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Looking ahead
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I want to inform anyone who doesn't already know about certain preservatives that can cause headaches. I was reminded of this today as I am nursing away one of the worst headaches I've had in a long time.

Many of our foods have these substances and you may already be aware of the effects they have on your body. I want to lend you some information to help in identifying the causes of a common problem. Some people can eat this stuff without any apparent problems while ,myself, cannot eat much canned meat without quickly developing a horrible headache.

Keep this in mind the next time you see a great sale on a item you haven't used before. If you stick to your usual well used brands and rotate your stock you would already be aware of any side effects. Don't wait until TSHTF to test your stocked canned goods. Use what you buy and buy what you use! Try a small amount of a new item rather than a pallet of the stuff and later find it doesn't agree with you.

There are many food substances that can trigger headaches. Lets look at a few substances and the foods they are most likely found in.

Examples of foods that may contain tyramine: alcohol (especially red wine), chocolate, foods with vinegar (ketchup, salad dressings, etc.), organ meats (kidney, liver), sour cream, soy sauce, yogurt, aged cheese, yeast extracts

Examples of foods that may contain nitrates: bacon, bologna, canned ham, corned beef, hot dogs, pastrami, pepperoni, sausage, smoked nuts, smoked fish, hamburger

Examples of foods that may contain MSG: Chinese food, dry roasted nuts, frozen food, mayonnaise, potato chips, salad dressings

Examples of food that may contain caffeine: Sodas, coffee, tea, chocolate, cocoa

If your wondering why all those meats have nitrates in them lets look at an article from

"What is sodium nitrate? It seems like lots of meats contain it. Is it in any way harmful?." 01 April 2000.

Sodium nitrate (NaNO3) and its close relative sodium nitrite (NaNO2) are preservatives that you find in lots of processed meats. Stuff like salami, hot dogs, pepperoni, bologna, ham, bacon and SPAM all normally contain sodium nitrate as one of the ingredients. Fresh meats generally do not contain any added chemicals, so the question is, "Why is sodium nitrate added to all of these processed meats?"

There are two reasons for adding these chemicals to processed meats:

They preserve the color of the meat (meaning that it looks pink like SPAM rather than gray like cooked hamburger). You have probably noticed that nearly all meats that contain sodium nitrate or sodium nitrite remain pink or red even though they are cooked during processing.
These chemicals inhibit botulism to some degree.
The jury is out on how harmful these substances are. Sodium nitrite reacts with stomach acid and other chemicals in the stomach to produce nitrosamines, which have been shown to cause cancer in animals when consumed in large quantities. However, there's not much sodium nitrate/nitrite in meats, and we consume sodium nitrate/nitrite from other foods as well, so it is not clear that they are harmful in the quantities we get from meats. Some people recommend that small children and pregnant women avoid these chemicals altogether just to be safe. Since neither canned chicken nor tuna have any redness to protect, they generally do not contain nitrates.
Here are links to a site that has two lengthy lists, one of foods to avoid, and another of foods allowed.
Avoid list

Recommended list

If you are prone to headaches here is a list of ways to treat them from St John Health.

OTC medications, such as aspirin, acetaminophen and ibuprofen, are the first line of defense for treating the common headache. Some other methods:

Place an ice pack on the forehead, eyes, temples or nape of the neck.

Take a warm bath or shower to help relieve tension.

Rest in a quiet, darkened room.

Use simple relaxation techniques -- breathing deeply, relaxing your muscles and using visual images.

Try progressive relaxation. Tense your toes slowly as you breathe in, then relax your toes as you let go of the tension and exhale. Work your way up the body, tensing and relaxing other muscles.

Exercise for 30 minutes at least three to four times a week. Any aerobic exercise slows your heart rate and releases painkilling chemicals in the brain.

Avoid foods associated with the onset of your headaches.

Limit caffeine intake.

Get plenty of sleep.

Don't skip meals.

Have your eyes checked.
I generally use medications as a last resort if other interventions do not help. One method that isn't listed is drinking water. For me drinking water to flush my system usually helps with mild headaches and makes me generally feel better. I agree with the other methods from the list however knowing the cause of your headache and the different varieties of headaches will affect the way they should be handled.

If I can be of more help let me know what your looking for and I'll try my best to find information on the subject. If you have information you feel would be helpful don't hesitate to share it. :)

Rush University Medical Center

EZine articles

St John Health,151

Looking ahead
2,178 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·

Regular caffeine consumption reduces sensitivity to caffeine. When caffeine intake is reduced, the body becomes oversensitive to adenosine. In response to this oversensitiveness, blood pressure drops dramatically, causing an excess of blood in the head (though not necessarily on the brain), leading to a headache.

This headache, well known among coffee drinkers, usually lasts from one to five days, and can be alleviated with analgesics such as aspirin. It is also alleviated with caffeine intake (in fact several analgesics contain caffeine dosages).

Often, people who are reducing caffeine intake report being irritable, unable to work, nervous, restless, and feeling sleepy, as well as having a headache. In extreme cases, nausea and vomiting has also been reported.
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