Do you know what every attack is triggered from?
Finding all your migraine triggers can be hard, so let's talk details to help you stop the next one before it starts.
Migraine headache 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.
A trigger can be specific to one person, like an allergy, or a traumatic event. We all react differently to stressful times in life and have different sensitivities.
And then, there are plenty of general triggers that commonly affect a greater number of us like perfume, 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?
There is a theory that you might be just craving carbohydrates, and chocolate fits into that... so the attack is already underway and you feel you have to eat something sweet.
I talk about this in my migraine pain management course private Facebook group.
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.
Have you considered or noticed a migraine starting after exposure to cigarette smoke and perfume? These are guaranteed triggers for me. It took me years to figure this out, as everyone wears perfume or scented products.
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.
Learning to recognize, understand and avoid your triggers is crucial to surviving chronic migraines.
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 it's note worthy... don't just assume you have food triggers.
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 you might find yourself feeling:
You may also experience:
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:
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:
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:
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.
Avoid all your known triggers!
Become a detective for the unknown ones.
I believe that being proactive with radical self care, exercise, emotional support, vitamin supplements and herbs keep the body healthy, reduce symptoms and help avoid triggers.
All of this is covered in my pain management course.
I have also written an eBook to help you deal with stress and anxiety... you will need to learn some new coping skills to master your migraines.
Educating yourself and gaining confidence is vital to surviving chronic migraines.
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:
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 theory.
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 of stroke.
Do you have a long list of triggers? I sure do. And it's possible your list just got longer.
Share your tips or strategies to manage your triggers... or tell us if you have one that's not on this list. Or ask me a question...
That way, we both help thousands of other visitors to discover and manage 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.
I have written a number of posts on triggers, so here is the article directory: