By Taylor Jones
Migraines affect up to 15 percent of adults worldwide (1).
They differ from an average headache in severity and symptoms and can greatly reduce the quality of life of people who suffer from them.
Despite decades of research, the exact cause of migraines is still unknown.
It is clear that diet won't cause a person to start experiencing migraines.
However, for the people who do suffer from migraines, diet is one of several factors that may trigger one.
This is a list of the foods most commonly reported as migraine triggers.
1. Aged Cheeses
Cheese is often identified as a migraine trigger.
Other foods high in tyramine include those that are aged, cured, dried, smoked or pickled, including cheddar cheese, Swiss cheese, salami, sauerkraut and tofu.
Unfortunately, the evidence on tyramine and migraines is mixed. Yet, more than half of the studies looking for a relationship between tyramine and migraines found that tyramine could act as a trigger in some people (3).
High-quality studies are needed to confirm this link, though it's estimated that approximately 5 percent of people who suffer from migraines are sensitive to tyramine (3).
If you feel your migraines are triggered by hard cheeses, this may be the reason why.
Summary: Aged cheeses and other foods high in tyramine are often considered migraine triggers. The evidence is mixed, but there may be a link.
Chocolate is a commonly reported migraine trigger.
However, the evidence is conflicting.
For example, one small study in migraine sufferers found that 5 of 12 participants got migraine attacks within one day of eating chocolate (5).
Interestingly, none of them got an attack after ingesting the placebo.
Therefore, it's likely that chocolate is not a major factor in migraines for most people. Despite this, those who feel that chocolate is a trigger may want to avoid it.
Summary: Chocolate is one of the most commonly reported migraine triggers. This may be related to some of the plant compounds found in chocolate.
3. Cured or Processed Meats
In fact, in the 1970s when people first reported headaches after consuming nitrites, they were often referred to as "hot dog headaches" (1).
Today, cured and processed meats are still often reported as migraine triggers.
Nitrites may provoke migraines by causing the expansion of blood vessels.
However, further research is needed to say how relevant this is for migraine sufferers (3).
Summary: Processed or cured meats often contain nitrates or nitrites, which may trigger headaches in susceptible people.
4. Fatty and Fried Foods
Fat may also affect susceptibility to migraines.
This may be because high levels of certain fats in the blood lead to the production of prostaglandins.
Prostaglandins can cause your blood vessels to dilate, potentially leading to migraines and increased pain (10).
One study on this association found that at the beginning of the study, participants eating a high-fat diet containing more than 69 grams of fat daily had nearly twice as many headaches at those who ate less fat (10).
They also found that after reducing their fat intake, the participants' headache frequency and intensity decreased. Nearly 95 percent of the participants reported a 40 percent improvement in their headaches (10).
However, in both studies, other factors besides fat intake were changed, such as weight loss or excluding animal products.
Therefore, it's not possible to say for sure that lowering fat intake alone was responsible for the improvements.
Summary: Eating a diet high in fat may increase the frequency of migraines. Consequently, lowering fat intake has been shown to improve migraine intensity and frequency.
5. Some Chinese Food
Reports of headaches in response to consuming MSG have been prevalent for several decades.
Alternatively, these foods' typically high fat or salt contents could be to blame.
Nevertheless, MSG continues to be frequently reported as a headache and migraine trigger.
Summary: Monosodium glutamate, which is present in many Chinese and processed foods, is often reported to provoke headaches.
6. Coffee, Tea and Sodas
Caffeine is often used to treat headaches.
But interestingly, some evidence suggests that it can indirectly provoke migraines.
A "caffeine withdrawal headache" is a well-known phenomenon in which a headache occurs as the effects of caffeine wear off.
This happens when blood vessels start to expand again after contracting in response to caffeine consumption (3).
This effect could trigger migraines in those who are susceptible.
However, caffeine withdrawal seems to more commonly cause the average, non-migraine headache (1).
Summary: Caffeine may indirectly trigger headaches via withdrawal effects. This happens when the effects of caffeine wear off and certain blood vessels expand.
7. Artificial Sweeteners
Aspartame is a type of artificial sweetener that is frequently added to foods and beverages to make them taste sweet without adding sugar.
A few small studies have investigated whether aspartame negatively affects people who suffer from migraines.
Unfortunately, the studies were either small or had design flaws, but they did find that aspartame affected headaches in some migraine sufferers.
