- 10 Ways to Stop a Migraine Before It Starts
- 1. Keep a Headache Diary
- 2. Have Consistent Lifestyle Habits
- 3. Use a Multidisciplinary Approach
- 4. Eat Natural Whole Foods
- 5. Manage Your Stress
- 6. Consider Complementary Medicine Therapies
- 7. Try a Migraine Device
- 8. Use Natural Dietary Supplements to Prevent Migraines
- 9. Try Preventive Therapies
- 10. See Your Doctor
- Common triggers
- Weekend headaches
- Hormonal changes in women
- The environment
- Computer screens/VDUs
- Lack of food
- Alcohol and cheese
- Mild dehydration
- 10 ways to avoid migraine triggers
- Stay Ahead of Stress
- Dial Back the Alcohol
- Find Your Red-Flag Foods
- Be Smart About Sleep
- Get a Handle on Hormones
- Avoid Strong Aromas
- Learn to Recognize Your Migraine Triggers
- What Causes Migraines? 10 Common Migraine Triggers & Foods
- The most ly cause of migraines: Your genes
- Other risk factors for migraines
- Foods that trigger migraines
- Indoor lighting
- Skipping meals or becoming dehydrated
- Skimping on sleep
- An infection
- Certain smells
- Loud sounds
- The weather
- Intense physical exertion
- How to stop a migraine before it starts
- 7 Tips for Avoiding Migraine Triggers
10 Ways to Stop a Migraine Before It Starts
Patients can track their symptoms and spot patterns or triggers.
Sign up for more FREE Everyday Health newsletters.
Do migraines wreak havoc on your life? They do for more than 38 million Americans, or 13 percent of the U.S. population, according to the American Migraine Foundation.
Migraines are defined as intense, pulsing, or throbbing pain in one area of the head. Other symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to both light and sound, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
If that sounds bad, the American Migraine Foundation notes that chronic migraine, which affects four million people in the United States, is defined as 15 or more headache days per month with eight of those days meeting criteria for migraine.
Maybe you get a migraine the day you plan to entertain out-of-town guests. Or perhaps your migraine invariably starts on a holiday weekend, on the first day of a new project, or at the start of a family vacation. Migraines happen abruptly, are unpredictable, and can disrupt even the best-laid plans.
There are ways to lessen your chance of migraine if you are aware of your migraine triggers. While the causes of migraine are not well understood, researchers know that genetics and environment play a role. Knowing your migraine triggers can allow you to change those you can control, helping to reduce the impact of migraine on your active life.
A number of factors may trigger migraines, according to the Mayo Clinic, including:
- Changes in Sleep-Wake Pattern Getting too much sleep or not enough will trigger a migraine.
- Changes in the Environment A change in the barometric pressure or weather can lead to a migraine.
- Drinks Alcohol, especially red wine, and highly caffeinated beverages, even coffee, may trigger migraines.
- Food Additives The sweetener aspartame and the preservative monosodium glutamate (MSG), found in many beverages and foods, are both migraine triggers.
- Foods Aged cheeses, salty foods, chocolate, and processed foods may trigger migraines.
- Hormonal Changes in Women Women with a history of migraines often report headaches immediately before or during their periods, when they have a major drop in estrogen.
- Medication Some drugs, such as vasodilators and oral contraceptives, can aggravate migraines.
- Sensory Stimuli Bright lights, strong smells (even fragrances), the glare of the sun, and loud sounds can trigger migraines.
- Stress Stress on the job or at work can cause migraines.
While you can’t change your family history or your age, knowing your personal migraine triggers can help you take preventive steps to make sure you’re managing your migraines instead of adding fuel to the fire.
Here are 10 things that you can do:
1. Keep a Headache Diary
“Keeping a headache diary is a good way to figure out the association between migraine triggers, your lifestyle, and headache,” says Robert Cowan, MD, professor of neurology and chief of the division of headache medicine at Stanford University in California. “With a headache diary, you’ll start to see a pattern, such as you get migraines on weekends or in the afternoon. If you take migraine medication, you record this in your diary.”
