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Headache Facts:

  • Headaches are so common Americans dish out more than $1.5 billion annually to get relief – especially from migraines.
  • More than 30.5 million Americans suffer from migraines –women being affected three times more than men.
  • Conventional medicine focuses on symptom-care, not causes.
  • Most migraines seem to have a food-based reaction relating to wheat, dairy, sugar, artificial preservatives or chemicals.

Headaches signal the body something is wrong!

If you experience chronic headaches, specifically migraines, doing a little self-detective work goes along way. Become aware of everything you consume by reading and understanding food labeling – it provides valuable clues to identify causes, rather than adding to your body’s overall toxic load by consuming medications that merely deal with symptoms.

A great example about headaches is by Dr. Leila Peterson, “Let’s imagine your body is a house with a smoke detector. Upon detecting smoke an alarm sounds, giving you a chance to take action before you’re engulfed in a full-blown fire. Simply removing batteries from the smoke detector when it screams is like taking a pain reliever for your headache without extinguishing the fire.”

Label –reading 101
One underlying cause I find most in my almost thirty years of natural health practice is rooted in the consumption of toxic synthetic ingredients that trigger internal inflammation and reduce oxygen to the cells. The next time you experience a debilitating headache, especially migraine-type pain, become the health sleuth by collecting clues for the previous 24-hours to onset of symptoms, such as:

Did you consume any food that was packaged or pre-made? If so, go back and read every ingredient. For example, the following are aliases for monosodium glutamate (MSG), a neurotoxin known to trigger headaches, facial tingling and numbness, and gastrointestinal symptoms.

  • Monosodium glutamate
  • Sodium caseinate
  • Hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP)
  • Vegetable protein extract
  • Hydrolyzed plant protein (HPP)
  • Autolyzed plant protein (APP)
  • Calcium caseinate
  • Hydrolyzed protein
  • Plant protein extracts
  • Textured protein
  • Hydrolyzed oat flour
  • Autolyzed or yeast extracts
  • Monopotassium glutamate
  • Glutamate
  • Flavoring(s)
  • Bouillon
  • Natural flavoring(s)
  • Seasoning(s)
  • Broth
  • Natural beef, lamb, chicken or veal flavoring
  • Stock
  • Malt flavoring/extract
  • Spice(s)
  • Caramel flavoring/coloring
  • Modified food starch
  • Lipolyzed butter fat
  • “Low-“ or “No-fat” items
  • Corn – syrup, solids, high fructose
  • Dry milk solids
  • Protein fortified milk
  • Soy sauce or extract (unless naturally fermented like Braggs® amino acids)

OFTEN Contains MSG

  • Soy protein concentrates/isolates
  • Carrageenan
  • Whey protein concentrates
  • Pectin
  • Protein-fortified “anything”
  • Gluten/gluten flour
  • Dough conditioners
You Need to Know:
  • A neurotoxin is an excitatory neuro-transmitter, excitotoxin for short.
  • Glutamate is an amino acid that excites nerve cells to death.
  • There is NO ban on MSG in baby food; be sure it’s not lurking under an alias.
  • MSG and artificial sweeteners are both neurotoxins and are like providing the consumer with a low-dose psychiatric drug that changes the biochemistry of the brain.
  • Nitrates or Nitrites are other huge contributors of headaches whose symptoms include, but are not limited to, facial tingling-numbness-drooping, blurred vision, and even anaphylaxis (throat swelling). These chemicals are added to preserve color and maintain microbial safety. Nitrate by itself is generally harmless; however, when it converts to nitrite, which forms nitrosamines, it becomes a powerful cancer-causing chemical within the body. When possible, purchase “nitrate-free” meats.

Nitrates are found in: Hot dogs, Cured meats (bacon/hot dogs/ ham/salami, lunch meats, etc.)

Rescue Remedy: If occasionally you do eat foods containing nitrates, have a large glass of orange juice or at least 2,000 mg of vitamin C at the same time – known to inhibit the conversion to nitrosamines in your stomach. However, it does NOT eliminate the side effects described above.

