Tyramine is a breakdown product of the amino acid Tyrosine and is found in aged, dried, processed, and pickled foods such as wine, cheese, lunch meats, sour breads and pickles. Basically, any food that is not fresh and has been sitting in a barrel or cave for long periods can have a large amount of this chemical. Tyramine acts as a monoamine which is a type of adrenergic neurotransmitter. Tyramine can stimulate the release of adrenalin-like chemicals like norephinephrine and serotonin. The realease of adrenaline is related to the bodies fight or flight response and can cause a mild euphoria, anxiety, and elevation in blood pressure.
By themselves, eating processed and aged foods is usually not an immediate health risk unless a person is also talking an MAOI. MAOI stands for mono-amine oxidase inhibitor. This is the medicine you have heard about on drug commercials. Usually when the commerical is listing the sideaffects of the drug at the end, they will mention that the advertised drug should not be taken with an MAOI. MAOI's (Nardil and Parnate) were the first anti-depressants and people on these drugs were warned to never drink wine and eat a lot of aged cheese. If they did, they could run the risk of developing "cheese syndrome" or "serotonin sydrome" which was associated with a dangerous spike in blood pressure and possibly a heart attack or stroke. So, physiologically speaking, we know that the "Tryramine effect" is real.
So most of us aren't on an MAOI. But what about the long term effects of ingesting Tyramine? Well, it turns out that if you are like most Americans, you probably ingest a significant amount of this chemical. And this may be one of several contributing factor to the epidemic of elevated blood pressure. However, when a person has steady continual exposure to tyramine (as most American's do) we don't see the same immediate elevations to blood pressure. Instead, norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin can actually become depleated. Consequently, after long exposures, tyramine could be a major contributer to a generalized depressed mood. And it is this generalized depressed mood that could lead to an increased consumption of what we often refer to as "comfort foods" to raise our norepi and serotonin levels. And of course, this compulsive eating can be one of several factors leading to the epidemic of obesity. Others who experience severe depression through a combination of dietary, genetic and psycho-social factors are often prescribed SSRI's and other similar drugs which raise the levels of norephinephrine and serotonin in the body. It is this same norephi and serotonin which Tyramine can deplete after continual exposure.
Spikes in norephi and serotonin can have other effects in the body. Recent research has shown a strong coorelation between tryamine ingestion and migraines. Not surprising, the acute treatment in the ED for migraine involves the direct inhibition of Serotonin and Dopamine [Imitrex, Relpax (blocks seretonin); Reglan, Compazine (blocks dopamine)]. Independent of SSRIs and MAOIs, spikes in adrenergic chemicals can also lead to dangerous elevations of blood pressure and even precipitate heart arrythmias like atrial fribrillation. However, these effects could be expected in the individual who usually eats fresh, and only occasionally heaps on extra parmesan cheese on their spaghetti and has an extra glass of wine at dinner.
LDS are familiar with the several prohibitions contained in the Word of Wisdom, but could the deleterious effects of Tyramine be part of the reason the Word of Wisdom encourages us to eat food "in the season thereof?"
D&C 89:11 Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; all these to be used with prudence and thanksgiving.