In addition to foods high in tyrosine, a tyramine building block (including bananas, plums, avocados, and eggplant), there are other foods, such as milk and turkey, that are rich in another amino acid, tryptophan.
Tryptophan is a building block of one of the body’s important neurotransmitter switches, serotonin, which features prominently in mood and chronic pain disorders.
Tyramine and tryptophan are among the body building blocks which have been linked to migraine, seizure disorders, and other neurological manifestations of allergic reactions.
These reactions have been well documented, although medical research into this aspect of clinical practice is limited to the role of allergy to foodstuffs in childhood hyperactivity hyperkinetic syndrome, now called attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
There have been numerous published reports on food allergy in migraine, one of the best can be found in the Lancet, detailing the tyramine rich foods known to contribute to migraine. I have combined the Lancet list with that of H. H. Davison, reported in the Quarterly Review ofAllergy andApplied Immunology, and with others.
The items are listed below:
• milk, sour cream, yogurt
• aged or processed cheese
• corn (and K~iro syrup)
• alcohol (wine, beer, etc.)
• red meat (beef, etc.), pork (pork products)
• food containing monosodium glutamate (MSG)
• bouillon, soup cubes, soy sauce
• nuts (especially peanuts and peanut butter)
• piclded or marinated herring
• seafood, shellfish
• citrus fruit (oranges, grapefruit)
• cola drinks
• tomatoes, cabbage, spinach, avocados
• canned soup
• chicken liver, beef liver
• processed foods and smoked or cured meats
• plums, prunes, canned figs
• broad beans, lima beans
• coffee, tea, cocoa
These are among the better known sources, though you may be sensitive to other foods. In a survey of research on food allergy and migraine, a recent New York Times article reported finding that “75% of migraine patients may be allergic to 5 or more foods. some to 20 or more foods.”
If you are a parent, you are probably aware of the role of junk foods and stimulants such as caffeine found in soft drinks, preservatives, and coloring and additives, in migraine. I am sure that you’ve read about this in many magazines that report on health issues. But I would like to direct your attention to an article by Dr. J. Egger and colleagues, published in the Journal of Pediatrics and titled “Oligo antigenic Diet Treatment of Children with Epilepsy and Migraine.” (Oligoantigenic means low in antigens, substances to which your immune system responds with the production of antibodies.)
The foods mentioned most frequently were:
– cow milk
– cow cheese
– pork chocolate
– citrus fruit
– food additives
– hen eggs
– cane sugar
You might consider these items if you decide to consult a physician or nutritionist with a view to reducing them in your diet or in your child’s diet. Remember, I recommend against going cold turkey on foods. Elimination diets should be supervised by a qualified professional. Sudden elimination of foods that trigger symptoms may actually aggravate the condition.
I have treated many migraine sufferers and virtually all had some form of breathing disorder, usually including hyperventilation. There is little doubt in my mind that sensitivity to some foods contributes to disordered breathing in a number of different ways.
Hyperventilation is a known trigger of epileptic seizures, and I can vouch for the role of both nutritional factors and breathing disturbances in that neurological disorder. For persons with seizures, migraine and, in some cases, asthma, my preferred “don’t touch it” food list ranks:
• processed or aged cheese
• pickled herring or pickled vegetables
• smoked or cured meats or fish
• bananas, plums, canned figs
• pork, turkey
• soy sauce
• broad beans
• eggplant, tomatoes, spinach
• citrus pulp, raspberries
• anything containing these foods
Naturally, bananas, for instance, do not cause headaches in everyone, but people who are sensitive to tyramine might be cautious. Additionally, a list of inhalants suspected of triggering these disorders, especially asthma, includes:
• dog and cat dander or hair, bird feathers
• common household cooking gas (leakage through pilot ignition flame)
• believe it or not, tiny pieces of the outer shell (exoskeleton) that fall off cockroaches as they crawl about in your home
These food substances and inhalants do not invariably trigger episodes of a neurological or respiratory disorder. Rather, they have been implicated often enough in these disorders to be taken seriously. There is still considerable controversy about which substances act and by what mechanism they act to promote these disorders.
My preferred explanation follows catastrophe theory, which attempts to explain when a constant relationship is observed to cause an unpredictable change. For instance, a constant pressure applied when bending a stick will result in a predictable bowing of the stick, up to a point. Beyond that point, it breaks. This would not be predicted from the initial changes in the stick due to bending. No matter how much information you have about bending sticks, you cannot predict exactly at what point they will break.
By the same token, a gradual increase in the blood level of action hormones or their mimics from recently consumed food, or increased histamine from an inhaled allergen, may not produce a gradual increase in symptoms. There may be a very gradual and imperceptible change taking place in the body, accompanied by an increase in breathing.Then beyond a certain point, symptoms emerge with vigor.
There is even evidence to suggest that this is what happens in seizure disorder. The effect of allergic stresses accumulates until the seizure threshold is surpassed. The action hormone mimics consumed in foods add to stress-related, naturally released action hormones, and breathing quickens. You begin to hyperventilate, and that may well be the factor that tips the balance.