Common Migraine Triggers
A migraine can stop you in your tracks. These painful headaches have many triggers—factors that can increase their likelihood. Although these triggers don’t directly cause migraines—they won’t make a person who doesn’t get migraines suddenly suffer from them—they can induce migraines in individuals who are already prone to them. Different people have different triggers, and finding out what yours are is a big step toward preventing migraine pain. Common migraine triggers include certain foods, hormonal changes, stress and sleep habits. Take the first step in preventing migraines: take note if you were exposed to any of these triggers each time you get a headache to learn which triggers you should avoid.
Migraine Trigger 1: Food
Certain foods and food additives seem to trigger migraines. Common food triggers include alcohol, caffeine, aged cheeses, chocolate, aspartame (which is found in many artificially sweetened products) and MSG, a common additive in processed food. Nitrates and nitrites, found in processed meats such as hot dogs and deli meats, have also been identified as food triggers.
Keeping a food diary can help you identify which foods or food additives can bring on your migraines. By looking for patterns in the foods you eat shortly before a headache strikes, you can often determine and avoid your personal food triggers.
Skipping meals can also bring on a migraine. Do your best to eat regular meals to keep your blood sugar levels steady and prevent migraines.
Migraine Trigger 2: Hormonal Changes
Fluctuations in hormones, particularly estrogen, can trigger a migraine. Women who are prone to migraines often have headaches just before or during menstruation, a time when estrogen levels drop. Some women are also more prone to experiencing migraine pain during pregnancy and menopause. Hormonal birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy may make migraines worse, though some women find that their headaches decrease while taking them.
While you can’t always control fluctuations in your hormones, you can be aware of the times when you may be more vulnerable to a migraine and keep a closer eye on other known triggers. You can also be proactive during these times by relying more on home remedies such as taking a hot shower or getting a massage from a loved one—both decrease tension and help you relax and, which can prevent or alleviate migraine pain. If you think that birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy may be causing your headaches, talk to your doctor about changing brands (a little tweak which can make a big difference), or switching to non-hormonal methods of birth control or managing menopause symptoms.
Migraine Trigger 3: Stress
Emotional stress can trigger a migraine, and the anxiety, fatigue and worry that go hand in hand with stress can make headache pain worse. You can’t avoid all sources of stress, but you can equip yourself with ways to better manage that stress. Journaling, listening to relaxing music and breathing exercises can all help you feel less frazzled when life’s stresses come along. If you face chronic stress, or are experiencing anxiety or worry more than occasionally, seeing a counselor can be extremely beneficial. He or she can help you find ways to lower the amount of stress that you feel, and thus lower your chances of triggering a migraine.
Physical stress, including overexerting yourself, exercising outdoors on a very hot day or doing too much too soon when you’re a new exerciser, can also bring on a migraine. Getting regular exercise is essential for good health, but overdoing it can be detrimental. Consider exercising indoors when the temperature climbs and increase intensity slowly if you’re just getting started with a new exercise routine.
Migraine Trigger 4: Sleep habits
Switching up your sleeping schedule can also bring on a migraine. Suddenly sleeping in or staying up late can trigger a headache. Jet lag is also a common culprit. If you need to change the times you go to bed and get up, try to do it gradually to avoid bringing on a headache.
Not getting enough sleep is also a migraine trigger, even if you do have regular sleep habits. Getting the recommended seven to nine hours brings a host of health benefits and decreased headache pain is often one of them.
Food triggers, hormonal changes, stress and sleep habits can all bring on a migraine. But, by identifying the migraine triggers that affect you, you can take steps to prevent migraines.
If you’re just getting started on your weight loss journey, or if you just need a few reminders, here are a few tips.
Making small changes can make a huge difference in the long run.
If you haven’t already, try switching the following:
- white bread (pastas and rice too) for wheat
- french fries for baked potato wedges
- fried chicken (nuggets) for baked chicken (nuggets)
- sodas for (sparkling) water with lemon or other fruit
- ice cream for fresh fruit sorbet or frozen banana “ice cream”
Just from these minor changes you can save around 350 calories and even get more protein. (just trust my math here, but feel free to ask if you’re curious.)