Friday, March 30, 2007

Beef and Migraine Headaches

And now for something entirely different:

A few years ago, when I went in for my annual checkup at the doctor's office, I got some news. No, it wasn't the earth-shattering sort of news that most people eventually hear from a doctor. But it was news.

When he came to the end of his questionnaire, the doctor asked, "Is there something you want to ask me about?"

"Yes." I said. "Every once in a while, I get a headache that Ibuprofen just can't handle. The pain usually settles right behind one of my eyes. It's pretty intense."

"And do you notice that when you get these headaches, your eyes are sensitive to light, and that sunlight is especially hard to take?" he asked.

"Yeah. That's it exactly."

So he told me: "You've been having the textbook type of migraine headache."

He prescribed Imitrex, a common migraine medication. I took one pill the first time those symptoms showed up again, and within an hour or so the pain began to go away. The medicine did have a couple of funky side effects (feeling out-of-it, sort of woozy; feeling like a 5-pound weight was on my shoulders). But those were much better than the migraine.

A year or so later, I moved to West Texas. Immediately, instead of having one or two migraines a month, it was more like five or six.

Six months later, I was having Sunday lunch with several people from church. One of them is a nursing student who, at the time, was taking a course in nutrition. When I told him about how the migraines were coming more and more frequently, this unassuming, slow-to-speak man looked straight at me and emphatically said, "Stop eating beef."

It just so happened that at that moment, as I remember it, my mouth was full of some of the best-tasting brisket ever. So once I got past one of those awkward moments where the conversation is waiting for you to chew and swallow, I asked him, "Why?"

"Well," he said, "it's kind of complicated. Just do it."

"You think there's some sort of connection between my eating beef and getting migraine headaches?"

"If I were a bettin' man, . . . " he said.

Within a day or so, it dawned on me that my eating habits had changed, even more than I realized, after having moved from Connecticut to Texas. Living in Amarillo, I was now in cattle country, the land of beef. And I'd been eating a lot more of it ever since. Anyway, in response to my friend's advice, when it came to beef, I went cold turkey. Reluctantly.

That was July of last year. Ever since then, my migraines have decreased in frequency by about half. Not only that, but the two times I've put the theory to the test and have eaten a steak or a burger, no later than the next morning I've felt that terrible, familiar feeling.

I'm relating all of this for whatever help it might be to someone else. But I'm also bringing up the subject because I want to hear what works for other people (or people you know) who have suffered with migraines. They still come around. I hate them. And I want to do whatever I can to prevent them, if possible.

I need to stop here, but want to write about this another time because I've recently read of something else that can possibly help with migraines. Be well.


Matt said...

If my memory is right sugar can be another one that can get you.

Anonymous said...

You should be careful when it comes to beef. You could end up like Oprah and in a court of law defending your free speech rights! :o)

Andy said...

Hi Frank,

I just found your blog by searching on google for "migraines from beef?"

Ive been eating beef since childhood,
and ever since first grade ive gotten terrible migraines, and they never know why, imitrex worked a couple times, but no more.

the past 2 years or so ive been trying to eat better, way less meat and what not, but ive noticed, the past hmm.. 7-10 times or so, whnever i eat beef, shortly after the migraine comes, no matter what kind of beef.

so i didnt eat it for 2 months, and i had one small headache during that period, and i finally decided to see what would happen if i tried it again.

i ate beef...... an hour or two later it started, and it was getting worse and worse.

that's it. lol
I am now positive beef does indeed trigger awful headaches, in mot just me, but others as well.

crazy!! lol

my mom used to think i would say it cuz i didnt like it!!
but i did like it!! lol

it just tears my head to shreds,
and it lasts for days and days sometimes. no thank you. lol

Thanks for the blog. Peace

Andy said...

ohhh, also...

i know some people are just to dead set against any kind of "mind altering" substances,

but there are plenty of studies to show that cannabis can help fight migraines very well... ive found this to be true in my own studies.
( but ive also had it have theopposite effect and make it worse).