Dr. Cowan recommends using a free headache diary app to keep track of migraines and triggers. He and two colleagues created the free app BonTriage, which is available in the App Store.
2. Have Consistent Lifestyle Habits
“Migraine is a problem between you and your environment,” says Cowan. “And my migraine patients who do the best take their lifestyle habits seriously.”
“This means eating meals the same time every day and going to bed and waking up at the same time,” Cowan adds. “Be regular and consistent with your exercise. These are the things that set the patterns for the brain to know what’s coming: sleep, wake up, eat, exercise.”
Migraines hate change. Being consistent reassures your brain that everything is okay.
3. Use a Multidisciplinary Approach
“I also tell my patients they have to take a holistic approach to managing migraine,” Cowan says. “I believe it takes a village to raze a headache, and this means using a multidisciplinary approach.”
One way of doing this is to pay attention to your life. Cowan recommends, “Don’t let the clutter pile up. If you didn’t sleep well one night, avoid wine that day.”
He also adds, “You can’t live in a cave with migraine. You take the precautions you can, and then live your life.”
4. Eat Natural Whole Foods
It’s important to eat natural whole foods to prevent migraines.
Meredith Barad, MD, clinical associate professor of anesthesiology, perioperative, and pain medicine at Stanford University, recommends “Minimizing caffeine and sugar. Minimize processed foods in your diet, and avoid chemical triggers MSG and nitrites, which may trigger migraine in some people.”
Additionally, Dr. Barad says, “Stay away from carbs and sugar. Instead, eat a protein and veggie when you’re hungry. And if you don’t recognize an ingredient on a food label, do not put it in your body!”
5. Manage Your Stress
“Migraine is a chronic medical condition that’s not going away, so you have to live as healthy of a lifestyle as possible,” says Barad.
“Along with understanding your migraine triggers, learning how to cope and manage stress is vital,” she adds.
She recommends eating and sleeping right, and psychotherapy, which can be more effective than a pill for treating depression and anxiety with migraine.
6. Consider Complementary Medicine Therapies
Cowan suggests trying acupuncture, herbal remedies, and moxibustion, a therapy that involves burning herbs on targeted parts of the body.
“If you use traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), make sure the physician is certified and licensed.
While Western medicine has been around for just 250 years, TCM has been around 2,500 years and Ayurvedic for 5,000 years in India. Just be smart and check credentials.”
7. Try a Migraine Device
For frequent migraines, your doctor may prescribe a neuromodulation device as a way to reduce the attacks. Lisa Coohill, MD, a neurologist for Summit Medical Group in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, suggests a device such as Cefaly may be used to prevent migraine.
“Cefaly is a trigeminal nerve [or fifth cranial nerve] stimulator,” Dr. Coohill explains. “Using this 20 minutes before bedtime and during a migraine may help with headache management.”
Other neuromodulation devices that have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), according to the American Migraine Foundation, include the sTMS, or single-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulator, and the gammaCore, which stimulates the vagus nerve.
8. Use Natural Dietary Supplements to Prevent Migraines
Coohill also suggests trying natural dietary supplements to reduce migraine frequency. “You can try riboflavin (vitamin B2), magnesium, coenzyme Q10, and melatonin.”
Natural dietary supplements, such as those indicated for migraine by the University of Michigan, are available over the counter at most pharmacies. It is best to discuss with your primary care doctor or neurologist before starting supplements for long-term use.
9. Try Preventive Therapies
If there are migraine triggers you can’t change, such as a sensitivity to weather or barometer changes, talk with your doctor about preventive medicines.
According to Coohill, the newer preventive migraine drugs can be life-changing. “Especially if your migraines are frequent, these medications may ease the pain and frequency of migraine.”
Coohill adds, “We typically use medicine for people who have a migraine a week or more. It’s important not to take acute migraine medication daily as that can lead to rebound headaches.”
10. See Your Doctor
If you’re in doubt about your migraine triggers, symptoms, or treatment, talk to your primary care physician or neurologist. Your doctor can prescribe acute or preventive medication and talk to you about your personal health history and migraine triggers.
Some people find that changes in their routine can contribute to a migraine. For example changing sleep patterns or changes caused by long journeys can precede an attack. Even pleasant changes such as a holiday can be implicated.
