Clean Out the Fridge and Lose a Migraine A friend of mine was laughing about her daughter, who has one of those little dorm fridges in her dorm room at college. Mostly, she keeps some fresh fruit, a few cans of soda, and several bottles of water. Recently, she had started keeping some deli meats and cheese in there for studying. The first tests were going to be starting soon and apparently, she needs sustenance. What made my friend laugh was that her daughter asked if it was okay to eat cheese if it was starting to turn green. “How long has it been in there?” Her mom asked with a chuckle. Apparently, she bought it with the first batch of drinks and sodas, but did not know exactly when that was. Her mom was trying to explain that some foods need to be tossed after a couple days, and some last longer. Then she asked where she was for the last 18 years and why she did not remember the “fridge cleaning out days.’ Her daughter always thought that on those days, her mom was just really enthusiastic about cooking(mom would pull eggs, cheese, meats, biscuits and vegetables every now and then and cook up several dinners and freeze them. Her daughter had not realized that what Mom was doing was cooking everything that would be expiring soon in order to be able to freeze it. This is a good practice, especially considering that some foods are just nasty when left in the fridge too long, like souring milk, browning ground beef and moldy cheese. Other foods, however, can affect your health long before the expiration date is even reached, and not because of anything, food manufacturers do or do not do to it before you buy it. Foods that sit in the refrigerator, once cooked, begin a buildup of a chemical called tyramine. This amine is a byproduct of an amino acid called tyrosine. As tyrosine breaks down – this is a natural process- it produces tyramine. This is actually a chemical that has an important role in the body as it helps to regulate blood pressure. However, too much of it can cause serious problems for some people. The problem with this chemical is that it has been shown in many studies and through years of research to trigger migraines for people who suffer the dreaded cluster monsters. The foods most likely to be offensively high in tyramine levels are foods that are more than 24 hours old, such as leftovers sitting in the fridge. Deli meats, aged cheeses, and many nuts are also on the list of foods to either consume in moderation or even avoid altogether. Some whole meals can therefore be off the list even before they make it to the fridge, such as pizza. If pepperoni, sausage, and mozzarella cheese can trigger a migraine when it’s fresh-baked, refrigerated pizza leftovers are going to be worse. Additionally, people who take Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs) such as those for depression are at increased risk of negative effects from aging foods. MAOIs are designed to suppress the enzyme monoamine oxidase. This enzyme breaks down tyramine. So what are the recommendations for people who suspect they might be affected by tyramine? Start with data. Keep a diary of what you have been eating and how it affects you. If you notice that you wind up with a bad headache within 6 to 8 hours of eating barbeque or your favorite deli sub, you might want to consider cutting back on those foods. Just for the record as well, there are expiration and freshness dates on most food packaging. Fruits and vegetables, though, will not carry such stamps. While some dates are intended to be a guide that the associated food is simply better if consumed by that date, others indicate an actual expiration. Generally, in order to receive maximum benefit from the foods you are eating, you will want to consume it right away. Stockpiling food for a later day will diminish the nutritive value of it and can introduce chemical and biological changes (tyramine with meats or mold on cheese) in the foods. For more information on natural methods to eliminate migraine activity, click here.