Cheese seems to be pretty high up on the list of foods to avoid when you’re a migraine patient. But as with anything related to migraine, it ain’t so simple.
First of all, my list isn’t your list. Just because cheese triggers and attack in Josh, there’s no proof that it may trigger an attack in Ashley.
The common theory when it comes to cheese is that it contains tyramine, an organic compound in a lot of foods that may trigger migraine attacks. Many migraine patients have tried a low-tyramine diet, and many have been helped by it.
But here’s the catch – some cheeses are super-high in tyramine, others are not. Don’t just "avoid cheese" – there are many cheeses that may not bother you at all. (Of course, if you’re avoiding dairy altogether, skip the rest of this article and read this.)
The cheeses that are aged tend to be the worst offenders. From What Your Doctor May NOT Tell You About Migraines, here is a list of the common cheeses that are high tyramine, the worst first:
- English Stilton
- Blue cheese
- Sharp (old) Cheddar
- Danish blue
- Swiss Gruyère
Others that are often listed are Boursault, Boursin, Brie, Colby, Emmenthaler, Camembert, Gouda, Muenster, Provolone, Romano, Roquefort, and Swiss.
Now, there’s a bit of a fight over whether or not mozzarella should be on the list – particularly because people love their pizza. So we’ll talk more about mozza in a moment.
So, did the list above seem kind of long? In the book Heal Your Headache, Dr. Buchholz offers this list of cheeses that are fairly low in tyramine.
- Cottage cheese
- Cream Cheese
- (good quality) American cheese
The key here is fresh – young cheeses tend to have less tyramine. Go to your local cheese shop and see what fresh cheeses they offer – you might find a new love. You also might get away with some processed cheeses, such as Cheese Wiz, but I’m not into recommending a lot of processed food when it comes to migraine. And frankly, some processed cheeses are real serious migraine triggers.
And back to mozzarella. Different tests of mozza have led to different results, which is why you sometimes see it as a cheese to avoid, and sometimes as a safe cheese. For most, if you think cheese with tyramine may be a problem, it’s probably wise to err on the side of caution, and then carefully add it back into your diet later. Fresh goat cheese may be another one to try after a while
So, yes, you may be able to eat cheese. Maybe for you, cheese isn’t a problem at all. But if you’ve found a connection between cheese and your migraine attacks, try avoiding the worst offenders for a while and keep track in your migraine diary.