Rich in complex carbohydrates, bananas will raise your blood sugar and help your body process alcohol by activating the metabolism. Bananas can also help ease stomach aches. But some claim that bananas might aggravate a hangover. That’s because bananas contain a particular compound called tyramine. Food science professor Karen Schaich at Rutgers University looked into the situation.
Tyramine is an amino acid byproduct of tyrosine, another amino acid that’s found in bananas, aged cheeses, and fermented foods. The latter two contain live microorganisms, which turn tyrosine into tyramine.
Bananas contain tyramine, but it’s hard to pinpoint how much tyramine is too much. Schaich points out that across studies, what is considered a high level of tyramine differs by as much as 100 grams. Tyramine, Schaich says, has a similar structure to serotonin, so tyramine is able to bind to serotonin receptors in the brain and affect the same pathways, like blood vessels. Tyramine can thus cause vasoconstriction, but sometimes the effect is too strong, resulting in throbbing pain.
“[Tyramine is] not a migraine inducer by itself,” Schaich said. Rather, if one already is suffering a migraine, then too much tyramine may make the condition worse. But eating tyramine-rich foods won’t bring on symptoms.
Schaich also points out that everyone processes amino acids differently. “If you’ve never had a migraine, and you’ve never had a response to bananas, then ... eat bananas for hangovers,” Schaich says. Also, even if you do get migraines, people metabolize different compounds differently.
Ideally, a post-hangover meal will “be metabolized in place of the alcohol,” Schaich says. If you want to try and optimize your food choice, then opting for a plate of something high in the amino acid tryptophan is potentially a great choice because the body metabolizes tryptophan into serotonin, which helps relieve headaches through vasoconstrictions.