Love the BBQ, Hate the Headache?

Do you love going to barbecues or holding barbecue parties at your house? Do you ever leave that barbecue with a headache or notice one later that night and maybe into the next day? That could be because barbecue parties, especially deep in the summer, offer up the triple whammy of potential headache triggers—food, drink and hot weather.

Barbecue food is often ripe with nitrates and nitrites.

Many people are sensitive to nitrates and nitrites, which are often added to processed meats like hot dogs, sausages, bacon and lunchmeat to give them better color and preserve their shelf life. Nitrates and nitrites are found in other foods too, such as the pickles you put on your hamburger or the sauerkraut you put on your hot dog.

These compounds help keep harmful bacteria from growing, but they also trigger headaches in some people, possibly because the nitrates and nitrites cause blood vessels to widen or dilate. Avoiding eating too much processed meats might help lessen your headaches.

Dressings, sauces and other BBQ foods might have MSG.

Some people are also sensitive to monosodium glutamate or MSG, which is used as a flavor enhancer in some BBQ sauces and many packaged or processed foods. MSG could be in lunchmeat, potato chips, salad dressings, soy sauce and more. It also may be listed in the ingredients under other names other than “monosodium glutamate,” such as hydrolyzed vegetable protein, hydrolyzed oat flour, autolyzed yeast, sodium or calcium caseinate and more. If you know you or one of your guests are sensitive to MSG, look for “MSG-free” labels on the food you purchase.

Drink ingredients can trigger headaches too.

On a hot day, the drink cooler is often the most frequented spot at the barbecue. However, there are a few types of drinks that you want to avoid if you are headache-prone.

Diet soda sweetened with aspartame causes headaches in many people. Look for soda that’s sweetened with stevia or a different kind of sweetener, or switch to sparkling water. Many sparkling water brands do not add sugar or sweeteners to their drinks.

Wine is also known to trigger headaches in people due to sulfites, tyramine or histamine that are usually at higher levels in red wines. If you are “amine-sensitive,” you probably get a headache when eating cured meats, aged cheeses and dried fruits as well. Along with red wine, these can all cause the body to release histamines, which can also cause a headache.

Some people are sensitive to certain cocktails, dark liquors and champagne and end up with an almost immediate headache after consuming one drink. Overindulging, of course, will also leave you with a headache the next morning. Drink at least one glass of water for every alcoholic drink to stay hydrated and help prevent a hangover headache. If the weather is hot, drink even more water.

Rising temps increase the chance for pain.

As temperatures go up, so does the risk of severe headache. One theory to explain this is that more blood is going to your skin for cooling, leaving the brain with a little less oxygen. High humidity can make you feel uncomfortable causing stress and tension that causes a headache, and some headache sufferers are sensitive to changing barometric pressure.

Standing outside in the heat, especially when you’re drinking alcohol and enjoying friends and family, can make you less aware of how dehydrated you are getting until you start feeling symptoms. If you start feeling ill or feel a headache coming on, step inside and relax in the air conditioning for a little while, drink some cool water and see if you start to feel better.

If you’re going to a barbecue away from home, slip a few Goody’s® Extra Strength Headache Powder sealed stick packs in your pocket or purse. Go with the original version or bring one of each flavor, including Cool Orange or Mixed Fruit Blast in case someone else needs one.