Those Valentine's Day Chocolates Might Not Be the Cause of Your Headache

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Valentine’s Day is nice and all, but have you ever been to the drugstore on Feb. 15? Praise be for aisles and aisles of discounted chocolate!

However, if you regularly suffer headaches, you might be a little hesitant to pick up that Reese’s heart because chocolate is commonly discussed as a potential migraine trigger.

The sweet stuff might not be totally deserving of this bad reputation, though. According to the Cleveland Clinic, most food triggers are lacking sound scientific studies to back up the claims – which are usually self-reported.

Related: A Neurologist’s Guide to Secondary Headaches and What They Mean

Dr. Zubair Ahmed, MD, a neurologist at Cleveland Clinic, adds that based on current understanding, chocolate probably isn’t as much of a trigger as it’s believed to be.

“Recent studies find that migraine patients actually have food cravings prior to onset of a migraine,” he says “So, in fact, they may actually be craving chocolate, and this may be a sign of impending migraine.”

In other words, the craving is a sign a migraine is on the way, but the chocolate is confused as a trigger.

Related: Doctors Explain Why You’re More Likely to Get Headaches When You’re Sleep Deprived

Ironically, Dr. Ahmed says a 2009 study in rat models presented evidence that Theobroma cacao extract (or cocoa) could potentially repress a neuropeptide that contributes to migraine headaches.

Chocolate isn’t the only food getting blamed for causing headaches. Out of the many commonly reported food triggers, some include red wine, aged cheese, artificial sweeteners, and caffeine.

In particular, Dr. Ahmed notes that high caffeine intake – or more than three cups of coffee – could contribute toward migraines.

Because food triggers are so personal, he says, it often requires patients to keep a detailed food diary to help in identifying the problem.

Regardless if your perceived trigger is a chocolate bar or a latte, it’s always a good idea to speak to a healthcare professional about your concerns and to seek a safe solution.


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