Are you a seafood lover who has experienced a headache after eating salmon?
You’re not alone. While salmon is a healthy and delicious source of protein, it can also be a potential trigger for headaches.
But why does this happen?
In this article, we’ll explore the possible causes of headaches after eating salmon and other types of fish. We’ll also provide tips on how to avoid these triggers and enjoy seafood without the pain.
So, let’s dive in and uncover the truth about salmon and headaches.
Can Eating Salmon Cause Headaches?
For some people, eating salmon can indeed cause headaches. The culprit is a naturally occurring compound called tyramine, which is often found in pickled, smoked, or dried fish. Tyramine forms during the fermentation or preservation process and has been linked to migraines and other types of headaches.
According to the American Migraine Foundation, more studies need to be done on the connection between tyramine and headaches. However, they suggest that people who experience headaches after eating salmon should try eating fresh fish instead of smoked or dried fish.
In addition to tyramine, there are other potential headache triggers in pre-packaged fish. The Cleveland Clinic recommends checking nutritional labels for chemicals and preservatives like nitrates and nitrites, phenylethylamine, salicylates, aspartate, and gluten. MSG (monosodium glutamate) is also a common food additive that can cause headaches for some people.
It’s important to note that while seafood itself doesn’t contain MSG, some sauces or marinades used with seafood may contain this compound. An October 2016 review published in Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports found no association between MSG and headaches. However, researchers did conclude that more studies should be conducted to assess the connection between diet and headaches.
The Link Between Tyramine And Headaches
Tyramine is a naturally occurring compound that is found in protein-containing foods, including pickled, smoked, or dried fish like salmon. The compound forms during the fermentation or preservation process of these foods. Tyramine has been linked to migraines and other types of headaches, and for some people, consuming foods high in tyramine can trigger a headache.
The American Migraine Foundation suggests that people who experience headaches after eating salmon should try consuming fresh fish instead of smoked or dried fish. This is because fresh fish generally contains lower levels of tyramine compared to preserved fish.
Research on the connection between tyramine and headaches is ongoing, and more studies are needed to fully understand the link. However, it is believed that tyramine may trigger migraines by causing nerve cells in the brain to release excess norepinephrine. Another possibility is that higher levels of tyramine plus an unusual level of brain chemicals can cause changes in the brain that lead to headaches.
It’s important to note that tyramine is not the only potential headache trigger in pre-packaged fish. Other chemicals and preservatives like nitrates and nitrites, phenylethylamine, salicylates, aspartate, and gluten can also cause headaches for some people. As such, it’s important to check nutritional labels before consuming pre-packaged fish.
Histamine Intolerance And Seafood
For individuals with histamine intolerance, eating seafood can be a challenge. Histamine is present in many different types of food, including eggs, cheese, meat, and fish. Amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins, are also sources of histamine. This means that wherever proteins are present, histamine is also present.
Foods that undergo fermentation, such as hard cheese, red wine, beer, vinegar, sauerkraut, and soy products, must be avoided by individuals with histamine intolerance. Histamine levels in fish increase during storage and spoilage, making it important to choose fresh fish over smoked or dried fish.
Other foods that may trigger headaches or other symptoms for individuals with histamine intolerance include eggs, meat, ham, sausage, mushrooms, tomatoes, wheat, yeast, nuts, spinach, avocado, bananas, and citrus fruit. Approximately 1% of the population is affected by histamine intolerance.
It’s important to note that histamine intolerance is not the same as a food allergy. While food allergies can be life-threatening and cause anaphylaxis even with small amounts of the allergen ingested, histamine intolerance is not life-threatening and may not cause symptoms every time certain foods are consumed. The amount of histamine present in a particular type or brand of food can vary depending on factors like harvesting methods and storage conditions.
Mercury Poisoning And Headaches
Mercury poisoning is a serious concern for those who consume seafood regularly. Mercury is a toxic metal that can cause a range of symptoms, including headaches. Mercury poisoning occurs when a person consumes too much methylmercury or organic mercury, which is linked to eating seafood. The metal can make its way into the environment through industrialization and eventually into animals like fish.
Symptoms of mercury poisoning include developmental delays in babies, cognitive issues, impaired motor skills, shortness of breath, neurological symptoms, oral issues, and organ failure. Inorganic mercury toxicity can also cause skin rashes and inflammation. Ingesting large amounts of inorganic mercury can cause bloody diarrhea and spread to other organ systems, resulting in mental changes and renal damage.
To prevent mercury poisoning, it’s important to limit exposure to the toxic metal by making changes to your diet and environment. Some seafood and fish are higher in mercury than others, so it’s important to look for lower-mercury sources like rainbow trout, salmon, sardines, mussels, and Atlantic mackerel. It’s also important to avoid larger predatory fish like ahi tuna, bigeye tuna, king mackerel, orange roughy, shark, swordfish, tilefish, and marlin.
Tips For Avoiding Headaches From Eating Salmon And Other Fish
If you are prone to headaches or migraines and want to continue enjoying salmon and other types of fish, there are some tips you can follow to minimize your risk of developing a headache:
1. Choose fresh fish: Fresh fish is less likely to contain tyramine and other potential headache triggers. Cook and eat the fish on the same day you buy it, or freeze it for later use.
2. Avoid smoked or dried fish: These types of fish are more likely to contain tyramine, which can trigger headaches. Opt for fresh or canned fish instead.
3. Check nutritional labels: Look for preservatives and additives like nitrates and nitrites, phenylethylamine, salicylates, aspartate, and gluten. These compounds can trigger headaches in some people.
4. Be cautious with sauces and marinades: Some sauces and marinades may contain MSG, which can cause headaches for some people. Check the labels and avoid products that contain this compound if you are sensitive to it.
5. Increase your omega-3 intake: Omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish like salmon may help reduce the severity and frequency of migraines. Consider taking fish oil supplements or eating fatty fish several times a week to boost your intake.
By following these tips, you can continue to enjoy the health benefits of salmon and other types of fish without the risk of developing a headache. As always, if you experience frequent or severe headaches, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider to rule out any underlying medical conditions.
Other Common Triggers For Headaches And Migraines
Aside from tyramine and potential additives in pre-packaged fish, there are many other common triggers for headaches and migraines. These triggers can include consuming high levels of sodium, not eating enough or skipping meals, and consuming foods that are high in sugar.
Glucose, which comes from carbohydrate foods, is the body and brain’s preferred source of fuel. A drop in blood glucose levels can be caused by many factors, including consuming too many high-sugar foods, not eating enough calories, exercising on an empty stomach, or skipping meals. This drop in blood glucose levels can lead to the onset of a migraine attack.
Consuming high levels of sodium can also increase blood pressure, causing headaches or migraine attacks. It’s important to monitor your sodium intake and try to limit it as much as possible.
Other potential triggers for headaches and migraines include alcohol, caffeine, cheese, and MSG. Red wine is reported to be a trigger for migraines, as it contains tyramine, histamine, and flavonoids. Caffeine is commonly found in coffee, tea, soft drinks, and chocolate. Some painkillers also contain caffeine. Cheese has been linked to migraines due to its high tyramine content. MSG is widely used in canned food and instant food and can trigger the brain to release certain substances that stimulate the production of nitric oxide, which eventually leads to a headache.
It’s important to note that the triggers for headaches and migraines can vary from person to person. It’s essential to identify your own triggers and avoid them as much as possible to prevent future headaches or migraines. Keeping a food diary can be helpful in identifying potential triggers.