Many people complain that they get migraines at the weekend. At the weekend you may have a change in many of your daily routines such as eating times, reduced caffeine consumption which is particularly noticeable if you have a ‘lie in’ after a busy week. See also stress, sleep, and caffeine below.
Migraine and stress are strongly linked. Indeed, anxiety, excitement and any form of tension and shock may all lead to a migraine attack.
However, some people report that their migraine attacks start when the stress reduces.
This is sometimes experienced as “weekend headaches” when, after a busy and stressful week at work, an individual might experience a migraine at the weekend when they are more relaxed.
The complex nature of trigger factors is illustrated by sleep. Both too much and too little sleep can be implicated in a migraine starting. Some people find that sleepless nights, a number of late nights and being over tired can trigger a migraine. Other people find that sleeping in or dozing in the mornings has the same effect.
Excessive consumption of caffeine may contribute to the onset of a migraine attack. You could try not having more than 4 or 5 cups of tea, coffee or cola in a day. Some people find that suddenly stopping caffeine altogether can also be a trigger factor.
If you suspect this, you may wish to cut down on caffeine more gradually.
Some people find that consuming less caffeine at the weekend can have an impact on migraine attacks, but you should also note that caffeine can be found in many products including chocolate and over the counter painkillers.
Hormonal changes in women
Migraine is closely associated with female hormones. Some women find their migraines start at puberty, and are linked to their menstrual cycle. The additional hormonal trigger for women may explain why more women than men experience migraine during their reproductive years. The menopause is often the most difficult time for women with migraine.
There are certain trigger factors which can be related to environmental issues such as high altitude, weather changes, high humidity, loud noises, exposure to glare or flickering lights. It is unclear if light and sound are themselves triggers, or if heightened sensitivity to them are early features in the attack.
Sitting in front of a computer at home or work for long periods of time can cause problems if you experience migraine. Following common sense precautions such as taking regular breaks, using anti glare screens and good lighting can help prevent this sort of difficulty.
Sitting comfortably is very important when you use a computer to avoid muscle tension building up in the head, neck and shoulders. This muscle tension is implicated in the onset of migraine.
Food related triggers occur in about 10% of people with migraine. Many people will crave sweet food such as chocolate before the pain of the migraine is experienced which leads them to conclude that eating sweet food is a cause. However, sometimes the craving for particular food is a symptom of the beginning of the migraine.
Lack of food
Missing meals or eating sugary snacks instead of a balanced meal can all contribute to a migraine attack. Insufficient food is probably one of the most important dietary triggers. You may find that eating small nutritious snacks at regular intervals can help to control your attacks.
Some food products contain chemicals or additives which may also be implicated in an attack. Ones which are frequently mentioned by people with migraine are monosodium glutamate, nitrates and aspartame.
Alcohol and cheese
There is some evidence that red wine may trigger a migraine because it contains tyramine which has been linked to migraine. Certainly many people with migraine avoid red wine. Tyramine is also found in other food products such as soft cheeses camembert and brie.
Mild dehydration can have an impact on people who have migraine. It is recommended that you should drink at least 8 glasses of water per day. This is in addition to any other drinks you may have. Fizzy drinks can contain the sweetener aspartame which some people link to their migraine.
10 ways to avoid migraine triggers
Zoomer | August 14th, 2012
A migraine can be set in motion by many different factors, from your hormone levels to last night’s dinner. In her book The Migraine Brain, Carolyn Bernstein, M.D., explains that people with migraines have hypersensitive brains that overreact to certain stimuli or triggers. These triggers set off a chain of events that over-excite nerve cells in the head and face, causing migraine symptoms.
Although some triggers — such as stress — are pretty universal, Dr. Bernstein says each person has their own personal pattern of sensitivities. Say, for example, that you can usually drink a glass of wine without suffering, but if you sip it on an empty stomach, you’re a goner.
That makes a headache diary a powerful tool. After a headache, record the severity of the pain on a scale of 1 to 10. Write down what you ate or drank two hours before the headache began, and any other circumstances that you think contributed.