Also, another safe, natural substance that is even better for shrinking migraines down to zero, is mushrooms, be more precise. ..the kind that contain psilocybin .

If you do a quick search, youll be amazed at the studies and what they show, and a very very small dose, ( minimal to zero mind altering effect), does some amazing things for vaso-dilation.

;) hope that helps somebody, anybody, who suffers from these.


Laura said...

I've suffered from migraines for about 20 years. For awhile I took a prescription drug, but my pharmacist said I was having to take it too often and it was bad for me, so in desperation I tried Excedrin Migraine and it worked like a charm. I've now learned that if I catch it early I can get it to stop quicker.
But the reason I came to your blog was because my son has started noticing that he gets a headache when he eats beef. And I had never heard of that causing migraines before. It isn't all kinds of beef though. It's usually when we have roast beef, not ground beef. Is that the same with you? What is it about beef that causes it? Do you think there would be a difference if you tried free range beef? I might try that for him. He loves beef.
I've also heard that our minds can learn that they usually get a migraine in a certain situation and then that situation will become a trigger. For instance, I've gotten a migraine at a concert few times. Now when I plan to go to a concert I start getting an aura and migraine before I even get there. Weird!!

Frank Bellizzi said...

Hi Laura,

For me, any sort of beef is an absolute trigger. I've had it two or three times in the last 4 years or so and it's always the same. As we know, red meat isn't the best thing for people to ingest anyway. But I sure do miss steaks and cheeseburgers.

Thainamu said...

I found this blog from searching "beef gives me a headache" because I was wondering if that was true for anyone else! Apparently so.

Dawn said...

Hi- I see this is a few years old, I just googled "headache after eating beef." I have had this exact symptom my entire life, and was considered "allergic to beef" as a child. I was required to avoid red food coloring and gelatin (Jello, marshmallows, etc.) as well as beef. When did eat beef, I would get a migraine within a couple of hours of eating. My mom would give me Tylenol and rub my back until I fell asleep, and by the time I woke up the next morning it was gone.

Around the age of 15 or 16, it started to fade a little. The reaction was just as bad, but it wouldn't happen every time I had beef. As an adult, I've tried to pay attention, and I have noticed that when I am well hydrated and have eaten healthy that day, it is less likely that I will react. So if I know I'm craving a steak, I'll drink a lot of water and eat mostly fresh fruits and veggies during the day, and I find if I don't do that too often, I can have a steak without a reaction.

If you are still reading comments on this topic, I hope that helps!

Anonymous said...

I am sure that when I eat beef a headache will follow...had to give it up

creative 313 said...

I ate some ground beef soup over the weekend. Shortly after eating it, I got a migraine. I am giving up beef this week to make sure whether it's a trigger. I get migraines several times a week and I am working on eliminating as many triggers as possible.

Frank Bellizzi said...


I think you'll find that by eliminating beef, you will lessen the number of your migraines.

Since writing this post, I've also discovered that migraines can be related to high blood pressure too. Be well.

A Fully Realized Woman said...

For me it wasn't the beef but the MEAT TENDERIZER. Once I stopped adding powdered meat tenderizer, my migraine/headaches stopped.

Anonymous said...

It hasn't always been this way, but I've discovered the last two years that beef in any form is a definite cause of migraine for me. I'm a 45 year old male, migraines since age 12 or so. It used to be just eating a big steak was a problem, so I stopped eating steaks 8 years ago or so. The last couple of years, any form of beef ( even hotdogs ) will bring on a migraine. With NO beef in my diet I have gone from 2 bad migraines a month to only 3 or 4 per year.

Frank Bellizzi said...

Hi, Anonymous.

Thanks for your comment here. Your experience sounds very similar to mine.

Not that I eat a lot of hotdogs, but if and when you want to there are the turkey, chicken, and pork varieties.

