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Migraine Triggers

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If you have ever experience a migraine, you know that it is a painful, sometimes debilitating occurrence. When I use the term migraine, I don’t mean just a headache. A migraine is usually 10 times worse than a normal headache. In addition to headaches, migraines are accompanied by altered bodily perceptions and nausea. Typical migraine symptoms last anywhere from 4 to 72 hours.

Doctors and scientists have no idea why migraines occur. Some believe that they originate in the brainstem due to intracellular transport dysfunction where as others believe migraines are genetically predisposed. Whatever the origination of migraines may be, there are several triggers that can cause an episode to occur and unfortunately most people have no idea what those triggers are so avoiding them is not an option.

However, researchers have found there are some triggers that can cause migraines in all patients, making it easier for people to replace certain foods, products or habits in their lives. Food triggers are deceptive because it could be only one food or several types of foods that trigger a migraine. Additionally if may be a specific ingredient and not necessarily a food per say. People with food triggers have a couple ways to find the food. The first is noticing that every time you eat that food it causes a migraine. Others do an elimination diet, by eliminating all potential trigger foods, then adding them back in one by one with a week in between to see if they are the trigger. Others change habits by switching out light bulbs, or perfumes that can cause migraines.

 These triggers can be cut out, replaced or stayed away from to reduce the likelihood of triggering a migraine. Remember there are several more triggers than on this list, so if migraines persist try to figure out some of the additional triggers in your life.

1.     Caffeine, some peoples daily cup of energy. There are some people who feel like they can’t go with out their cup of coffee, or 3,5, 7 cups. But just as much as cutting out caffeine can be helpful to reduce migraines, caffeine withdrawal can cause them too. If you have been drinking coffee everyday for the last 20 years and you just one day quit cold turkey, your body may freak out and trigger a migraine because it is so reliant on that cup of coffee everyday.  Not to worry if you think you will have caffeine withdrawal then it is important to wean yourself off of caffeine slowly. Start cutting back everyday until you no longer need that cup of coffee.

2.     Sugar, such as Aspartame and Nutrasweet, are 2 of the leading sweeteners that have been proven to induce migraines. These two artificial sweeteners have been used in thousands of food products globally not to mention in soda. Although sugar is another huge trigger, avoid using the artificial kinds, all natural sugars like sugar in the raw are healthy for you.

3.     The three most romantic foods cheese, chocolate and wine have been shown to cause migraines. Any kind of alcohol can trigger a migraine, even wine. But chocolate contains phyenylethamine and aged cheese contains the amino acid tyramine which both have been proven to contribute to migraines. So the next time you are being romantic be a little more creative and avoid these three foods.

4.     If you are a smoker, I’m sure you have had many people tell you its bad for you.  Well for all the long lists and reasons that smoking is bad for you, in addition it could be the trigger for your migraines. If this isn’t a reason to stop smoking then I don’t know what will change your mind, but I know its hard and it won’t be easy especially if you have been smoking for a really long time. Just remember that even if you don’t smoke, second hand smoke can be a trigger as well. The best remedy is to remove yourself from that environment, whether that means you physically leaving or the smokers physically leaving.

5.     Try a different type of contraceptive rather than birth control pills. The birth control pill changes the release of hormones in a female’s body, ultimately so she won’t get pregnant. However when you start changing the way hormones are released or when they are released within the body this can have side effects such as migraines. In some instances women have changed dosages or brands with migraine relief. There are other forms of contraceptives including condoms, spermicides, IUDs, etc.

6.     Light and noise have a huge affect on migraines. Too bright or brilliant lighting can trigger migraines the same way too loud noises such as music, yelling, and banging can cause migraines. Change light bulbs to a softer wattage. Also if you work at a computer all day consider getting a screen filter or taking many breaks to avert your eyes. If you work in construction or at a concert arena, anywhere where there is loud noise consider using ear plugs or switching jobs.

7.     Smell is also a very active trigger. Perfumes and colognes are used regulary by thousands of men and women. One brand may not smell good to someone else as to the one who is wearing it. Strong odors travel and can cause other people migraines even if the wearer loves the smell. Change from using perfume or cologne to using a body wash with a scent. Scented body wash is not as strong as perfume and clings to the skin so is rarely smelled from far away. Plus scented body wash doubles as a cleanser and a good aroma.

8.     Stay hydrated.  Our body’s are made up of 75% water, therefore staying hydrated is important for continued living. However, when the body becomes dehydrated it causes symptoms of thirst, fatigue, muscle weakness, dizziness, confusion and headaches or migraines. To function properly it is important to replace the water that our body excretes and secretes through normal body functioning. Therefore by drinking 64-80 ounces of water a day you are replacing what the body secretes through spit, sweat, and urine.

9.     Get enough sleep. Sleep is important to allow the brain to shut down and reboot. Not getting enough sleep or too little sleep can cause the brain to function abnormally and cause side effects of exhaustion, dizziness, confusion, headaches, migraines and dehydration. Get into a sleep pattern to regulate the bodies functioning. If you go to sleep and wake up at the same time everyday your body will regulate its processes and decrease painful symptoms.

10.  Do some cardio. Get the heart rate up and your blood pumping. Improper blood flow throughout the body can cause migraines. Therefore by regulating the blood flow through proper exercise the body will correct any problems that had occurred. Little to no activity can cause obesity and decreased blood flow to a specific area. Thirty minutes of moderate exercise a day is recommended to stay fit.

11.  Change in weather, air pressure, temperature, and pollution can cause migraines to occur.  We cannot predict when the weather is going to change. One day it can be hot and the next day it can rain. However being prepared for changes in weather can help regulate the onset of a migraine. Keep track of weather patterns, or change in air pollution to know when you can go outside. Also always drive or travel by train when you can instead of flying. Changes in altitude and air pressure have a significant affect on migraines.


There are thousands of triggers in our environment. Some easier than others to figure out. If you know what triggers your migraines make simple changes to reduce the contributors to migraines. It can change your life!

cup of black coffee, what triggers your migraines

what triggers your migraine, bars of chocolate