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Tyramines are amino acid products which are associated with headaches and hypertension.  Tyramines may be produced from the amino acids phenylalanine and tyrosine.  Tyrosine is the amino acid which is used by the body to form thyroid and catecholamine (epinephrine, norepinephrine, etc.) hormones.

Tyramines are found in high amounts in certain foods such as chocolate, wine, beer, cheese, beans, liver, and other foods (list below).  These are the foods which are associated with migraine and other headaches in certain individuals, especially women.

Tyramines appear to be broken down in the body by an enzyme called monoamine oxidase (MAO).  Apparently monoamine oxidase is also the same enzyme that breaks down the thyroid and catecholamine hormones after their use is finished and to prevent an excess of these hormones from circulating throughout the body.  When there is an excess of the catecholamines in circulation, a condition of hypertension may result.  When there is an excess of thyroid hormones in circulation, hyperthyroidism results.

What makes monoamine oxidase particularly important in the study of the cause of thyroid disease, is that MAO is a copper containing enzyme.  We have seen that a deficiency of copper is probably the major cause of hyperthyroidism.  An excess of copper or copper unbalanced by other minerals may lead to depression and possibly hypothyroidism. 

It's possible that the reason copper is so important to thyroid status is its role in forming MAO.  Possibly a deficiency of MAO leads to excess thyroid and catecholamine hormones, hypertension, the perception of being stressed, and hyperthyroidism.  An excess of MAO may deplete the body of the thyroid and catecholamine hormones leading to hypothyroidism and depression.

One study looked at MAO levels in hyperthyroid patients and found that MAO levels are low.  The authors speculated that low MAO may be involved in hyperthyroidism.  (See MAO and MAOI)

There is a class of antidepressants known as monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI) which are prescribed for depressed individuals.  These MAOI deplete the body of excess MAO allowing a normal amount of catecholamines and 5-HT to circulate which relieves depression. 

When all this information is put together there is good reason to believe that the tyramines adversely affect persons who are low in copper, because copper is necessary for the production of MAO which is needed to break down the tyramines.  In these individuals, the tyramines may increase the drain on MAO and copper and thereby increase the symptoms associated with low copper: headaches, hypertension, and hyperthyroidism.

Check out the list of high tyramine foods to see if these foods create problems for you.  If these foods bother you, then you may be deficient in copper.  Some of these foods we have listed as high copper foods, such as chocolate, beer, nuts, and beans.  It may be possible that foods like chocolate and beer, while they contain copper, may use up more copper than they provide because of the drain of MAO. 


Beer, ale, and wine
Aged and cultured dairy products (cheese, yogurt, etc.)
Beans and legumes
Figs, prunes, raisons, pineapple (possibly only canned)
Soy sauce and MSG
Pickled and salted fish