Tyramine is a naturally occurring compound in the body and is also found in certain foods. It is derived from the amino acid tyrosine. Some research suggests that tyramine can trigger migraines. Does this mean it is potentially dangerous? If yes, what can you do about it?
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What Is Tyramine? Is It Harmful?
Tyramine is a monoamine (a compound that is a neurotransmitter). It is naturally found in some foods, plants, and animals. Fermentation, aging, or the spoiling of foods can also produce tyramine.
Our bodies contain an enzyme called monoamine oxidase (MAO). MAO helps process tyramine.
If you have insufficient MAO in your system, eating foods with tyramine can trigger migraines (1).
In the gut, MAO also protects against the build-up of potentially harmful substances. MAO breaks down excess tyramine in the body, which can then be excreted.
Tyramine, by itself, is not harmful as it helps regulate blood pressure levels (2).
However, if consumed in excess, if you are taking certain medications or are amine-intolerant (as discussed below), tyramine may cause blood pressure spikes that can be life-threatening (3).
Here is where we need to discuss monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). These are medications that slow down the action of MAO. This stops MAO from preventing tyramine build-up, leading to increased levels of tyramine in your system (4).
If you also consume foods high in tyramine, it only adds to the problem by causing tyramine build-up.
What Are The Foods High In Tyramine (To Be Avoided)?
If you are taking MAOIs, you must avoid the following foods (5). These contain tyramine, so taking them along with the medications can elevate tyramine to dangerous levels in your body:
- All aged and mature cheeses
- All improperly stored meats, poultry, and fish
- Air-dried sausages like pepperoni, salami, pastrami, and mortadella
- All alcoholic beverages (including unpasteurized beers and beers on tap or from microbreweries)
- Fermented soy products like soy sauce, soybean paste, fermented tofu, tamari, miso soup, natto, tempeh, shoyu, and teriyaki
The only cheeses you can consider eating are cottage cheese, cream cheese, ricotta, part-skim mozzarella. Ensure you eat them well before their expiry date. Or even better – eat them right after opening, when they are the freshest.
Who should avoid these foods? People who are either intolerant to amines (like tyramine or histamine) or are taking MAOIs. If you have amine intolerance, you may experience heart palpitations, headaches, vomiting, and nausea (6).
Excess tyramine in your system can cause hypertensive crisis (2). This is marked by a drastic rise in your blood pressure levels. Hypertensive crisis can cause:
- Severe headache
- Nausea and vomiting
- Fast heartbeat
- Sweating and severe anxiety
- Shortness of breath
- Blurred vision
But there is a way to avoid all of this – by limiting your tyramine intake.
How Can You Limit Your Tyramine Intake?
The first step is to avoid foods high in tyramine. You can then replace them with the following foods (7):
- Fresh, frozen, or canned vegetables
- Fresh or frozen meats, fish, poultry, and eggs
- Legumes and nuts
- Whole wheat breads
- Cooked and dry cereals
- Fresh, frozen, or canned fruits and fruit juices
- Milk and yogurt
- Decaffeinated coffee and tea
Here are a few guidelines that can help you plan your diet:
- Eat fresh produce within two days of purchase.
- Read all food and drink labels for the presence of amines. These usually end with amine in their names.
- Avoid aged, pickled, or fermented foods.
- Eat canned or frozen foods right after opening.
- Exercise caution while eating out as you don’t know how the foods have been stored.
- Toss overripe, spoiled, or moldy foods in the trash.
- Remember that cooking foods will not lower their tyramine content.
Tyramine is essential for blood pressure regulation. Your body already has it. But, if you have migraine or take MAOIs – you need to check with your doctor and cut back on tyramine consumption.
Were you aware of the connection between tyramine and migraines? Do let us know by leaving a comment in the box below.
- “The London Letter” National Center for Biotechnology Information.
- “MAOIs and diet…” Mayo Clinic.
- “Hypertensive crisis and cheese” Indian Journal of Psychiatry, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Meal ideas and menus…” Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
- “Important information to know when you…” National Institutes of Health Clinical Center.
- “Severity to food additives, vaso-active amines…” Clinical and Translational Allergy, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Low tyramine diet” University of Wisconsin-Madison, School of Medicine and Public Health.