Tannins - malted barley flour

Have any of you guys come across tannins as a trigger?

I think this is likely another major one for me as I’ve discovered mainly through various types of bread – not all but some can really do me in. Case in point: last night I was gagging for some fresh white rolls with some butter on them. Just one or two. So I bought these freshly made rolls from the local supermarket bagged in lots of 6. I ended up having two of them last night and nothing else. I wasn’t that hungry afterwards.

Last night I woke with a stomach ache and major pain all through my body. On waking the hearing in my left ear was diminished by about 25% and now I have a non-stop tinnitus going on in the right ear. My head feels “prickly” and totally stuffed with cotton. I feel like I still have not awakened and I’ve been up for hours. Neck pain going on too. In short, the whole deal is going on and I feel like 10 miles of torn up road.

So this attack as way above the norm for me. I never eat fresh rolls from the supermarket. Seems like the obvious culprit considering I ate nothing else nor did I do anything differently last night. Some other breads I have noticed do me in as well. So I came across this.


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When I first told people that I was able to control my migraines by following a tannin-free diet, a few friends and e-mail acquaintances asked me if bread was okay to eat. I knew most bagged breads at the store included food additives, but I told them that if they could find some basic wheat breads that did not have additives, the bread was probably fine. To me, bread meant wheat flour, water, yeast, salt and sugar.

I have since learned that almost all commercial breads, including plastic-bagged breads in the bread aisle and the breads you buy in the bakery departments of large grocery stores, include malted barley flour. Stand-alone bakeries also often use malted barley flour. Malted barley flour has tannins, and this appears to be a very big trigger for me and, most likely, for other people sensitive to tannins. I hadn’t known about this trigger because the bread that my husband and I buy, European Crusty Bread - Baguette from Food Lion, is one of the few commercial breads that does not contain malted barley flour.

I decided I’d make my own bread. I dug my bread machine out of the closet, bought bread flour and yeast, and made a loaf. After only a couple bites of the deliciously-smelling hot loaf, my eyes started watering and my head started hurting. Soon afterward, a migraine developed. It seemed that the migraine came from the bread, so that made me wonder about yeast. Several migraine books have said that freshly-baked bread seems to trigger migraines. The only foods that seem to trigger my migraines contain tannins, and yeast does not contain tannins, so that made me ponder a bit. I was disappointed and frustrated because at first I couldn’t explain why I was getting this migraine. But then I looked at the ingredients on the sack of flour. “Wheat flour, malted barley flour…” Grrrr!! They had to put the stuff in what I’d thought was normal, everyday, white, wheat flour!! It wasn’t the yeast but the darn flour that I’d bought specifically to get away from barley flour!

I have since found that there is flour that does not contain barley flour, but you must look at the ingredients. I now use Arrowhead Mills Unbleached White Flour which is organically produced and sold in health-food stores.

Pizza crusts and many crackers also include malted barley flour. Rolls and breads in restaurants may contain malted barley flour. Pretzels often contain malted barley flour.

Although MOST commercial breads include barley flour, there are some that do not. Check the ingredients carefully. Many health-food type breads may not include malted barley flour, but do often include other tannins, like flax seeds or herbs or spices.

There is good bread out there, and you can make your own, but beware that most commercial breads not only contain lots of food additives, but also may contain migraine-provoking malted barley flour. And check the ingredients on the flour you buy!

By the way, two people I knew told me that they were sensitive to “wheat,” but when I pointed out that many wheat products also contained malted barley flour, they found that buying wheat products without malted barley flour did the trick and they could enjoy breads again.

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So I’m going to chase this up and see if I can escape a possible DAILY trigger. I eat all sorts of stuff that potentially conytains malted barley flour.

Scott 8)

This is an interesting topic but my comments are only tangentially related to MAV. My DH has a strange auto immune disorder and reacts badly to tannins. He can’t drink coffee so occasionally has this fake coffee marketed as “Pero”. The main ingredient is barley included malted barley. We never knew that this contained tannins and amazingly he doesn’t react to it.

