Wondering why migraines occur? One factor may be the foods and beverages that a person consumes.

Below we dig into some of the more popular foods and beverages and how they may contribute to migraine symptoms.

Hot Dogs 

For many of us, there’s nothing more emblematic of a summer barbecue than delicious hot dogs. But for migraine sufferers, the nitrites contained in many hot dogs can trigger migraines.

Nitrites are chemicals that are added to salt when curing meat products, like bacon, beef jerky and – yes – hot dogs. Nitrates cause migraines by triggering blood vessel dilation.

Selecting hot dogs that are freshly prepared, or contain no nitrates on the ingredient list, can make a world of difference at that summer barbecue. Non-nitrate hot dogs can also help reduce the risk of migraines via the stress-reducing aspects of a truly relaxing summertime celebration.


Whether it’s a champagne toast at a wedding or a round of beer with friends, alcohol consumption is a well-known migraine trigger. And, generally, the more alcohol consumed, the more severe the associated migraine.

Why is alcohol associated with migraines? One reason may be the associated dehydration. In fact, higher amounts of alcohol leads to a greater amount of dehydration – and potentially more migraines or more severe migraine symptoms.

The best way to fend off dehydration is to alternate alcoholic drinks with water or seltzer, which can slow or halt the body’s loss of liquid.

Hot Chocolate

Nothing beats a cup of hot chocolate on a cold, wintery day. However, the delicious chocolate part of the beverage contains several ingredients that can all result in headaches and other migraine symptoms. Phenylethylamine can alter blow flow in the brain, leading to migraines. And withdrawal from the natural caffeine contained in chocolate can lead to rebound blood vessel dilation and migraine headaches.

Migraine sufferers who want to enjoy hot chocolate in winter but avoid the migraine-triggering ingredients should consider white hot chocolate. This beverage contains no cocoa solids, making it a great alternative to many traditional hot chocolate varieties.


Fresh strawberry season, which generally runs from April through June, is a fantastic time for lovers of the sweet fruit. But strawberries naturally contain tyramine, a substance that has been linked to migraines. Tyramine is thought to cause migraines by causing increases levels of norepinephrine, a naturally occurring chemical, in the brain.

When it comes to strawberry consumption for migraine sufferers, moderation may be more appropriate than avoidance (as a smaller amount of strawberries can usually be tolerated). Either way, it is important to pay attention to how you feel next time you eat strawberries, to get a sense of how much you can tolerate.

Although certain foods and beverages have been shown to cause migraines, it is important to remember that migraine pain can be triggered by a wide range of internal and external factors, including:

  • Allergies
  • Bright light
  • Emotional or physical stress
  • Fatigue
  • Hormonal changes
  • Loud sounds
  • Smoking or smoke exposure

As a board-certified head and neck surgeon with dual-subspecialty training in facial plastic and reconstructive surgery, Dr. Jonathan Cabin of The Migraine Institute offers comprehensive migraine diagnosis and treatment. To set up a consultation with Dr. Cabin, please call us at 310.461.0303.

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