Tyramine is an amine known to cause elevated blood pressure and tachycardia by displacing norepinephrine from storage vesicles in the body. It is produced during fermentation of food products. Usually, properly refrigerated foods are not affected.

It is present in:
  • Most aged cheeses (Parmesan, Romano, asiago, aged cheddar and strong-tasting hard cheeses).
  • Fruits (especially over-ripe avocados, eggplant, figs, grapes, oranges, plums, prunes, raisins, and pineapple).
  • Processed foods contain high levels (especially yeast extract, sauerkraut, and shrimp paste, processed meats, cured or pickled meats, meat by-products and broths).
  • Game birds and wild animals contain high amounts.
  • Soy, mainly fermented products, contains high amounts (soy sauce, tofu, miso, and teriyaki sauce).
  • There is evidence that large amounts of nuts, peanuts, coconuts, and Brazil nuts trigger hypertensive reactions and headaches because of their tyramine content.

Sulfites are used in the processing and storage of food and drinks. The FDA requires wine, beer, and dried fruit to have sulfite warning labels. They are used to prevent or reduce discoloration and inhibit growth of microorganisms in fermented foods such as wine, condition dough, food starch bleach, and even in production of cellophane for food packaging. Sulfites occur naturally during the fermentation of wine and vinegars, which do not usually cause a headache or side-effects. However, in the U.S., it’s when additional sulfites are added that problems arise of hypersensitivity, headaches and allergic responses.

Aliases for Sulfites: sulfur dioxide, sodium sulfite, sodium bisulfite, potassium bisulfite, sodium metabisulfite, and potassium metabisulfite – dry chemical forms of the gas, sulfur dioxide.

NOTE: When purchasing wine, make sure it’s labeled “No Sulfites Added”, sometimes labeled “NSA”.

Side-effects include: Headaches, nausea, diarrhea, precipitate asthma attacks, blurred vision, etc.

Drugs that contain sulfites include, but not limited to include: Antiemetics (prevent nausea), cardiovascular drugs, antibiotics, tranquilizers, intravenous muscle relaxants, analgesics (painkillers), anesthetics, steroids and nebulized bronchodilator solutions (used for asthma).

Author’s Note: Inflammation is also induced by the above mentioned chemicals. If you are a victim of any inflammatory disorder (fibromyalgia, arthritis, gout, etc.) you must avoid these ingredients. Headaches and chemical-induced inflammation ARE preventable; begin uncovering clues with your detective skills today.

  2. Silberstein, Stephen D. (2002). Headache in Clinical Practice, 2nd Edition. London: Taylor & Francis Group. ISBN 1-901865-88-6.
  3. Yang WH, Drouin MA, Herbert M, Mao Y, Karsh J (1997). "The monosodium glutamate symptom complex: assessment in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized study". J Allergy Clin Immunol 99 (6 pt 1): 757–62. doi:10.1016/S0091-6749(97)80008-5. PMID 9215242.
  4. Alexander Mauskop; Fox, Barry (2001). What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About(TM): Migraines: The Breakthrough Program That Can Help End Your Pain (What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About...(Paperback)). New York: Warner Books. ISBN 0-446-67826-0.
  5. Cohen AS, Goadsby PJ (2005). "Functional neuroimaging of primary headache disorders". Curr Pain Headache Rep 9 (2): 141–6. doi:10.1007/s11916-005-0053-0. PMID 15745626.

Gloria Gilbere, DAHom, PhD

Dr. Gloria Gilbère (CDP, DA Hom, ND, PhD, DSC, EcoErgonomist, Wholistic Rejuvenist, Certified HTMA Practitioner) is Founder/CEO of the Institute for Wholistic Rejuvenation – after 22 years of owning/operating two health clinics in Idaho she relocated her Health Sciences/Research/Cooking Institute division to Cotacachi, Ecuador, S.A.

Her worldwide consulting via phone and Skype continues as does the Institute for Wholistic Rejuvenation in Idaho. Visit her website at or call (888.352.8175) to schedule a consultation or register for her post-graduate courses.

NEWS FLASH: Ready to learn more about simple recipes that can give you what I call the Anti-Inflammation Advantage? Download your free 40+ page cookbook The Anti-Inflammation Recipe Sampler at