These notes can help you spot your personal patterns, allowing you to avoid risky situations.
To get you started tracking your patterns, here’s a closer look at 10 common migraine triggers , and what you can do to dodge them.
Stay Ahead of Stress
It’s no surprise to anyone who’s held her head in agony after a fight with the boss, or the week of a big move: stress is a major migraine trigger. Researchers think that a migraine sufferer’s nervous system may be especially reactive to stress hormones.
Interestingly, some people experience “let-down” migraines a day or two after a stressful event, possibly caused by the abrupt decrease in stress hormones.
If you suffer from migraines, it’s essential to build stress-busting activities — such as deep breathing, listening to music , or swimming laps — into your daily routine. Practicing guided imagery with a CD may also help. Consider A Meditation to Help Relieve Headaches by Belleruth Naparstek.
Research shows that biofeedback can also help reduce the frequency and severity of migraines by teaching you to limit the physical symptoms of stress. For example, you might wear a finger thermometer and practice raising the temperature in your hands. (Warm hands = a calm mind.) To find a biofeedback practitioner near you, visit http://www.bcia.org/ .
Headache doctors say dehydration is a key factor in many headaches, including migraines. Be sure to drink at least 6 eight-ounce glasses of water a day. Keep in mind that you may need more if you consume alcohol or caffeine (both dehydrating beverages), you sweat a lot, or you’re spending time in a dry place, an airplane.
Toting a jazzy water bottle may help you remember to drink up.
Dial Back the Alcohol
Alcoholic beverages are a common culprit for migraine sufferers; sometimes a few sips are all it takes to set one off.
And it’s no wonder. Alcohol not only dehydrates your brain, but it also contains multiple migraine-triggering chemicals. Red wine, for example, is loaded with tyramine and sulfite, two chemicals implicated in migraine attacks.
If you want to continue to drink, you may need to experiment to determine which alcoholic beverages cause you to react, and choose alternatives. For example, some migraine sufferers can drink white wine without a problem. You might also tolerate organic wines, which contain lower sulfite levels.
In her book The Migraine Brain, Carolyn Bernstein, M.D., also recommends that people with migraines chase each alcoholic drink with at least eight ounces of water to prevent dehydration.
Anything that causes your blood sugar to roller coaster up or down puts migraine sufferers at risk. Skipping meals, for example, causes blood sugar to plunge, and junk food snacks that 3 p.m. candy bar make your blood sugar shoot up and then suddenly drop. Such fluctuations can spark a headache.
Headache doctors urge patients to keep blood sugar steady by eating every few hours, and choosing foods that are low on the glycemic index, which digest slowly and release their sugar gradually. A few snack options: apples slathered with peanut butter, a handful of cashews and dried cherries, or scrambled eggs and salsa in a soft taco.
Find Your Red-Flag Foods
Some researchers estimate that 30 percent of migraines are brought on by food. Common migraine culprits include foods that contain tyramine, an amino acid found in aged cheeses and pepperoni.
But headache docs warn that the food-migraine connection is very individual. One woman might suffer after just few bites of dark chocolate, while another can eat an entire chocolate bar and never get sick. Other circumstances can interact with food. You might eat blue cheese dressing regularly without a headache — until the day you eat it while you’re dehydrated and tired.
Again, a detailed headache diary can help. After each migraine, record what you ate two hours before the headache started, and watch for problem foods. Once you’ve learned your triggers, read labels carefully. And don’t feel shy about speaking up and asking about ingredients in restaurants. After all, it might mean the difference between a miserable night and a pain-free one.
Be Smart About Sleep
A lack of sleep — think red-eye flight, insomnia, or a new baby in the house — is a notorious migraine trigger. But so is too much sleep; staying in bed past your regular waking time can also bring on a headache.
Headache doctors recommend that migraine sufferers do what they can to go to bed and wake up around the same times each day.
If you know that your sleep will be disrupted, it’s wise to avoid other triggers as much as you can: eat regularly, drink plenty of water, and remember your stress-easing practices.
It’s also important to make sure you’re getting good quality sleep. Make an effort to wind down at least a half hour before you hit the hay: Turn off the computer, television, and your cell phone to help quiet your mind. Keep your room cool and quiet, and block out light with room-darkening shades and a sleep mask .