One of these studies found that more than half of 11 participants experienced increased migraine frequency after consuming large amounts of aspartame (15).
Therefore, it's possible that a portion of migraine sufferers may be sensitive to aspartame.
Summary: Aspartame is a common artificial sweetener that may increase migraine frequency in some people.
8. Alcoholic Drinks
Alcoholic drinks are one of the oldest-known triggers for headaches and migraines alike. Unfortunately, the reason why is not so clear.
People who get migraines tend to drink less alcohol than people who don't get migraines and they seem more likely than others to experience migraine symptoms as part of a hangover (16).
However, alcohol itself may not be to blame.
People often point to red wine, rather than alcohol in general, as a migraine trigger.
As evidence, one study found that drinking red wine, but not vodka, provoked headaches (18).
However, the exact cause of this is still unknown.
Regardless, it's estimated that alcoholic drinks can trigger migraines in approximately 10 percent of people who get migraines.
While there isn't a need for most migraine sufferers to avoid alcohol completely, those who are susceptible should limit their consumption (4).
Summary: Alcoholic drinks are one of the most well-known migraine triggers. However, alcohol is not a problem for everyone who gets migraines and the reason why is unclear.
9. Cold Food and Drinks
Most people have heard of the "ice cream" headaches that cold or frozen foods and beverages can trigger.
However, these foods and beverages may also provoke migraines in susceptible people.
One study asked participants to hold an ice cube between their tongues and the roofs of their mouths for 90 seconds in order to study cold-induced headaches (19).
They found that this test triggered headaches in 74 percent of the 76 migraine sufferers who participated. On the other hand, it triggered pain in only 32 percent of those who suffered from non-migraine headaches (19).
Another study found that women who had experienced a migraine within the previous year were twice as likely to develop a headache after drinking ice-cold water, compared to women who never suffered from migraines (20).
Therefore, migraine sufferers who notice that their headaches are triggered by cold foods may want to avoid ice-cold or frozen foods and drinks, including frozen yogurt, ice cream or slushies.
Summary: People who suffer from migraines may be more likely to experience a cold-induced headache than the average person. Therefore, it may be a good idea to avoid very cold foods and drinks.
The Bottom Line
Although diet will not cause someone to start getting migraines, it is one of many factors that can trigger a migraine in someone who frequently experiences them.
Therefore, migraine sufferers who have dietary triggers may find relief by avoiding any foods they are sensitive to.
The best way to identify if certain foods trigger migraines for you is to create a food and symptom diary and check to see if any patterns emerge.
Additionally, make sure to pay particular attention to the foods and drinks in the list above.
Limiting common food triggers is a good place to start reducing the frequency and severity of your migraines.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Authority Nutrition.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Mark Hertsgaard
What follows are not candidate endorsements. Rather, this nonpartisan guide aims to inform voters' choices, help journalists decide what races to follow, and explore what the 2020 elections could portend for climate action in the United States in 2021 and beyond.
Will the White House Turn Green?<p>Whether the White House changes hands is the most important climate question of the 2020 elections. President Donald Trump rejects climate science, is withdrawing the United States from the Paris Agreement, and has accelerated fossil fuel development. His climate policy seems to be, as he tweeted in January when rejecting a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposal to protect New York City from storm surges, "Get your mops and buckets ready."</p><p>Joe Biden, who started the 2020 campaign with a climate position so weak that activists gave it an "F," called Trump a "climate arsonist" during California's recent wildfires. Biden backs a $2 trillion plan to create millions of jobs while slashing emissions—a Green New Deal in all but name. Equally striking, his running mate, California Senator Kamala Harris, has endorsed phasing out fossil fuel production—a politically explosive scientific imperative.</p><p>The race will be decided in a handful of battleground states, five of which already face grave climate dangers: Florida (hurricanes and sea-level rise), North Carolina (ditto), Texas (storms and drought), Michigan (floods), and Arizona (heat waves and drought). <a href="https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/visualizations-data/ycom-us/" target="_blank">Public concern is rising</a> in these states, but will that concern translate into votes?</p>
