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HeadWay, Issue #138 -- Tyramine, Lentils and Soy
January 21, 2016

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In this issue:

Tyramine, Lentils and Soy

Say what?! Tyramine

Tyramine, Lentils and Soy

If I have to avoid tyramine, red meat, shade vegetables, too much protein, dairy, nuts, and chocolate - what in the world is left? Welcome to the complex and confusing world of migraine diets.

I received a fascinating email from Harshan in South Africa recently. Harshan, aware of the low tyamine diet (a popular migraine fighting diet), found that certain legumes were triggering migraine attacks. As a vegetarian, finding healthy proteins is always a challenge. So what's left to eat?

This is actually a fascinating question which is important to both vegetarians and non-vegetarians, so we're going to take a look today.

Protein And Tyramine

To get a good overview of the low tyramine diet, check out Should you avoid food with tyramine?. But let's talk mainly about proteins (fish, meat, dairy, beans, eggs, nuts, etc).

The first thing to avoid would be anything aged, fermented, preserved, pickled, and so on. Pepperoni, aged cheese, soy sauce, tap beer, teriaki sauce, and sauerkraut would all be on the please-avoid list. You also need to beware left-overs more than 2 or 3 days old. You also need to beware of products like tempeh and tofu, especially if it's not very fresh.

Next, you'll want to watch out for nuts, and certain beans such as fava and broad beans.

Now that leaves a whole lot you can still eat, even as a vegetarian. Most beans and grains, fresh cheeses, and almost all fruits and vegetables.

What about Lentils and Soy?

But lentils and soy (unless they're not fresh, or they're in a fermented product such as soy sauce) are allowed in a low tyramine diet. So what's the problem?

The problem is that they do trigger migraine attacks for some people (which is why, for example, Dr. Buchholz adds lentils to his "do not eat" list, as do some other doctors).

So if soy and lentils aren't high in tyramine, what's the problem?

Some people have suggested that compounds known as purines in lentils could be the culprit. Some people actually follow a low-purine diet for certain conditions.

But that brings us back to the start of the article - if I have to avoid tyramine, purines, meat, glutin, and so on and so on - pretty soon I have an impossible to follow and possibly contradictory diet. And the fact of the matter is, we're not sure why lentils and soy trigger migraine attacks in some people.

There is a real danger that you can even make your migraine attacks worse by becoming too restrictive in what you eat.

How To Choose A Protein

First, don't be intimidated because "everyone" is eating "super-proteins" like lentils, nuts, and soy - and you feel you can't. There are still a lot of options.

Second, don't get too caught up in one-size-fits-all migraine diets. Yes, the low-tyramine diet has helped a lot of people. But just because a certain type of food triggers attacks in a lot of people doesn't mean it will be a problem for you.

Keep a careful migraine diary and try eliminating certain foods. If it doesn't make a difference, slowly introduce them back into your diet.

It's true that lentils and soy are triggers for a lot of people. But there are probably a lot of other legumes you can safely eat. In spite of the rows of soy products at the supermarket, it is possible to live a healthy, happy life without soy!

If you're a vegetarian, you are more limited when it comes to protein. It is going to take extra commitment to search out what works for you. But there are options - as long as you realize you can't necessarily eat the same as every other vegetarian. When you have a disease such as migraine, it may call for some hard work. But you should be able to eat a rich, delicious, varied diet while avoiding your triggers.

Say what?! Tyramine

Wait - just what is tyramine? Tyramine is a compound known as an amine that is produced from the natural breakdown of the amino acid tyrasine. It's found naturally in many foods, but is also created when food is aged, fermented, or after time when it's no longer fresh. For people taking a monoamine oxidase inhibitor, tyramine can lead to dangerously high blood pressure. A low tyramine diet is also one of the most well known migraine fighting diets.

Thanks for reading!  Remember, if you have feedback or ideas for future issues, visit the HeadWay MailRoom.  Your password is nomoache.
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