How Food Can Hurt your Health

Migraines and tension-type headaches are caused by a complex series of biochemical events. Some of these reactions inflame the nerves next to blood vessels in the head and make those blood vessels constrict then dilate. The coursing flow of blood through the dilated veins and arteries in your head causes the pounding throb of headache pain. The inflammation of tissues in your circulatory and central nervous systems only adds to the ouch.
Researchers offer several hypotheses about how food could set off these changes. These include directly constricting or dilating the brain’s blood vessels or altering the body’s chemistry in ways that indirectly affect the blood vessels and nerves in the head. A food might cause a drop in blood sugar and insulin levels, for example, creating a shortage of magnesium in the brain or otherwise mimicking the effects of severe stress on the body.
As a rule, foods don’t directly cause headaches, but they may provoke chemical changes in your brain that do cause headaches. That’s why doctors call food a trigger, rather than a cause of headaches.
Headache-prone people are unusually sensitive to certain chemicals in food. Some researchers believe that this sensitivity is partly due to a deficiency of the enzymes that break down these chemicals. So while some people may think that their headachesare due to an allergy to certain foods, that’s not necessarily so. Allergic reactions involve the immune system; this enzyme deficiency does not.
Food rarely actHow Food Can Hurt your healths alone in bringing on a headache. Usually two or more factors are involved. For instance, chocolate might give you a headache only right before your period. The combination of your body’s hormonal responses and its biochemical response to food creates a kind of short- circuit, bringing on the pounding pain. That’s why a certain food might trigger a headache one time but not another. Your odds go up if you drink red wine and eat blue cheese while you are under a good deal of stress, for example.
How much food you eat counts, too, as well as whether you eat it on an empty stomach (risky) or with other foods. The same kind of food or drink also can have widely varying chemical makeup, making your body’s reaction much less predictable.
Given that headaches may come on as a delayed reaction, starting anywhere from three to 36 hours after eating or drinking, all these factors complicate how clearly you can pinpoint the cause of your pain.
Many doctors finger the three Cs as the most common troublemakers: chocolate, cheese, and citrus fruits. But tracking down food triggers is more complicated than this short list might suggest.