Evaluating Food Trigger Science

How do we figure out if a food is a “common trigger”?

The science behind food triggers is always tricky. We all have our own unique chemistry that determines our personal triggers.

Factors that influence how we react to food include:

  • Our ability to digest and absorb food
  • The composition of our gut bacteria
  • Genetic mutations
  • What else we ate that day 
  • Other triggers we were exposed to that day
  • Neurotransmitter or hormonal imbalances
  • The presence of intolerances or sensitivities
  • Whether we’re stressed or calm while eating
  • …and so much more!

Because of all of these factors, it’s extremely difficult to study food triggers. Think back to threshold theory – we all have different thresholds for migraine, and we are all exposed to different triggers (to which we all respond differently) each day that get us closer to that threshold. 

If you take two migraineurs and give them an avocado, one person may react because they slept poorly, are going through a divorce, and ate 4 chocolate bars the night before; the other may not react because they got eight hours of sleep, have no major stressors, and haven’t been exposed to other food triggers within the last few days.

There’s also the fact that each of these two people have their own unique body chemistry – one person may not be susceptible to the effects of tyramine (found in avocado) at all, while the other may be extremely sensitive.

This means we will do much better looking at the science behind how food behaves in your body rather than clinical trials trying to prove food triggers through experimentation.

This is how the articles within the Food and Food Chemicals topic are researched and written – although clinical trials will always be considered as part of the picture. Anecdotal evidence, or people’s actual experiences, is important too! And above all else, your actual experience will be the most important factor in whether a food is a trigger for you or not. 

Atlanta, GA·Updated Wed, October 7, 2020

Kelli Yates, RDN, CLT

Kelli Yates, RDN, CLT 

Host

Hey friends! I’m Kelli, your favorite dietitian and trusty migraine guide.

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