Caffeine is tricky. For some people, it can actually halt an approaching migraine by causing blood vessels in the brain to constrict. For those folks, a cup of coffee or a caffeinated, nondiet soda is a time-honored migraine stopper. In fact, some over-the-counter migraine remedies contain caffeine to increase their effectiveness.
But for other people, caffeine is a migraine trigger. If caffeine bothers you, the National Headache Foundation recommends limiting your daily dose, and reducing your intake very gradually. (Going cold turkey can cause a wicked withdrawal headache.
) To calculate how much you’re consuming each day, visit www.caffeineawareness.org/calcu.php. As you work on quitting coffee and sodas, try less-caffeinated options, such as green or white tea. See more on caffeine content at http://www.stashtea.com/caffeine.
Get a Handle on Hormones
An estimated 60 per cent of women with migraines link the headaches to their menstrual cycles.
Common danger points include a day or two before your period starts, the first three days of your period, and at mid-cycle, during ovulation. Researchers blame fluctuating hormone levels.
So it’s no surprise that some women get more headaches at other times of change, perimenopause or the first trimester of pregnancy.
It’s important to track your cycle so you know when you’re ly to get a migraine and can plan for it, by minimizing other triggers and taking preventive medication. For some women, birth control pills help reduce migraine frequency, but that varies; some women suffer more on medicines that contain hormones.
Avoid Strong Aromas
Migraine sufferers know: It’s never good to be trapped in a small room with someone wearing too much perfume. Powerful scents, from cigarette smoke to floor wax, can irritate the touchy nervous systems of migraine-prone people, setting off a headache.
You can’t avoid all smells, but control what you can: Choose minimally scented body care products for you and your family, and look for fragrance free laundry detergents and cleaning products. Detour around the department store perfume counter, and ask someone else to rip perfume ads magazines before you read them.
Many people with migraines are especially sensitive to light, especially bright or flashing lights. Strobe lights, energy-saving fluorescent bulbs, and the glow and glare of computer screens can all cause problems too.
If light triggers your migraines, it’s important to get a good pair of sunglasses and to wear them anytime you’re outdoors, especially on sunny days or anytime you’ll be in a highly reflective place, on snow, on the water, or lying on a sandy beach. Use flicker-free incandescent bulbs at home. And minimize glare on your computer screen by positioning it away from windows or closing your blinds.
Erin O’Donnell is a former editor of Natural Health magazine. She writes about health and wellbeing, and lives in Wisconsin.
Article courtesy of Beliefnet.com. Beliefnet offers daily inspiration with news articles on faith, religion, politics, health, family entertainment, sustainable living and more.
Learn to Recognize Your Migraine Triggers
There are a number of well-recognized triggers that can precipitate migraine episodes. While you might not have a problem with all of them, it is a good idea to be aware of the possibilities and try to pinpoint which may apply to you. Avoiding the factors that contribute to your migraines can reduce the number of attacks you have and reduce your need for medication.
Many of these 10 migraine triggers may already be familiar, as they are commonly reported by migraine patients.
Irregularity in the sleep schedule can trigger migraines. Getting too little sleep, an altered sleep schedule (as with jet lag), and rarely, getting too much sleep, can trigger a migraine episode. A change in sleep schedule affects brain activity, can increase susceptibility to pain, diminish memory and concentration, and may cause chemical alterations that trigger a migraine.
Commit to getting the sleep your body needs. For most people, this is seven to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. Sticking to a regular sleep schedule, withregular wake times abd bedtimes, limiting caffeine, and avoiding bright lights at night (your television, phone, computer, tablet) can help you fall asleep faster and get more rest.
Stress and anxiety can be a major trigger for migraines because they alter neurotransmitter activity, especially that of serotonin, which modulates pain.
Stress is different for everyone—things work deadlines or getting together with in-laws can be stressful for some people, but not for others. A lot of this depends on your situation, but your stress level also depends on your own reaction to life's events, and how stress-prone you are.
