Lowering Tyramine-Foods to Eat and Avoid

Tyramine is formed from the amino acid tyrosine and plays a role in blood pressure regulation. It is found naturally in the body and a variety of foods.

People prone to migraines or those who take monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI) may need to limit their intake of foods rich in tyramine.

Learn more about how naturally occurring sources of tyramine affect the body and whether you need to avoid certain foods.

Vegan preparing fruit and vegetables

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Side Effects of High Tyramine

Ingestion of high tyramine-containing foods in people taking MAOIs produces headaches, blurry vision, chest pain, and palpitations (a change in the way the heart beats) associated with hypertension, intracranial hemorrhages, and myocardial injury.

Migraines and Headaches

The enzyme monoamine oxidase breaks down tyramine. For people taking MAOIs, this enzyme is stopped, increasing levels of tyramine in the blood.

Higher levels of tyramine are associated with an increased risk of headaches and migraines; therefore, people who use MAOIs may experience more migraines. These headaches are likely to occur because tyramine causes nerve cells to release norepinephrine, changing chemical levels in the brain, which leads to pain.

Tyramine-related migraines occur in people prone to migraines when there is cerebral vasoconstriction (contraction of the blood vessels in the brain) followed by rebound dilation of the cranial vessels. Diets low in tyramine are often recommended when looking to identify migraine triggers.

High Blood Pressure

MAOIs treat various symptoms, including anxiety disorder, depression, and early stages of Parkinson's disease. High levels of tyramine can cause a hypertensive crisis, which occurs when a sudden rise in blood pressure is considered a medical emergency. Symptoms include:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Anxiety
  • Bloody nose
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headache
  • Lightheadedness

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or your blood pressure is 180/120 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg), you should be immediately seen by a healthcare provider. If they believe you have a hypertensive emergency, you will need to go to the emergency room.

Foods High in Tyramine

Some foods are naturally higher in tyramine. Tyramine levels also increase when food is aged or fermented. Foods higher in tyramine may need to be omitted or limited. Your amount will depend on your symptoms, medical history, and medications. Some foods high in tyramine include:

  • Aged cheeses (cheddar, feta, blue, brie, swiss, parmesan, provolone)
  • Alcohol (wine and beer)
  • Cured meat and processed meat (salami, sausage, bacon, cold cuts)
  • Foods that contain nitrates, sulfites, aspartame, Monosodium glutamate (MSG), concentrated yeast (marmite, vegemite)
  • Coffee
  • Chocolate
  • Soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, miso
  • Pickled or salt-dried foods like fish
  • Fermented foods (kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, tofu)
  • Aged bananas, avocado, grapes, citrus fruits

Foods Low in Tyramine

Other foods contain little to no tyramine. Eating fresh foods and avoiding leftover, spoiled, or overripe foods is recommended.

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Dairy and non-dairy products (milk, cheese, etc.)
  • Fresh chicken, fish, turkey, pork, meat
  • Starches (bread, rice, pasta, other grains)
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Cooking oils and fat (olive oil, butter)
  • Legumes (except fava beans)
  • Water, club soda, caffeine-free beverages

Sample Low-Tyrosine Meal Plan

Breakfast: Whole-grain cereal or oatmeal with low-fat milk (or milk alternative), berries, chia or hemp seed, and a dash of cinnamon

Lunch: Grilled chicken salad with herbed vinaigrette and roasted sweet potatoes, and an apple

Snack: Hummus and carrots

Dinner: Pan-seared salmon with sautéed vegetables and quinoa

Snack: Low-fat Greek yogurt with chopped cherries

Do I Need to Restrict My Intake?

You may need to restrict your tyramine intake if you suffer from chronic migraines. This is especially true if you notice that certain foods trigger your migraines. A healthcare provider or registered dietitian (RD) can help you identify triggers and create a meal plan that fits your individual needs.

If you take MAOIs, you will need to limit your intake of tyramine. If you have any questions, discuss them with your medical team.

Summary

Tyramine is a natural compound found in many different types of foods. High levels of tyramine are associated with headaches, migraines, and high blood pressure. People who take certain medications and are prone to migraines may need to follow a low tyramine diet and choose foods like fruits and vegetables, dairy, fresh chicken, nuts, and seeds. Foods high in tyramine include aged cheeses, chocolate, cured meats, fermented foods, and more. Discuss your needs with your healthcare provider.

A Word From Verywell

Foods high in tyramine can negatively impact people who suffer from migraines and those who take MAOIs. Following a low tyramine diet may be necessary to manage symptoms and prevent serious side effects such as a hypertensive crisis. Evaluate your diet to assess your tyramine intake and intervene accordingly. Sometimes, reducing certain foods can help. In other instances, total elimination may be necessary.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Who should follow a low tyramine diet?

    People who suffer from chronic headaches, migraines, high blood pressure, and those who take certain medications should follow a low tyramine diet.

  • What drugs interact with tyramine?

    Monoamine oxidase inhibitors interact with tyramine and can result in high levels of tyramine, increasing the risk of headaches and hypertensive crises.

  • How much tyramine is too much?

    This amount will depend on whether or not you are taking any medications that can cause elevated tyramine levels in your blood. Discuss exact amounts with your healthcare provider.

7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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