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Be Careful! What You Put in Your Mouth Could Be Causing Headaches, Neckaches, TMJ, IBS, Panic Attacks, and More
Many people self-destruct by unknowingly ingesting medicine, food, and/or beverages that aggravate the migraine syndrome. The migraine syndrome may consist of headaches, neckaches, TMJ, IBS, panic attacks, fibromyalgia, hypoglycemia, and vertigo. People that are subject to the migraine syndrome have bodies that are sensitive to light, sound, smell, food, and/or stress. This sensitivity to food, beverages, and/or medicine can cause physical and mental symptoms. The purpose of this article is to enlighten people who may have a body sensitive to certain substances that they may put in their mouths.
There are a number of other medicines with which people subject to the migraine syndrome should be aware of potential problems. This is a list of medications with the possible side effect of aggravating migraines: commonly blood vessel dilators (nitroglycerin, angina meds, Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra), occasionally hormones (oral contraceptives, estrogens, medicines to manipulate estrogen), some blood pressure medicines, Tagamet, Zantac, sulfa antibiotics, and rarely antidepressants (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors—SSRI’s and Wellbutrin). However, many antidepressants and blood pressure medications are used to decrease stress and prevent migraines. Most medications have an extremely low potential for aggravating migraines. But as I tell my patients, if the odds of having problems are one in a million and you are the one who has problems—it is 100% for you. Another common problem is rebound. Rebound symptoms occur when pain medications are taken too often and result in ultimately causing pain instead of the desired effect of relieving pain.
It is not just pills you take orally that can give you problems. You may need to be careful of certain foods and beverages. If anyone has had a “hangover headache,” then that person was having a migraine! “Hangover headaches” are migraines. That may be the only time that migraines bother that person, but probably there are other manifestations of the migraine syndrome. Alcohol can be risky, but knowing a bit more can be helpful in avoiding reactions. There are other chemicals which may be risk factors. Tyramine is a chemical found in Chianti wine, aged cheeses, sour cream, yogurt, smoked fish, and yeast extracts. Many of my migraineurs (people that get migraines) can drink white Zinfandel in moderation without consequences. Red wines, vermouth, champagne, brandy, and beer are the usual offenders. A headache expert told me that he avoided red wine for years in fear of triggering one of his migraines. Finally, he kept a diary and found out that he could enjoy red wine with his dinner. Sulfites are found in wines and also used as a preservative, especially at salad bars. Sulfites are used to preserve beer, cider, apple juice, mashed potatoes, and dried apricots. Remember: triggers are additive; therefore, what is a trigger one time, may not be at another time. If you are tired, had a stressful day, time of the month, or bright lights at work, you may be a set up for the migraine syndrome.
Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a name with which many of you are unfortunately very familiar. Chinese restaurants are notorious for using MSG in food preparation; however, MSG is used in most processed foods. Reading labels is essential but do not just look for the words monosodium glutamate. MSG may be called hydrolyzed, or hydrogenated, vegetable or plant protein, natural flavoring, calcium or sodium caseinate, or Kombu extract. Look especially at seasoned salt, instant foods, canned soup, bullion cubes, frozen dinners, pizza, and potato chips. Sodium nitrite is used as a preservative in meats; for example, hot dogs, sausages, lunch meats, and dried, cured, or smoked meats.
Aspartamate (NutraSweet, Equal), an artificial sweetener, can trigger headaches. However, if aspartamate is consumed regularly, then it may seem “normal” to be suffering from the migraine syndrome. Two to three months of abstinence from aspartamate is worth a try. Sucralose (Splenda) was supposed to be migraine safe, but I can tell you that in my family it spells disaster. Caffeine can help migraines or cause them. If consumed daily, then the absence can cause headaches. Sometimes foods or beverages are not liked by someone, and the person does not know why. Often the object of dislike turns out to be a trigger, and the migraineur has been wisely but unknowingly avoiding problems. I have often said, “Cigarette smoke and NutraSweet are major causes of fibromyalgia.”
I have included a list of possible dietary triggers.
Alcohol: especially red wine, vermouth, champagne, brandy, beer
Caffeine: coffee, tea, chocolate, soft drinks
Dairy: aged cheeses, sour cream, whole milk, buttermilk, yogurt, ice cream
Breads: sourdough, yeast, some types of cereals
Vegetables: some types of beans (lima, lentil, soy), sauerkraut, onions, peas
Snacks: nuts, peanuts, peanut butter, pickles, seeds, sesame
Meats: fish, meats with nitrates, organ meats, dried or cured or smoked meats
Fruits: most citrus fruits, bananas, avocados, pineapples, raisins, papaya, passion fruit, red plums, raspberries, plantains, figs
MSG: seasoned salt, canned soup, frozen dinners, pizza, potato chips
Desserts: chocolate, licorice, molasses, cakes and cookies made with yeast
Soups: soups containing MSG or made from bouillon cubes
Seasonings: soy sauce, some spices, garlic or onion powder, meat tenderizer
Hunger: missing meals, dieting, fasting
For more information, go to http://www.migrainesyndrome.net.
About the Author: J. Wes Tanner, MD is a family practice and headache specialist who has been treating people for about 30 years. He has extensive experience in treating migraines and fibromyalgia with excellent success. In "Doctor, Why Do I Feel This Way?", Dr. Tanner exposes the secrets and myths about fibromyalgia and the migraine syndrome. To find out more, go to http://www.migrainesyndrome.net.