Migraine triggers are common factors known to bring on an attack in sufferers. The attacks can be mild for some and head-splitting torture for others, including myself.
Triggers can be specific to one person, like an allergy, but there are plenty of
general ones that commonly affect a greater number of us like chocolate and red wine for example.
Having said that, it is still possible not to have chocolate as one of your food triggers.
Have I confused you? But wait ... there's more!
It can be very hard to determine your triggers as they can accumulate over days.
Many migraine triggers go unnoticed, or are brushed off as unrelated, because they occur a day or two before the actual migraine pain phase begins. I have even learned to consider toxic over load from
cigarette smoke and perfume. You can read those posts: Toxic Cigarettes Migraine Trigger #1 and Instant Migraine Headache Trigger.
No one is exactly sure why triggers develop in some people but not in others, although some genetic connections have been uncovered in about half of all cases.
There are many different things that have been identified as triggers, but the one that stands out for me relates to sudden change.
Any abrupt change in the weather, your lifestyle or diet has the potential to cause a migraine attack.
Statistics show that only half of us have food triggers. I love how the studies say 'only' as if one in two of millions of migraine sufferers is a small number. But I digress.
As I mentioned above, many triggers go unnoticed, or are brushed off as unrelated, because they could occur a day or two before the pain phase begins.
Migraine triggers put you into the first stage of a migraine known as the Prodrome phase. This phase generally lasts from a few hours to a few days before the aura and pain phases begin.
During this period patients feel moody, depressed, irritable, overly tired, sore and stiff. You may also experience diarrhea or constipation, sensitivity to strong odors and strange food cravings.
Every person experiences all or some of these symptoms at some time or other, whether they are prone to migraines or not. That is what makes identifying this phase as the beginning of a migraine attack very difficult.
If you are new to migraines, you would probably not associate these symptoms as the first stage of a migraine attack.
The most common migraine triggers are the same as the triggers that can set off a tension headache: over exertion, hunger and stress.
Migraines are more common in women and will more likely occur around the time menstruation begins.
Click on this link for more details on menstrual headaches.
Other hormonal triggers have been identified as puberty, birth control pills, pregnancy, perimenopause, and menopause.
These hormonal influences are seen more in migraine without aura.
Typically, migraines are not experienced during the 2nd and 3rd trimesters of pregnancy or after menopause.
What you eat has a huge impact on every aspect of your health, so naturally certain foods may trigger a migraine attack, as well.
When diagnosing a migraine, doctors will typically ask you to keep a record of everything you eat and all of the activities you participated in prior to the attack.
Whether any of these things are actually triggers or if it is a combination of several things is not often clear.
Some of the items patients and doctors have noted as possible triggers include:
• red wine and beer, sometimes other alcoholic beverages, as well
• smoking or being around a smoker
• dairy products, especially aged cheese
• smoked fish, salami, bacon and hot dogs
• nuts, especially peanuts
• avocados, bananas and citrus fruit
• monosodium glutamate
• marinated, fermented or pickled foods
It is believed that these foods trigger a migraine due to underlying allergies, that is why the list is so diverse, and why the same food may trigger a migraine in one of us, but not another.
Fasting, skipping meals or eating irregularly can also trigger a migraine. When blood sugar levels become unstable they can trigger a whole lot of responses in the body, including triggering a migraine attack.
I believe that being proactive with vitamin supplements and herbs keep the body healthy, reduce symptoms and help avoid triggers.
I get mine from iherb.com because they are high quality, trustworthy and reliable.
As with dietary triggers, environmental factors vary widely and are difficult to prove as the actual trigger. Allergies may also be at the root of environmental migraine triggers, such as an allergic reaction to a strong pollen or perfume.
Common environmental factors noted by patients include: light, poor indoor air quality, loud noises, sudden changes in the weather, and especially a sudden drop in barometric pressure.
Irregular sleep habits, either getting too much sleep or not enough is also often noted as a trigger.
Here are some fun facts! It was once believed that migraines were more common in highly
intelligent people, but there is not enough evidence to support this
Migraines are not life threatening, although they can be very disruptive.
During an attack a person may not be able to function normally, think clearly or perform simple tasks.
Migraines with auras
may be more dangerous, and have been linked to an increase in the risk
Not all migraine triggers will cause the onset of an attack every time, so avoiding known triggers will not necessarily prevent your migraines, but could lessen the frequency.
Do you have a long list of triggers? I sure do. How about this, pick your top three triggers that you have known about for ages. And tell me the one that surprised you the most from reading this article.
Or maybe tell me a new addition to your migraine trigger list, one that is not mentioned here, or one that is just not that common.
That way, we both help thousands of other visitors to discover their unusual triggers too.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Here are some more common and unusual migraine triggers from other readers. Enjoy!
Here's hoping you have only one trigger, if not, read this post with some tips on how to avoid migraine triggers.
Migraine Triggers Lead To Head-Splitting Torture