Hey Laura, are nitrates/nitrites causing my headaches?

Heather writes:

It seems that every time I make bacon I get a headache shortly after dinner.  I did a quick google search and it seems it might be caused by the nitrates in the bacon.  Have you heard of this?  What else might have nitrates in it I should avoid (I get headaches a lot)?

It could be the nitrates, although there hasn’t yet been a satisfactory study showing a connection between nitrates/nitrites and headaches. 

Even uncured, “nitrate-free” bacon contains naturally occurring nitrates and nitrites from the celery juice or salt used to preserve the meat. This labeling loophole makes cynics out of a lot of folks, but some people swear they feel a difference between the two. This Fed Up With Food Additives factsheet asserts that the difference with naturally occurring nitrates could be that they are occurring with other nutrients:

While it is true that lettuces can contain more nitrates than ham, some researchers think that nitrates in vegetables may be inhibited from forming toxic nitrosamines due to protective effects of nutrients such as Vitamin C in vegetables. This is the opposite effect from meat where nitrates are actually added to a very high amine source.


So, it could be the nitrates. It could also be something as simple as the extra salt making dehydration sneak up on you that day.

Your best bet is to keep a food diary to track your headaches. You might see a pattern emerge that will help you modify your diet. It would certainly be a shame to banish bacon from your life unnecessarily, don’t you think? :)


You might find also some useful advice in my previous post on migraines. Good luck!

Hey Laura, I think... Hey Laura, are nitrates/nitrites causing my headaches?

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