Also, a turkey burger hot off the grill makes me nearly as happy as beef used to.

Be well.

Lord Balto said...

Well, I have found that "real" beef is much better than the processed kind like hot dogs and sausage, which consistently contain glutamate, which is a well-known migraine trigger, either as MSG or "hydrolyzed soy protein" or "natural flavoring." That said, whole beef does give me migraine-like pain in the neck when I wake up in the morning. Keep in mind that migraine triggers are cumulative, so if you're still having them, you're eating something else that's a trigger. The most common suspects are fermented milk products (cheese, yogurt, sour cream) and yeast (an ingredient in many processed foods). The common denominator is that these "foods" contain high quantities of free glutamic acid (a constituent of protein) which, when mixed with salt, form Monosodium Glutamate.

Anonymous said...

Thank you! People think I am crazy, but everytime I eat red meat, I get a horrible migraine. I am glad to find others that suffer from the same thing.

Frank Bellizzi said...


What this means is that you should avoid any beef all the time. Even something as seemingly harmless as meat sauce on spaghetti is likely to give you a headache. Turkey and chicken are the only meats that I will eat anymore. Be well.

Anonymous said...

I have been having migraine kind of headache too. And any type of over the counter meds. won't work on my headache, it pounds on my temple, eyes hurt and back of the neck hurts bad as well.

Just couple days back, I made burgers at home... after eating that, I had this headache, which I haven't had for couple of months. I took Tylenol and it went away the next morning.

This evening I made goat meat soup, after eating it it gave me headache (mild), I realized that if I eat any kind of red meat, it will trigger my migraine, so I am going to avoid eating them, not that I am against beef or goat meat, I love them. And I am a any kind of meat lover. Thanks everyone for posting, it sure helped me, I am not the only one.

On top of that, I might have blood pressure (not in meds.) but I do have to watch it. Red meat triggers blood pressure, someone told me that. Live well, stay healthy!

Anonymous said...

Just like everyone else has stated I also googled "does eating meat give you a headache". I am sp pleased that I am not alone with this problem.

A while back I went through a phase where every month I would cut something out of my diet to see how I felt. I felt the best not eating meat. So I started not eating meat and went about 3 months.

I decided to try meat again and my first experience I got one of my horriable headaches again. I tried meat again and the same thing. I did't realize it but when I thought back I did not have any headaches for the 3 months I wasn't eating meat. It then dawned on me that this could be the problem. I hope it is and I will stop eating meat to see if it helps.

Granted I did eat fish the whole time and never had any issues, I see meat as beef, pork and chicken. I have a theory that chicken might be ok but not sure.

Anonymous said...

I get the opposite effect. I've had migraines several times a week for about 8 years (started in high school). Triggers were usually hunger, lack of sleep, or acute stress of some kind. I treated them with a combination of imitrex, ibuprofen, hot showers, ice packs, compression and laying in a quiet dark room. I tried to treat them by eating--anything. Foods were usually not a trigger, and since hunger was a trigger, I figured I should eat whatever I can. I never thought of beef, and I never usually ate beef, but one day I ate a huge steak and the migraine cleared in about an hour. Now, whenever I get a migraine I eat a large steak and it usually helps. Weird.

Anonymous said...

Yes, its the beef:-(

Anonymous said...

Beef migraines can actually be caused by a tick bite. You need to stop eating ALL cow products (milk, cheese, bouillon in soups, even some gelatin made from beef cartlige) to avoid the migraines altogether. Treat it like an allergy and avoid it at all costs.
Hope this helps.

Anonymous said...

hi mr.frank my name is anna im a born again christian, im very thinkfull that i found your blog i got very bad migraines some time i wake up in the morning i feel very pain,sometimes i cry, or sometime midle of the night i crying bcoz of pain....and just now i eat beef after 3 hours i feel my head very pain. thats why i search about beef if i can eat. thanks so much God bless you.

bumble bee said...

