Should you avoid food with tyramine?

Many migraineurs have found that food with tyramine is just the thing to trigger that brain-numbing headache. But why does tyramine cause problems, and how can you avoid it?


Tyramine is a compound known as an amine found in many foods, produced from the natural breakdown of the amino acid, tyrasine. Tyramine can cause blood vessels to dilate, and this may be what starts the migraine chain-reaction in some people.

Should I avoid food with tyramine?

If you've noticed that food with tyramine is a trigger for you, you already know the answer. If not, try cutting your amounts of food with tyramine to a minimum for 3-4 weeks and keep track of what happens to your headaches.

If you're taking a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI), then you most certainly should make sure you're on a low tyramine diet, because tyramine can pose a significant health risk to you.

Visit the US based National Headache Foundation page on food with tyramine.

So what foods contain tyramine?

Food with tyramine is generally preserved or aged. For this reason, you should be very wary of leftovers that have been in the refrigerator for more than 24-48 hours. The more “aged” foods become, the worse the trigger may be.

Some examples of dangerously high levels are:
soy sauce (0.941 mg/ml), sauerkraut (3.1 mg/100 g), salami (0-125mg/100g)

Dr Seymour Diamond, director of the Diamond Headache Clinic, has developed a low-tyramine headache diet. You can find the details in his book, Conquering Your Migraine, but here's a list of the worst offenders from his book and my own research, broken down into categories:

Meat, fish, poultry and eggs

Anything aged, dried, fermented, salted, smoked or pickled. Watch out especially for pepperoni, salami and liverwurst.


Aged cheese. If you get migraines, the best cheese for you is farmers cheese, cottage cheese and cream cheese.


Fava or broad beans, sauerkraut, pickles, olives. Any fermented soy products (ie miso, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce).

Nuts and seeds

All nuts.


All alcoholic and fermented beverages


mincemeat pie


MSG and related chemicals (see our page about MSG for details) Marmite and products containing marmite.

If this list reads like your shopping list, don't be surprised. For some reason those of us with migraines often crave foods that do us the most harm. If you're having a craving, don't go all out. If you must, eat a small amount, and follow up with something more head-friendly.

To summarize

Eat it fresh, and cut down on the prepared foods. Yes, it does take a bit of work and planning, but it does get easier as time goes by. And not only will it help with the migraine situation, you may just find yourself with more energy, strength, endurance and less stress! Think it might be worth a try?

>> If you've found this information helpful, be sure to check out the free e-zine, HeadWay, for up-to-date tips on conquering migraine and other headaches.

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