Will Democrats Flip the Senate, and by Enough to Pass a Green New Deal?<p>With Democrats all but certain to maintain their majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Senate will determine whether a potential Biden administration can actually deliver climate progress. Democrats need to pick up three seats to flip the Senate if Biden wins, four if he doesn't. But since aggressive climate policy is shunned by some Democrats, notably Joe Manchin of coal-dependent West Virginia, Democrats probably need to gain five or six Senate seats to pass a Green New Deal.</p><p>Environmentalists, including the League of Conservation Voters, are targeting six Republicans who polls suggest are vulnerable.</p><ul><li>Steve Daines of Montana, who denies climate science</li><li>Martha McSally of Arizona</li><li>Thom Tillis of North Carolina</li><li>Susan Collins of Maine</li><li>Joni Ernst of Iowa (bankrolled by Charles Koch)</li><li>John James of Michigan (also a Koch beneficiary)</li></ul><p>Republican Senators are even at risk in conservative Kansas and Alaska. In both states, the Democratic candidates are physicians—not a bad credential amid a pandemic—who support climate action. In Kansas, Barbara Bollier faces an incumbent funded by Charles Koch. In Alaska, Al Gross urges a transition away from oil, though his openness to limited drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Preserve dims his appeal to green groups. He faces incumbent Republican Dan Sullivan, who receives an 8 percent lifetime voting record from the League of Conservation Voters.</p>
Will Local and State Races Advance Climate Progress?<h4>THE CLIMATE HAWKS</h4><p>Under Democratic and Republican leadership alike, Washington has long been a graveyard for strong climate action. But governors can boost or block renewable energy; the Vermont and New Hampshire races are worth watching. Attorneys general can sue fossil fuel companies for lying about climate change; climate hawks are running for the top law enforcement seats in Montana and North Carolina. State legislatures can accelerate or delay climate progress, as the new Democratic majorities in Virginia have shown. Here, races to watch include Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Colorado.</p><h4>THE CLIMATE POLICY MAKERS</h4><p>Perhaps the most powerful, and most overlooked, climate policy makers are public utility commissions. They control whether pipelines and other energy infrastructure gets built; they regulate whether electric utilities expand solar and energy efficiency or stick with the carbon-heavy status quo. Regulatory capture and outright corruption are not uncommon.</p><p>A prime example is Arizona, where a former two-term commissioner known as the godfather of solar in the state is seeking a comeback. Bill Mundell argues that since Arizona law permits utilities to contribute to commissioners' electoral campaigns, the companies can buy their own regulators. Which may explain why super-sunny Arizona has so little installed solar capacity.</p><p>In South Dakota, Remi Bald Eagle, a Native American U.S. Army veteran, seeks a seat on the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, which rules on the Standing Rock oil pipeline. And in what <em>HuffPost</em> called "the most important environmental race in the country," Democrat Chrysta Castaneda, who favors phasing out oil production, is running for the Texas Railroad Commission, which despite its name decides what oil, gas, and electric companies in America's leading petro-state can build.</p>
Will the Influencers Usher in a Green New Era?<h4>THE UNCOUNTED</h4><p>The story that goes largely under-reported in every U.S. election is how few Americans vote. In 2016, some 90 million, <a href="https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2018/08/09/an-examination-of-the-2016-electorate-based-on-validated-voters/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">roughly four out of every 10 eligible voters</a>, did not cast a ballot. Attorney Nathaniel Stinnett claims that 10 million of these nonvoters nevertheless identify as environmentalists: They support green policies, even donate to activist groups; they just don't vote. Stinnett's <a href="https://www.environmentalvoter.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Environmental Voter Project</a> works to awaken this sleeping giant.</p><h4>THE SUNRISE MOVEMENT</h4><p>Meanwhile, the young climate activists of the <a href="http://www.sunrisemovement.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Sunrise Movement</a> are already winning elections with an unabashedly Green New Deal message. More than any other group, Sunrise pushed the Green New Deal into the national political conversation, helping Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey draft the eponymous congressional resolution. In 2020, Sunrise has helped Green New Deal champions defeat centrists in Democratic primaries, with Markey dealing Representative Joe Kennedy Jr. the first defeat a Kennedy has ever suffered in a Massachusetts election. But can Sunrise also be successful against Republicans in the general elections this fall?</p><h4>THE STARPOWER</h4><p>And an intriguing wild card: celebrity firepower, grassroots activism, and big-bucks marketing have converged behind a campaign to get Latina mothers to vote climate in 2020. Latinos have long been the U.S. demographic most concerned about climate change. Now, <a href="https://votelikeamadre.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Vote Like A Madre</a> aims to get 5 million Latina mothers in Florida, Texas, and Arizona to the polls. Jennifer Lopez, Salma Hayak, and Lin-Manuel Miranda are urging mothers to make a "pinky promise" to vote for their kids' climate future in November. Turning out even a quarter of those 5 million voters, though no easy task, could swing the results in three states Trump must win to remain president, which brings us back to the first category, "Will the White House Turn Green?"</p>
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By Tony Carnie
South Africa is home to around 1,300 of the world's roughly 7,100 remaining cheetahs. It's also the only country in the world with significant cheetah population growth, thanks largely to a nongovernmental conservation project that depends on careful and intensive human management of small, fenced-in cheetah populations. Because most of the reserves are privately funded and properly fenced, the animals benefit from higher levels of security than in the increasingly thinly funded state reserves.
