Let’s start the article by providing a short answer to the question asked in the title. Yes, bananas may trigger headaches in some people, especially in those who are prone to migraines.
Hearing that bananas have the potential to cause headaches might surprise many people. After all, almost all of us must have heard either a nutrition expert or doctor praising bananas for their health benefits.
If you are surprised to hear that eating bananas can lead to a headache, then what about the following facts:
- Broccoli can increase the risk of developing blood clots in people who are on blood thinners due to its high vitamin K content (1),(2).
- Tomatoes can trigger heartburn (3).
- Dried fruits can lead to insomnia when eaten excessively.
- Spinach can cause kidney stones in people who are susceptible to it (4),(5).
The goal of giving these examples is to remind you that even foods that are considered quite healthy can cause some side effects in some people. However, their health benefits can easily override their minor side effects.
The same logic should apply to bananas. Although bananas are potential headache triggers for some people, particularly for migraine patients, they can contribute to your health in many ways with their rich nutrient content.
Bananas and Headaches
If you are wondering why you often experience headaches after eating bananas, you should know bananas might be a headache trigger for you.
Doctor Jennifer Kriegler especially indicated ” Ripe Bananas “. Are ripe bananas more likely to cause headaches compared to unripe ones? The answer is yes!
Until this point we have learnt two things:
- Bananas can cause headaches, especially in migraine sufferers.
- Ripe bananas are more likely to trigger a headache compared to unripe ones.
It appears that eating ripe bananas may give you a headache especially if you are susceptible to migraine headaches.
There are now two questions to ask, which are;
- What makes bananas a potential headache trigger?
- Why are ripe bananas more likely to cause headaches compared to unripe bananas?
Let’s dive in and provide evidence-based answers to these questions.
Foods and Headaches
Almost all of us experience headaches. While many of us experience it from time to time, others get headaches more frequently.
If you don’t get any headaches in a year, you should consider yourself quite lucky. Because a report published by the WHO says; approximately 75 per cent of people experience headaches at least once a year (10).
While normal “everyday” headaches are somewhat bearable, a migraine headache can be quite severe and can last for hours. Various reports show that around 1 billion people worldwide suffer from migraines (11),(12).
Hormonal changes, stress, alcohol and cigarette use, not drinking enough water, certain medical conditions, some medications, neurological problems and many other things can cause headaches, according to medical experts (13),(14),(15),(16),(17).
What’s quite related to our topic is the fact that certain foods as well can lead to headaches.
According to an article published by Cleveland Clinic; about 20% of headache patients are thought to be food-sensitive (21).
In the same article, it was also published a list of foods that are likely to cause headaches. And, bananas (ripe bananas) are indeed on the list (21).
Cleveland Clinic indicated ” it’s important to note that most of the information about possible food triggers of headache come from patient self-reports and not from randomized scientific studies.”.
So, one thing is clear now! Headaches can also be triggered by certain foods including healthy ones such as garlic, onions or bananas.
What Makes Bananas Potential Headache Triggers?
Tyramine is found in certain foods and one of these foods is bananas.
As a matter of fact, scientists are still trying to understand in what way this natural compound cause headaches. But, they are well aware of the correlation between headaches and tyramine.
According to WebMD, scientists began to realise the migraine-triggering effect of tyramine first in the 1950s, after people who took antidepressant drugs – which inhibits monoamine oxidase – started getting headaches and experiencing high blood pressure (25).
Here is more detail…
Normally, monoamine oxidase breaks down tyramine. However, since anti-depression drugs inhibited monoamine oxidase that breaks down tyramine, tyramine levels remained high in the bodies of those who were using the drugs, causing certain problems like high blood pressure and headaches (26),(27),(28).
Thus, scientists began to realise the relationship between a high level of tyramine and headaches.
It might be quite hard to comprehend this process since most of us are not familiar with the terms like tyramine or monoamine oxidase.
It is important to note that even if you are not prone to having migraines, too much tyramine can still give you a headache.
The problem is that bananas are rather high in this natural compound namely; tyramine.
Especially, ripe bananas have more tyramine compared to unripe ones (29). Therefore, they are more likely to trigger migraines.
How Do You Know Whether Bananas Give You a Headache?
Now, it is crystal clear that bananas can cause headaches owing to their high tyramine content.
Thus far, we also learnt that ripe bananas are more likely to trigger migraines compared to unripe ones. This is because they contain more tyramine than unripe ones.
The question is how can you know that whether or not bananas are the culprit that gives you headaches?
According to the Cleveland Clinic; the most common and practical way to identify which foods or beverages give you a headache is to keep a diary of everything you consume during the day (21).
If you almost always get headaches in 20 minutes to 2 hours after consuming a particular food (for instance, a banana) that may signify that particular food is a headache trigger for you.
Almost all of us experience headaches from time to time. It is unfortunately quite a common problem around the world.
In this article, we tried to figure out whether bananas can cause headaches in some people.
What we found out is that since bananas are high in tyramine, they may lead to headaches, especially in people with migraines.
That indicates not only bananas but or other foods high in tyramine such as avocados, aged cheeses, cured meats, soybeans can also make the same impact.
Whether bananas or anything else, whatever the cause of your constant headaches which lowers your quality of life, we encourage you to work with your doctor to find out underlying causes also to determine the best treatment method.
Allow your medical provider to find out the cause/causes of your constant headache and apply the best treatment for you accordingly.
Tarkan is an experienced medical writer ( currently more than 600 medical articles ) and also the founder of this website namely www.neededforhealth.com. His expertise in health stems from in-depth medical research and knowledge which he obtained over the course of many years.
Tarkan enjoys sharing factual knowledge on health, psychology and nutrition. He always aims to deliver evidence-based recommendations, provide links to related scientific studies.