Wow......I just googled thiss..because my mom made burgers...I got an instant throbbing headachee and the beck of my head hurtt.....I realized..that I stopped eating burgerking burgers because I kept gettin sick feeling..I switched to chicken sandwhiches..the last few times I've got burgers..I've gotten bad headaches...and eating during a migrainnn is a terrible idea...idk y..but its like it makes the headache work..the only thing tht made me feel better during a migrain was puking...its like the pressure buildup & release eased the pain...and I think havin bad stuff sittin n ur stomache doesn't help...I ate whn I had a migrain..and felt worsee..

bumble bee said...

I noticed after eating burgers that mom made..I got a throbbing headachee...I remembered how I would get sick after eating burgerking burgers..that's why I switched to chicken sandwhiches....and I do get migrains...usually stress related..and eating during a migrain makes mine worse..I tend to feel better after vomiting..actually...there's a pressure build up & release..tht relieves the headache a also tgets stuff off ur stomache tht may hav triggered th migrain to begin with...all I know is I can't eat after gettin a makes me feel & a dark room helps... no more beef for me

Anonymous said...

After 10 beef free years (avoided cause tryamines gaveme myoclonus and a weird upper right quadrant abdominal pain), i ate a beef marrow from a bone. Next morning i had a visual aura which lasted one hour followed by a mild migraine. Thinking it was coincidence 3.5 hours ago i had another marrow bone. Now i am getting a fairly strong migraine. Normally i only getigraines every few years. Am very sensotive to tryramines.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe that this is the only place on the internet that discusses this issue. (Probably the work of the beef industry).

I used to get several migraines a week for nearly 30 years. No medicine worked on me. 4 years ago, I stopped eating beef to try to lower my cholesterol. My cholesterol didn't change, but my headaches declined by 85% almost immediately. Like others, I tried reintroducing beef slowly in spaghetti sauce, etc., and severe headaches resumed immediately.

In the 4 years since I discovered the meat trigger, I have also found that eliminating chocolate also eliminates another 5-10% of the headaches that remained.

Thank you for having the courage to address this issue.

tuisgemaak said...

Yup. I just googled "can meat lead to headache?"
I recently started a low calorie diet which has beef steak on the list 5 days out of the week. Before this diet I would probably eat beef once a week. I have definitely noticed headaches. In my forehead behind my eyes. Definitely going to reduce my beef eating - especially for lunch during the work week. I just can't focus on work with this headache.! Thanks.

Unknown said...

for many years I have been suffering from headache mostly after lunch or dinner. I thought may be some sort of cooking oil is the reason but I realized four months back that this happen only if I consume Beaf.. to make sure I tried it again....and I find beaf surly beaf create Migraine Headache. From this blog once again confirmed. Thank You.

paula said...


Tim Sullivan said...

I cured myself of beef caused migraines after 30 years by daily supplementation of Molybdenum, a very inexpensive mineral that helps the body create enzymes that break down beef.

mewsicfreak said...

I moved from CT to TX, too :-)

Just googled "can hamburger really cause migraines" and got here.
Nothing else has changed in my life the last week except I ate a burger at sonic a couple hours ago, and my head is killing me now.

Couple weeks ago, same thing happened after eating ground beef and pasta, which we hardly ever have.

Denise Williams said...

I just ate beef and my migraine is coming on. Didn't know that beef triggered migraines.
Thanks for posting.

Anonymous said...

Migraine right now. burgers and other cuts dont get me but i woke up with a great migraine this morning then i remembered i fell off the wagon and had steak lastnight. like clockwork it is. chocolate as well

Anonymous said...

I have had migraine headaches since childhood. I quit eating beef around 18, it helped. But I have a lot of other triggers. Heat, chocolate, etc. I am almost 40 still to this day have never ate beef! My family rarley eats it either. When you have chronic daily headaches you will try anything. Imitrex also does not work for me:( maby someday there will be a cure!