As to bread, I thought I read somewhere that fresh baked bread was a problem but not packaged bread. I wonder why that is? Are the ingredients more active when fresh?

And to your point specifically, if you have figured out a trigger that you can eliminate, all the better! Sorry you had a rough night.


are these the same tannins as in red wine?

Don’t know whether you still drink Milo which, among other ingredients, contains 16% malted barley extract plus 35% rice, wheat or barley! Lots of good vits though.
After years of suffering IBS I tried making my own bread with Spelt flour which was fine but salt quite levels high. I started a gluten free diet ten years ago & IBS vastly improved. However, the gluten free diet did not prevent mav hell happening 2 yrs ago!!

Hi Barb,

Milo doesn’t cause this trouble so maybe I’m barking up the wrong tree? Lately I’ve been very headachy again after a very good 2 weeks post aspirin withdrawal. I also started eating sandwiches made around the corner with a really nice fresh dark brown bread every other day at the exact same time. Maybe all a coincidence but all I know is that once again something is seriously ramping up my headaches again. Such a GD pain forever trying to isolate these triggers.

Thanks all 8)

Interesting. Malted barley is a big trigger for me but I’ve always thought it was because it is a potential source of MSG. Never knew about the tannins. Years ago I did make a list of all tannin containing foods and tried to avoid them. Mind you, Scott the relevant word here seems to be “fresh” - why don’t you try eating ‘fresh’ bread that’s been around a day or two, just as an experiment. Not so nice I know but it would settle the “is it the fresh yeast-risen baked goods” question, as per the Buchholz recommendation. It’s always an elimination game isn’t it?

You said some breads affect you while others don’t. What’s the difference in them - freshly baked as opposed to a day or two old? malted barley in them or not? other hidden ingredients? So easy to assume things (like me with the barley malt and msg) and be mistaken without looking into the details carefully and more than once. So good luck with the detective work. It’s totally time consuming and frustrating I know.


Scott’s post has really got me thinking, so I returned to the topic of tannins which I studied many years ago before I knew a fraction of what I know now about migraine and diet and I found this info about them. Thought I’d share it for those who are playing detective too.



According to the Heal your Headache book Scott, barley malt and maled barley etc can all possibly contain MSG. ALSO it advises never to eat fresh breads, doughs or cakes but to let them stand for 24 hours before doing so.

Who knows if the fresh bread in supermarkets somes into contact with other ingredients as well…??

Thanks for the links and replies.

So yesterday afternoon I had a plain half chicken for lunch only. I know this sort of food has no effect on me. And then we had an afternoon tea as a farewell for a work colleague. As a test I ate 4 small scones with a bit of jam and some fresh cream.

Today the hell is back again quite badly. Big squeeze all around my head and neck pain. I look like I haven’t slept in years today. Terrible. Sore lower back and aching legs as well.

So was it the massive flour hit again? Sure seems like it.

So now, I’m going wheat/ flour free for a few days and see if things clear up. If they do I’ll need to hunt out breads I can handle or look to see if letting them sit around for 2 days first makes a difference.

Sigh…just when I’d finished cleaning out my pantry. Ah well, I think I’ll be eating lots of so easy-to-make corn bread (my favorite recipe to follow on that other thread):)!

How’s it going Scott? Reached any conclusions at all? Thanks.


I haven’t eaten bread for years, since before I discovered that my symptoms were due to migraine. I found that within 20 mins of eating my lunch sandwich, my head would be spinning. I have always assumed that it is the yeast that is the problem, I hadn’t considered barley. I have never drunk milo, so can’t comment on that one.

Sometimes I can eat pizza, sometimes I cannot. I’m thinking it has to do with the freshness of it, as they say
fresh baked goods are migraine triggers if they are the yeast risen kind. Basically rise from using yeast.