If you find that stress or anxiety are interfering with your life and triggering migraines, there are steps you can take to reduce your stress. Talk to your doctor, consider counseling, meditate, exercise, improve your resiliency, or make changes in your life to reduce your stress. Usually, it takes a combination of these actions to make a lasting difference.
Excessive or long-term use of pain medication, even over-the-counter options Tylenol (acetaminophen) and Motrin (ibuprofen), can cause rebound headaches or medication overuse headaches, including migraines.
When you regularly take pain medications, your body adjusts, often decreasing its own production of pain-modulating chemicals. Once you stop taking the medication, a withdrawal effect can trigger migraine symptoms.
Be sure to limit your use of pain medications to no more than two times weekly. If you feel the need to use more, talk with your doctor. You may benefit from a daily migraine preventive medication.
Changing hormones levels, especially estrogen, can trigger migraines. The week prior to menstruation or other times of fluctuating estrogen levels, such as perimenopause, may result in more frequent or more severe migraines.
If you are sensitive to hormones, discuss your contraceptive options with your doctor. For some women, taking birth control pills the week before menstruating or using a continuous birth control pills all month may be beneficial.
For menstrual migraines, Frova (frovatriptan) is a prescription-strength migraine treatment that can be used five or six days prior to the beginning of your period.
Common scent triggers include flowers, perfume, cleaning products, paint fumes, and dust. Inhaling cigarette smoke, whether you smoke or are exposed to second-hand smoke, can also cause a migraine.
The reason for this is not well understood, but the nerves that control the sense of smell tend to be slightly smaller among people with migraines, which may make them hypersensitive.
If a particular scent may be triggering your migraines, it's best to avoid it or find a strategy that minimizes your exposure, such as leaving a window open.
Food additives, such as MSG and nitrates are common migraine triggers. MSG is sometimes added to fast food, ramen noodles, and canned soups and vegetables. Nitrates are typically found in processed or cured meats, cold cuts, hot dogs, and bacon.
Aspartame, a sugar substitute, may also trigger migraines in some individuals, as can tyramine, which is often found in pickled foods, aged cheeses, and foods containing yeast. Soy products, alcohol, and food coloring can trigger migraines as well.
Take note of what you ate the day before a migraine started. Keeping a food diary may help you identify your unique food triggers so that you can avoid them.
Bright light, including sunlight or fluorescent light, can trigger a migraine. This may be due to eye strain or light-induced stimulation in the brain.
If you know that your migraines are triggered by bright light, it's sensible to wear sunglasses and a hat when out in the sun or in a room with a bright light. It’s also important to be mindful of glare, such as on your computer screen or mobile phone.
Fasting or missing a meal can bring on a migraine due to low blood sugar or dehydration. If you frequently skip meals or diet, malnutrition or iron deficiency anemia may be the culprit causing your migraines.
Even if you are trying to lose weight or are very busy, try to schedule regular meals and nutritious snacks to avoid food deprivation-induced migraines and low iron levels.
Research suggests a link, albeit a complex one, between migraines and depression. Sadness can precede a migraine during the prodromal phase, but depression can also lead to migraines.
Seeking treatment for your mood will not only help you feel better, but it may also help your migraines.
Please speak with your doctor if you or your loved ones are concerned about your mood or behavior.
Your daily cup of joe might have turned into three, which can worsen your migraine disorder. wise, missing your morning coffee can also precipitate a caffeine-withdrawal headache.
Caffeine can reduce headache pain. Too much caffeine can alter the pain receptor activity in the brain, while caffeine withdrawal can also interfere with pain receptors. All of these effects are associated with migraines.
Moderating your caffeine intake or eliminating caffeine altogether (in a gradual, stepwise fashion) will ly help your migraines in the long term.
Recognizing and avoiding your triggers is a powerful way to take control over your migraine health.
If you are having a hard time identifying your triggers, try keeping a detailed diary of your daily routine, including meals, drinks, sleep patterns, activities, and medications.
Then, share it with your doctor. A fresh set of eyes can help identify triggers that you might not have realized are a problem.
