Friday, 10 February 2017

Why does my head hurt when I drink avocado leaves tea?

The first thing that I feel when someone complaints of headaches and inquires about the reasons behind it, is - I don't know, it could be a million different things. And in reality it could indeed be a million different things. The brain and its mysteries still to unfold, from a common headache to the overwhelming migraine. However, if one states that whenever one has something specific a headache surfaces, then we can restrain to a thousand, rather than a million, different reasons.

An anonymous person asked me, through the avocado leaves tea for cancer and osteoarthritis post (read here), why her/his head always heart when drinking avocado leaves tea. I must be honest, I never heard such thing before. My curiosity got even stronger when after a very quick search through a few science articles, I immediately got confronted with several other reports from other complaints pointing in the same direction.

Nonetheless, I gave it a lot of thought and found some interesting scientific facts that 'might', to a certain extent, point towards the causality in this headache complaint from one of my readers. A complaint of headaches after drinking avocado leaves tea.

Fact 1) Avocado is anecdotally linked to chronic headache due to the presence of two biochemicals, namely, histamine and tyramine. And you can even find it on the web as a NO-NO food in this novel headache-free diet based on information adapted from [1].

Fact 2) Avocados are related to hypertension incidents due to monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) that ultimately interfere with the metabolism of the previously mentioned agents (see fact 1). Even though it is also reported that hypertensive episodes cannot immediately be related to the presence of tyramine in avocados, as I suggest in the opening paragraph, I was able to find actually a case-report for a 35 year old white male who ate avocados and guacamole. And guacamole is based on ripen avocado that due to its maturity is likely to have an increased content, tyramine-wise. In that same report [2] they let us know that the patient is dealing with a fair amount of other health issues, but also state that "The amount of tyramine that is dangerous for a patient being treated with MAOIs is not known precisely, although it has been reported that 6 mg is sufficient to produce adverse reactions, and that 25 mg is dangerous", as stated in [3]. These values are based on a fairly old article from 1965, one that needs to be taken with a pinch of salt even though the human body is still a human body, but the analytical methods have improved tremendously.

Fact 3) It is important to be aware that tyramine on its own, may or may not be the cause for hypertension-based headaches. But molecular interactions between tyramine and certain pharmaceuticals (e.g., MAOIs for depression) can determine a low breakdown rate of the former. Thus, resulting in an strong tyramine effect on the vascular system. So, it is also very important to know if indeed some medicine one is taking can be behind a lower metabolic 'digestion' of the tyramine content.

Fact 4) Tyramine is the metabolic product of the breakdown of amino acid Tyrosine that is also present in several other types of food. But in avocados there is also histamine, a potent neurotransmitter with a crucial role in our immune system, therefore allergies and the like. Histamine intolerance is known to be more frequently reported these days (estimated 1% of adults may be histamine-intolerant with 80% of these being females) according to [4], and since histamine is a vasoactive amine, as tyramine also is, these reported headaches after drinking avocado leaves tea could be due to histamine rather than tyramine. I must plea ignorance on the real content of histamine and tyramine in avocado leaves, I just couldn't find it anywhere, I'm afraid. Vasoactive amines can trigger allergy-like symptoms, such as headaches, rashes, hot flushes, etc etc etc [5]. Usually these symptoms occur around half an hour after consumption and vary from individual to individual.

Based on the extremely limited amount of information provided by the reader I can only say that one can be present to one of these facts, be it a histamine intolerance/sensitivity, an interaction between tyramine and medication or an excessive intake of tyramine/histamine. My opinion is that a nutritionist can help any of you unveil the source of the problem - if you also have it.

But in the meantime to help those who are always seeking for advice on food intolerance, I added to the list of links here in the blog, right on the Toxic Databases (see image below), a link that will take you straight to the Food Intolerance Diagnostics web page. There you can actually get to know so much more about loads of other food intolerance issues.Hope it helps!


[1]. The American Council for Headache Education Tyramine Restricted Diet & Theisler CW: Migraine Headache Disease: Diagnostic and Management Strategies. Austintown: Aspen Publishers; 1990, pp. 111–112.

[2]. Generali, J. A., Hogan, L. C., McFarlane, M., Schwab, S., Hartman, C. R. (1981). "Hypertensive crisis resulting from avocados and a MAO inhibitor". Drug Intelligence and Clinical Pharmacy, 15, pp. 904-905.

[3]. BlackweIl, B., Mabbitt, L. A. (1965). "Tyramine in cheese-related hypertension crisis after monamine oxidase inhibition". Lancet, 1, pp. 938-40.

[4]. Histamine, tyramine and other biogenic amines, Food intolerance diagnostics, [], last visited on the 10th of February 2017, last updated on the 16th of August 2016.

[5]. Histamine intolerance, Allergy UK, [], laast visited on the 10th of February 2017, last updated on October 2015.

Post image kindly taken from "Everyday Health" - 8 Smart Food Swaps for a Healthy Heart, [].

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