11 Foods to Skip for a Migraine-free Fourth of July

Can headache sufferers find independence from the pain of migraine on Independence Day and the morning after?

Patriotic picnic spreads offer tempting varieties of grilled meats and delicious side dishes. Which traditional Fourth of July foods are most likely to trigger migraines in headache-prone individuals?

Here are several Fourth of July favorites that may prove perilous to migraine sufferers.

Many popular picnic foods have been known to set up headache-prone people for unfortunate aftermaths to eating. On Independence Day or other occasions, migraine-affected folks do well to avoid these items.

1. Diet sodas

The most commonly used artificial sweeteners, aspartame (NutraSweetR) and sucralose (SplendaR), have been blamed for inciting headaches.

2. Dips

Creamy appetizer dips often contain monosodium glutamate (MSG), a known migraine trigger.

3. Flavored chips

Barbecue, cheese, sour cream and onion and other flavored dry snacks usually boast whopping amounts of MSG. Plain potato chips, pretzels, tortilla flakes and corn chips are usually free of this neurologically stimulating flavor enhancer.

4. Hot dogs

Nitrates, nitrites and tyramine often trigger migraines in affected individuals. These components may be found in hot dogs, bacon, lunch meats, pepperoni and many processed meats.

5. Grill seasonings

The most popular barbecue seasonings, meat tenderizers and steak sauces generally contain MSG. Grill chefs combining their own organic spices may avoid this migraine trigger.

6. Cheese

Aged cheeses tend to have high tyramine levels, which can result in migraines. The highest tyramine contents are usually found in bleu cheese, brie, cheddar, feta, parmesan and Swiss cheeses. On the Fourth of July, plain American cheese may be the best bet.

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7. Taco platters

Taco salad appetizers offer a mixed-bag of known migraine triggers: avocados, bacon or ham, cheddar cheese and processed dip. For migraine sufferers, the end result is anything but a fiesta.

8. Potato salads

Independence Day potato salads, filled with bacon and cheese, can be malicious to migraine patients. Smart sufferers might offer to make this dish, so they can control the contents.

9. Ice cream

Some migraine sufferers are sensitive to dairy products. Also, almost universally, headache-prone people shy away from brain-freeze pain, caused by consuming cold items too quickly.

10. Chocolate

This picnic favorite is filled with phenylethylamine, a widespread migraine trigger. Dark chocolate tends to lead to the most severe headache aftermath.

11. Nuts

Headache-prone folks often respond unfavorably to cashews, peanuts, walnuts and similar items. Even nut oils, commonly used in baking and cooking, may be risky.

Here’s the buzz on booze and headaches.

Besides the nearly universal risk of over-consumption hangover, headache sufferers may find certain alcoholic beverages particularly perilous. Ales, beer, champagne, red wine and dark whiskey seem to cause the most migraine complaints.


What about caffeine and migraines?

Caffeine is a double-edged sword for those with frequent headaches. It may offer short-term relief from such pain, but rebound headaches are also common.


What are the prime picnic picks for those hoping to avoid migraine triggering foods?

Unseasoned burgers, chicken and ribs are often safe bets. Fresh fruit salads and vegetables are always less risky than sauce-soaked side dishes, which may contain migraine-producing additives or seasonings.

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At the dessert table, a sugar cookie, watermelon slice or frozen fruit pop may be appealing and will likely not lead to a food-triggered headache.

As a rule, headache-prone people try to avoid skipping meals, as low blood sugar can trigger attacks as well. Because dehydration is also problematic, drinking plenty of water is critical.

Staying well rested, wearing sunglasses and eating migraine-safe foods throughout the day can help make Independence Day more comfortable and celebratory for such folks.

Happy migraine-free Fourth of July, with liberty from headaches for all.

Linda Ann Nickerson brings decades of reporting and a globally minded Midwestern perspective to a host of topics, balancing human interest with history, hard facts and often humor.

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