What Causes Migraines? 10 Common Migraine Triggers & Foods
One of the best ways to get rid of a migraine is to stop one before it even starts. Because once one hits…ooof, it does not feel good. Migraine symptoms include a pulsing, throbbing headache, nausea or vomiting, and hypersensitivity to lights and sounds. Those symptoms can last as long as three days if left untreated.
To prevent a migraine from striking, you first need to understand the causes and common triggers. That way, you can make certain lifestyle adjustments that might help you avoid getting a migraine in the first place.
The most ly cause of migraines: Your genes
It's not fully understood what precisely causes a migraine, though researchers believe that some people are ly more vulnerable to them due to genetics. That's why it's worth asking family members if they've experienced them, too.
Bradley Katz, MD, a neuro-ophthalmologist at the University of Utah's Moran Eye Center who specializes in treating migraine-related light sensitivity, says that a lot of people go undiagnosed or their migraines are misdiagnosed. “It's rare to find someone with migraines who doesn't have a family history. But it's a matter of asking the right questions.
It's ly there is someone else in your family that has migraines but they just haven't been asked the right questions,” Dr. Katz says.
Researchers are in the early stages of pinpointing which genes contribute to migraine susceptibility, but there will probably be hundreds, says Wade Cooper, DO, director of the University of Michigan's Headache and Neuropathic Pain Clinic in Ann Arbor. Someday, there may be medications that target those genes, or individualized treatments your own genetic makeup, he says.
Other risk factors for migraines
There are a couple of other factors that aren't causes of migraines, per se, but they do increase the lihood that you'll experience this type of headache.
One factor is being a woman (sorry, ladies). Migraines are three times more common in women than in men. This ly has to do with fluctuating hormone levels, such as estrogen, but it's not totally clear. We know that some women, for example, get migraines just before or during their periods—these are dubbed “menstrual migraines” (it's one of the seven types of migraines).
Another factor is being in your 30s or 40s. If you look at the incidence of migraines over a person's lifespan on a chart, it looks somewhat a mountain—with risk rising until it peaks in your 30s and 40s and then starting to drop when you reach your 50s. How come? Researchers aren't sure why. It could have something to with hormones, as mentioned above.
“When women go through menopause, a lot of times their migraines will go away, says Dr. Katz. And menopause tends to occur at age 51, on average.
It might also be linked to stress, a common migraine trigger, since a person's 30s and 40s are busy years that often include taking on larger roles professionally that have more responsibility, paying a mortgage, and raising a family.
Foods that trigger migraines
So now you know who is more susceptible to migraines. But still, something has to set one off, right? Correct. Dr. Cooper refers to a migraine as a cascade of neurological events that is triggered by something specific. That “something” could be a wide variety of things, and food is a common one.
The long list includes aged cheeses, alcohol (especially red wine), smoked meats (bacon, pepperoni), caffeine, artificial sweeteners aspartame, certain spices, chocolate, salty or processed foods, and the preservative monosodium glutamate (MSG).
“With light, it doesn't seem to be the intensity that matters. For instance, outdoor light is not particularly bothersome—it's mainly non-incandescent, artificial, indoor light that irritates people with migraine.
This could include fluorescent light bulbs, computer screens, and the type of overhead lighting you'll find in stores Walmart, Lowe's, Home Depot, or Costco. So it may have more to do with the wavelength of light,” says Dr.
This might come from work, home, or a relationship that's outside the home (a friend, your mother, etc).”Everyone has a different threshold for stress. It's so personal that it's hard to make any generalizations about it because what's stressful to one person is not at all stressful to another,” says Dr. Katz.
Skipping meals or becoming dehydrated
How much you need to eat/drink and how often varies from person to person, but if you find yourself skipping lunch or not drinking enough water (or drinking too much alcohol, which dehydrates you), that's a potential trigger.
Skimping on sleep
Not getting enough zzz's—or, less commonly, getting too much slumber—can lead to migraine. So can feeling jet lagged.
How many hours of sleep you should aim to get each night is highly variable (some people function just fine on six, while others need eight), but this is where keeping a “migraine diary” or analyzing your sleep info from an activity-tracking device a Fitbit can come in handy.
A recent viral illness can bring on a migraine, as can something a dental infection.