Anonymous said...

gelatin is full of certain amino acids (and gelatin is a beef product) - the same or similar to beef. so when eating beef (especially cooked with the bone, or any connective tissue)you are consuming the same amino acids. likewise soy sauce is full of amino acids. i am not sure exactly how these make a migraine, but i think it creates an imbalance in the aminos that in turn triggers the migraine. i have had nasty migraines from plain, organic gelatin - so i know it was not a food coloring or aspartame issue.

enboogy said...

I found this article when I asked google if beef was causing migraines so I now see that it probably is. I was told to keep a migraine diary to see what triggers these migraines and beef and my mother are some common denominators. My mother's bad attitude sends me through a loop and the stress causes me migraines. I also need to steer clear of loud noises.

Anonymous said...

I wish people provided more information with their posts other than that this happens to them. I'm about to be 30 & had a horrendous headache after having steak Friday evening. Cooked burgers & the like cause no issue for me however. It's a shame your nutritionist friend didn't actually describe the issue to you in detail.

MaryCae said...

Hello. I'd like to add that menstrating women need iron more than men since we loose so much every month. My migraines go away with beef, presumably because my body needed the iron.

Also, it really depends on the type of beef you eat. In USA, the standard way to raise cows is unsanitary as they are penned up and given hormones and antibiotics. Organic free range cows are more nutrient dense than chicken, and the only way to ensure you aren't consuming antibiotics and hormones as with regular beef.

There's a lot of factors to consider, and if you give up beef I strongly encourage you to make sure you are getting the iron you need. Everyone is different and women need the iron, maybe you were consuming too much iron? One must look at diet and exercise as a whole not just individual factors.

MaryCae said...

Me too. Beef helps some of my migraines go away. Depends on the cause of the migraines, as not all migraines are the same or caused by food. Women need iron, and beef has more iron than chicken. Depends on how the cow was raised though. Organic free range beef is the best.

John Spry said...

I don't know what it is... but ground beef, cheese, milk, yogurt... everything that comes from a cow... increases my risk of getting a margarine. Its not an exact cause and effect... sometimes I can eat a lot of beef and dairy and nothing happens... sometimes I can eat no beef and still get a headache.... but I am starting to make a connection between my exposure to cows and my head aches.. i wonder why? anyone have insight?

Cindy Winlock said...

Read about "Tyramine". It is produced in food that is aged or such as meat, cheese, etc. Also in vegetables that are over ripe. I have migraines and msg causes most of them. Pink slime in ground beef causes migraines. The meat tenderizers in meat is another culprit. Recently I ate a large amt of watermelon and got a whopper of a migraine. Tyramine is the culprit. Tomatoes also because I love homegrown tomatoes. But can only eat a small amt or, guess what, migraine. Hope this helps you. I have had to do a lot of research to find all of this info. Drs do not give up all this information. It also causes blood pressure to go up. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I know this article is old but just in case anyone comes across this site.
I have suffered from migraines for years and still do but I've learned a great deal over time from doing lots of reading and research.

Yes red meat does give me migraines along with many other foods like, chocolate, most cheeses, alcohol, most types of sandwich meat only Boars head brand is good because it does not have nitrates in it, dried fruit, citrus fruit, caffeine, cinnamon and nuts that’s all I can think of right now.

The reason that sometimes you can eat something and it does NOT give you a headache is because everyone has a tolerance threshold to these triggers, so once you eat something that pushes you over the threshold... that's when the migraine get triggered. Hope this helps some of you out there.

Anonymous said...

I eat grass fed beef right off the farm and suffer a terrible headache when I do. Left eye, mouth tastes like...not describe-able (it might actually be the worst part of it is that taste)it feels like an icepick has been driven right down the left side of my head. Never had one before I started eating a gluten free diet high in beef. I'm trying to ween myself off of the meat now but I tested it well and no meat no headache, I go back and eat it and get another one. It won't go away until it happens either, I'll get the feeling and then I'll go ride my dirtbike and I can get it to go away pretty much but it still lingers until it can finish. Sucks bad because I love meat.

