10 Common Migraine Triggers

There are many people who suffer from migraines, which are not your typical headache. In general, the attacks include a pulsing sensation or throbbing pain accompanied by sensitivity to light and sound, and at times nausea and vomiting, lasting from 4 to 72 hours.  Knowing the following 10 migraine triggers might just keep you from suffering one.

For the victims, the attacks can sometimes feel like they happen at random; however, one strategy that can help is the identification of possible factors that trigger them. You should try to figure out what situations or activities have a high probability of setting off a migraine. Although the triggers are not always clear, many doctors suggest keeping a diary of migraine pain in order to identify and ultimately to prevent the circumstances that cause the migraines to appear.

You must take into account that the triggers vary from one person to another, from one day to the next. The determination and control of your personal triggers can be an empowering exercise that will give you more control over your migraines, especially when combined with an overall healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet, regular exercise, and proper stress management.  Below are 10 common migraine triggers.

Changes in your sleep pattern

For people who suffer migraines, it is best to keep things to a normal, dependable routine, and this includes your sleep schedule – sleeping too little or experiencing jet lag can trigger a migraine attack.  It is best to try to get up at the same time every day, including Saturdays and Sundays.  Sounds harsh, but it’s worth it – not only can it prevent headaches, but it will also improve your sleep.  Changing your internal clock just a few hours on the weekend can give your body a sort of fixed jet lag that may cause sleep problems, and other health problems later on.

Relaxing after stress

Stress

It’s generally felt that stress is a migraine trigger for many people, but it’s actually the period of relaxation after stress that counts:  The effect of stress on the body increases levels of various chemicals that then break down once we have calmed down.  This chemical change would then be what triggers the migraine.  This explains why an attack can hit the first day of vacation, or the day after you leave a stressful job, or at the beginning of your honeymoon.

Rain

Although as of yet no definitive research has been conducted on the relationship between migraines and the weather, anecdotally speaking, patients often report having migraines on rainy days.  Given that we cannot control the weather, you should take special care to avoid other triggers on rainy days.




Fluctuations in estrogen levels

Pregnancy

Fluctuations in estrogen levels like those caused by menstruation, birth control pills, pregnancy, the time just after birth, menopause, etc. can all trigger migraines.  What’s more is that they can also lower your migraine threshold, meaning that you could be even more susceptible to other triggers.

A coworker’s perfume

Strong smells are more than annoying for people who suffer from migraines, as they’re also enough to trigger an attack.  Sensory stimulation like bright lights (including sunshine, the computer screen, or the brightness of a movie screen), strong odors (like perfume or cigarette smoke) and loud noises could all be responsible for your headache.

Food

Food

Foods that contain tyramine (including red wine, aged cheese, certain processed meat and pork, to name a few) and tannins (including red wine, tea, coffee and apple juice) can cause a migraine attack.  Other food additives, including monosodium glutamate, aspartame and nitrates could be responsible for your headaches, although again much of this data is anecdotal rather than scientific on this point.  People with celiac disease or an allergy to gluten can also suffer from migraines.  Keep a food diary to help you narrow down any foods you suspect might be the basis of your headaches.

To drink coffee, or not to drink it

Drinking coffee can work both ways: an excess of caffeine can trigger a headache, and yet for habitual drinkers not getting enough can also trigger migraines.  This could also be responsible for headaches on the weekend – if you drink a lot of coffee during the week at work, but not at home.

Alcohol

Beer 2

The body metabolizes alcohol as acetate, which can cause a migraine.  To avoid the pain, we suggest drinking in moderation, and eating food while drinking.  While all types of alcohol can set off a migraine, liquor that is dark in color like tequila, whiskey and red wine are the worst.

Physical exertion

Physical exertion can also bring on a headache.  Although the exact cause of migraines induced by exercise is not completely understood, it could be a chemical change in the brain, especially in those who are just taking up exercise.  The best thing to do in this case is to start off slowly.

Skipping lunch

Lunch

Once again, routine is key for migraine sufferers. Skipping a meal or fasting can trigger a migraine attack.  It’s not known exactly why, but it could have something to do with low levels of glucose.  Whatever the reason, it’s important to eat regularly to avoid an attack.