Vincent van der Merwe at a cheetah translocation. Endangered Wildlife Trust
Under Pressure<p>Cheetah populations elsewhere in Southern Africa have not prospered over the past 50 years. In Zimbabwe, cheetah numbers have crashed from 1,500 in 1975, to just 170 today. Botswana's cheetah population has held steady at around 1,500 over the same period, but illegal capture for captive breeding and conflicts with farmers and the growing human population are increasing. In Namibia, there were an estimated 3,000 cheetah in in 1975; roughly 1,400 remain today.</p><p>In contrast, South Africa's cheetah numbers have grown from about 500 in 1975 to nearly 1,300 today. Van der Merwe, who is also a Ph.D. student at the University of Cape Town's Institute for Communities and Wildlife in Africa (iCWild), says he's confident that South Africa will soon overtake Namibia and Botswana, largely because the majority of South African cheetahs are protected and managed behind fences, whereas most of the animals in the neighboring countries remain more vulnerable on mainly unfenced lands.</p><p>Wildlife researchers Florian Weise and colleagues have reported that private stock owners in Namibia still trap cheetahs mainly for translocation, but there are few public or private reserves large enough to contain them. Weise says that conservation efforts need to focus on improving tolerance toward cheetahs in commercial livestock and game farming areas to reduce indiscriminate trapping.</p><p>Van der Merwe says fences can be both a blessing and a curse. While these barriers prevent cheetahs and other wild animals from migrating naturally to breed and feed, they also protect cheetahs from the growing tide of threats from humanity and agriculture.</p><p>To simulate natural dispersion patterns that guard against inbreeding, the trust helps landowners swap their animals with other cheetah reserves elsewhere in the country. The South African metapopulation project has been so successful in boosting numbers that the trust is having to look beyond national boundaries to secure new translocation areas in Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique.</p><p>Cheetah translocations have been going on in South Africa since the mid-1960s, when the first unsuccessful attempts were made to move scores of these animals from Namibia. These relocations were mostly unsuccessful.</p>
Charli de Vos uses a VHF antenna to locate cheetahs in Phinda Game Reserve. Tony Carnie for Mongabay
Swinging for the Fences<p>But other wildlife conservation leaders have a different perspective on cheetah conservation strategy.</p><p>Gus Mills, a senior carnivore researcher retired in 2006 from SANParks, the agency that manages South Africa's national parks, after a career of more than 30 years in Kalahari and Kruger national parks. He says the focus should be on quality of living spaces rather than the quantity of cheetahs.</p><p>Mills, who was the founder of the Endangered Wildlife Trust's Carnivore Conservation Group in 1995, and who also spent six years after retirement studying cheetahs in the Kalahari, says it's more important to properly protect and, where possible, expand the size of existing protected areas.</p><p>He also advocates a triage approach to cheetah conservation, in which scarce funds and resources are focused on protecting cheetahs in formally protected areas, rather than diluting scarce resources in an attempt to try and save every single remaining cheetah population.</p><p>"People have an obsession with numbers. But I believe that it is more important to protect large landscape and habitats properly," Mills said.</p><p>He suggests that cheetahs enclosed within small reserves live in artificial conditions: "It's almost like glorified farming."</p><p>"In the long run we have to focus on consolidating formally protected areas," he added. "Africa's human population will double by 2050, so cheetah populations in unfenced areas will become unsustainable if they are eating people's livestock."</p>
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