Anonymous said...

I too am a suffer. I have tried 13 prescription medicines, a strict diet from my neurologist, countless home remedies and visiting a chiropractor regularly....all to no avail. I am currently receiving Botox injections every 12 weeks. I have been doing this for a year and a half now. I still get the everyday...literally EVERY DAY...headaches, but not the "I'm just gonna stay in the fetal position all day" migraine. I have been noticing here recently that red meat seems to trigger the more severe headache. I told my husband I thought it was beef. He kind if laughed at me, then asked if I had asked my doctor about the possibility, which I haven't as of yet, but thought I would google if anyone else suffers as well.......I guess there are many of us out there!

Mike Michaels said...

I've noticed it's not only hamburger meat, and other red meats, but it's also pork,and certain greasy chips can cause me to have a terrible headache, when I wake up in the morning, it may last for a couple days. So I think it must be something to do with fatty bad oils,because oils like avocados and peanut don't seem to bother me, so maybe it has something to do with bad cholesterol. I don't know just giving my input also.

Kelooki said...

I have the same allergy but I have never gotten a migraine after eating ORGANIC beef. Only eat it once every other month or so but it's fine for me. Also, beef in other countries has always been fine for me as well.

Anonymous said...

I actually thought I was just plain crazy. Every time I eat at Texas Roadhouse, I get a severe migraine the next day....I thought it was just my imagination. Good to know, it is the beef...I don't get it when I eat any other beef at home or for that matter, any place else...just the steak at Texas Roadhouse.

Bettina said...

Thank you for posting this. I had a little beef last night and got a nasty toxic migraine and finally googled beef and migraines. You're confirming what will save me a lot of pain in the future.

Kelley said...

Thank you for this post. Most of my headaches are caused by MSG or cooking in a croak pot with tomato sauce which creates Tyramine. Also aged cheeses, chocolates etc. Recently I bought a steak and had a headache and have just realized that in the past this has happened as well and didn't know beef could cause headaches. I found out about a book called "Battling the "MSG MYTH" A survival Guide and Cookbook by Debby Anglesey which helped me tremendously.
This blog helped me realize that BEEF also is a trigger for me. Haven't tried "Organic" beef yet but will have to try now. Just started a low carb diet and one thing they tell you to eat is more meat. Not sure I can continue?
Thanks again!

Linda Amendt said...

Beef, like most meat, contains tyramine, a known migraine trigger. I have had to cut ALL meat out of my diet to avoid a migraine, but it works. Beef is the biggest trigger for the headaches, even organic beef. It's a hard adjustment for some people, but I decided being a vegetarian is better than suffering with migraines.

Pierre P said...

Hi guys,
Old post, but i will leave my two cents anyways. It all boils down to histamine which is the major trigger for migraine s. I am sure everyone can do his research, but basically histamine forms in foods as time goes, so the fresher the meat the less histamine its got. There are other factors too, like the type of meat, also some fruits and veggies are histamine liberators..etc. Anyway a good aged steak gives you a shitload of histamine triggering your migraine.

Anonymous said...

I see people here making comments about beef being the cause of migraines. I have some news: its not the beef - its more likely because its conventional (grain fed) beef and also that its hamburger (which is all parts of the animal). Try eating whole muscle meat (steaks) and organic grass-fed. Yea, its a little more expensive, but CAFO cows are extremely unhealthy. I am 'zero carb/animal only diet' and literally the only thing I eat is red meat (beef, bison, lamb etc) and if I eat conventional meat, I get a headache too. If I eat grass-fed, organic - no headache. I wanted to share this, because I think its important to understand. What we eat and what animals eat needs to be healthy and natural.

Gina said...

Curious if anyone knows of any other triggers for ocular migraines? I have cut beef and pork out of my diet for a year now and my episodes have decreased to once a year rather than once a week.