it is fresh. I do not eat anything processed, packaged or canned as the BPA in cans can trigger migraines. I believe if you cut out these thins your migraines will reduce quite a bit. I hope this helps.
Splenda and all your snacks except tomatoes are my migraine triggers, even your bacon lol
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
I was shocked the first time I ate watermelon as the migraine reaction was instant! I’d never had that reaction before or since then with anything else. After a few bites I was double over holding my head crying out in pain because it was so intense. Believe me I learned my lesson that day. I never touch the stuff now