Sometimes perfumes can set off people, as well as secondhand smoke and paint thinner.
Maybe construction or landscaping going on nearby bothers you or the sound of a subway or train car rushing by.
“There's a lot of data about weather sensitivity. Two things that tend to come out the most are: a change in temperature (up or down) of more than 10 degrees and low barometric pressure.
About 1 in 3 people report being weather-sensitive with their migraine experience,” says Dr. Cooper.
Barometric pressure tends to drop when there's an approaching storm, when you're in a high-altitude area, or when you're in an airplane, says Dr. Katz.
Intense physical exertion
This could include vigorous/strenuous exercise or sexual activity.
Certain drugs vasodilators (such as nitroglycerin) or oral contraceptives) may aggravate the condition.
How to stop a migraine before it starts
As you can tell, some of the triggers above are unavoidable (inhaling someone's perfume, reacting to a change in the weather), but most of them are what doctors would call “modifiable.” For instance, you can adjust your diet, eat regular meals every few hours, go to bed earlier, and manage your stress better (via meditation, exercise, massage, etc).
In fact, before discussing medications, the first thing that Santiago Mazuera Mejia, MD, a neurologist at the Sandra and Malcolm Berman Brain & Spine Institute at LifeBridge Health in Baltimore, Maryland, recommends to patients is making lifestyle changes.
“They are among the most important things in the treatment of migraines. If most people skip a meal, they will be hungry. But if someone who suffers from migraines skips a meal, he or she may trigger a headache with disabling symptoms.
That is why taking care of yourself is so crucial, especially if you get migraines,” he says.
7 Tips for Avoiding Migraine Triggers
With migraine, one of the best things you can do is learn your personal triggers that bring on the pain. Red wine, caffeine withdrawal, stress, and skipped meals are among the common culprits.
The first step is to track your migraine symptoms in a diary. Note what you were doing before and when your headache came on. What were you eating? How much sleep did you get the night before? Did anything stressful or important happen that day? These are key clues.
When you look at your diary, you might find that these things tend to lead to a migraine:
- Menstrual periods
- Changes in your normal sleep pattern
- Extreme fatigue
- Certain foods and drinks
- Too much caffeine or withdrawal from it
- Skipping meals or fasting
- Changes in the weather
- Bright, flickering lights
- Certain smells
- Watch what you eat and drink. If you get a headache, write down the foods and drinks you had before it started. If you see a pattern over time, stay away from that item.
- Eat regularly. Don't skip meals.
- Curb the caffeine. Too much, in any food or drink, can cause migraines. But cutting back suddenly may also cause them. So try to slowly ease off caffeine if it seems to be one of your headache triggers.
- Be careful with exercise. Everyone needs regular physical activity. It's a key part of being healthy. But it can trigger headaches for some people. If you're one of them, you can still work out. Ask your doctor what would help.
- Get regular shut-eye. If your sleep habits get thrown off, or if you're very tired, that can make a migraine more ly.
- Downsize your stress. There are many ways to do it. You could exercise, meditate, pray, spend time with people you love, and do things you enjoy. If you can change some of the things that make you tense, set up a plan for that. Counseling and stress management classes are great to try, too. You can also look into biofeedback, where you learn how to influence certain things ( your heart rate and breathing) to calm down stress.
- Keep up your energy. Eat on a regular schedule, and don't let yourself get dehydrated.
These things are migraine triggers for some people:
- Foods that have tyramine in them, such as aged cheeses ( blue cheese or Parmesan), soy, smoked fish, and Chianti wine
- Alcohol, especially red wine
- Caffeine, which is in coffee, chocolate, tea, colas, and other sodas
- Foods made with nitrates, such as pepperoni, hot dogs, and lunchmeats
- Bread and other baked goods
- Dried fruits
- Potato chips
- Pizza, peanuts, and chicken livers
Cleveland Clinic: “Migraines,” “Migraine Headache Diary,” “Migraines: Specific Foods,” “Migraines: Exercise,” “Migraines: Stress.”
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: “NINDS Migraine Information Page.”
Office of Women's Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: “Migraine Fact Sheet.”
© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved. Trigger Checklist