What is Tyramine?

Tyramine occurs naturally and controls your blood pressure. Tyramine levels vary in different foods consumed by people. Different individuals can react differently to levels of tyramine in their bodies. For instance, in certain individuals, their bodies can easily process tyramine and therefore there is no harm for them to consume food with tyramine.

Tyramine mechanism

Tyramine Mechanism

Foods Containing High Levels Of Tyramine

Some foods contain high levels of tyramine such as those foods that are passed their expiry date, fermented or aged food. Tyramine is a compound that is organically produced after the break down of tyrosine, an amino acid. The break down can happen naturally when foods are fermented, preserved or are aging.

Normally, the digestive system works to break down tyramine thus preventing excess amount of this substance from building up in the body’s circulation.

Having higher than normal levels of tyramine may make wrong signals to be sent in body. One example is where excess amount of tyramine in body stimulates neurotransmitter norepinephrine to be released. It could also activate certain receptors that may bring or induce head pain.

Here is a list of foods that contain tyramine:

  • Fermented cabbage and sauerkraut
  • Aged cheese including cheddar, brick, and blue cheese
  • Wine
  • Nuts
  • Broad beans including snow peas, fava beans and others
  • Spoiled foods or improperly stored foods
  • Prickled, smoked, fermented, or dried and aged meat or fish

Tyramine rich foods


High levels of tyramine in your body can lead to the following fatal complications:

High Blood pressure

High levels of tyramine in your body can lead to high blood pressure. It usually develops over many years and can affect everyone. When left untreated, it can cause serious complications such as heart attack and stroke.

Many people do not show any symptoms of high blood pressure even if pressure readings are high. A few people may show the following symptoms:

  • Increased Headaches
  • Increased Shortness of breath
  • Increased chest pain.


Migraines are serious headaches that can start in childhood or occur in adulthood. Women are at risk of being affected with Migraine than men.

The causes for migraine have not been clearly identified but some factors can increase your chances of developing it. Eating foods with high levels of tyramine could affect re-absorption of serotonin neurotransmitters and thus elevate its level in your brain leading to magraine.

Apart from food with high tyramine levels, some medications that treat depression such as monoamine oxidase inhibitor, they inhibit breakdown of serotonin. This increases serotonin levels in your brain and can lead to serious complications such as severe headache


Symptoms of migraine can begin early usually two days before you experience headache. In this phase, you will feel weak or fatigue to do daily chores, depressed and high craving for food. Other symptoms you can experience are as follows:

  • You can feel pain on one side of your head, nausea and vomiting.
  • You can also develop a stiffen neck and loss of your vision.

Why Consume A Low Diet of Tyramine?

You can eat a low diet of tyramine if you are using particular types of monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) medications such as

  • Nardil (Phenelzine)
  • Parnate (Tranylcypromine)

Monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) is a medication used to treat depression.

How Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitor Works?

Monomine oxidase is an enzyme that assists neuron to fire in your body. It is produced in the liver and cleans up neurotransmitters in the brain after they have completed their work. Monomine oxidase also helps clear tyramine in your body.

When you take monoamine oxidase inhibitor medications, they prevent Monomine oxidase from doing its work hence your body is unable to process tyramine properly .This can elevate tyramine levels in your body that can cause stroke and heart attack.

Foods to Avoid When Using MAOI

One disadvantage of monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) medications is that you have to restrict diet because some foods can raise tyramine levels in your body. Certain foods contain high levels of tyramine such as:

  • Fermented
  • Aged
  • Cured
  • Spoiled.

Tyramine (foods to avoid)

Poorly stored food

Patients taking monoamine oxidase inhibitor must avoid foods that have been stored for a longer period in the refrigerator. This is because these foods increases tyramine levels in your body and can lead to serious complications.

Avoid foods such as cheeses (ricotta, cream cheese, cottage cheese) that have been refrigerated for more than 2 weeks. You can only eat these types of cheese if you have refrigerated them for less than two weeks.

When you are purchasing food, you can deliberately or accidentally buy foods that are past their expiry date. These foods contain high tyramine levels and you should avoid them. The best way to avoid expired foods is to read carefully food and drink labels in order to find out their manufacture and expiry dates.

Fresh foods can contain high levels of tyramine if you do not store them well. Fresh meat, poultry, fish, dairy products and vegetables stored for more than three days are unfit for you to eat.

Cured, fermented, processed & smoked foods

Patients taking monoamine oxidase inhibitor medication must refrain from eating smoked, cured and fermented foods. Cured foods are treated with salt and nitrate. Examples of cured foods include pepperoni, salami, sausage and smoked fish.

Also patients using the medication should avoid fermented vegetables and sauces. Fermented vegetable products and sauces include soy products (tofu, bean curd, miso soup), sauerkraut, yeast extracts, and teriyak.

Processed food contains sodium and sugar that can elevate your blood pressure levels. Avoid hotdogs, smoked fish, and corned beef.

Overripe fruits

Overripe fruits contain high levels of tyramine that are dangerous to your body. You should avoid overripe fruits such as bananas, avocado, and raspberries.

Alcoholic beverages

Patients using monoamine oxidase inhibitor medication should limit intake of excess alcohol such as beer, wine, and liquor. You should avoid unpasteurized beer, chocolate beverages, and red wines.

If you keep on eating food with high levels of tyramine and you are taking MAOI medications, tyramine levels in your body can increase to serious levels. This leads to:

  • Acute headache
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Chest pain
  • Severe anxiety
  • Increased heartbeat
  • Loss of vision

What Should You Do to Maintain a Low- Tyramine Level Intake?

The below tips will help you maintain low levels of tyramine in your body. This is by ensuring that the food you take has low levels of the substance tyramine.

  • Read carefully drink and food labels before drinking or eating to avoid consuming expired foods.
  • Purchase fresh meat, poultry and fish and eat the same day or freeze them immediately.
  • Use the microwave and refrigerator to thaw food.
  • Avoid eating overripe fruits.
  • Limit your consumption of tea, coffee, cola and chocolate drinks because they cause migraine.
  • Eat canned and frozen foods immediately after cooking and eat leftovers within 2 days.

Risk Factors

  • Hormonal changes for example in women; they can experience fluctuating changes in estrogen hormones during menstruation, pregnancy and menopause.
  • Increase in heat because of changes in weather; from cold to hot weather.


  1. Tyramine-Free Diets. http://www.healthline.com/health/tyramine-free-diets
  2. Foods to Avoid When Taking an MAOI (Monoamine Oxidase inhibitors). http://www.livestrong.com/article/292145-foods-to-avoid-when-taking-an-maoi/
  3. Low Tyramine Diet. https://www.health.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/145802/oncol_maoi.pdf
  4. Migraine. http://www.healthline.com/health/migraine
  5. Could Tyramine Be Causing Your Migraines. https://www.excedrin.com/migraines/causes/tyramine-and-migraines/

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