Scientists don’t know exactly what causes migraines, but they do understand that certain “migraine triggers” increase your chances of having a migraine attack. Researchers have compiled a list of over 100 common migraine triggers that tend to influence migraine headache frequency, foods, environmental conditions, and behavioral patterns, and fluctuations in biochemistry.
Contrary to popular misconception, migraine triggers don’t actually cause migraines. Instead, certain foods that you eat, along with psychological and biological fluctuations, have a profound effect on the way your nerve cells convey pain messages, triggering a flurry of activity that results in throbbing headaches, fatigue, muscular stiffness, and facial pain.
Migraine triggers vary for each individual; what aggravates migraines for one person can have no effect on another. Migraine triggers also don’t follow a predictable pattern- sometimes, a combination of two or more foods, like tomatoes and cheese, can set off a fresh migraine attack, where a plate of grilled cheese, minus the tomatoes, remains a green-light dish.
Which foods top the list of migraine triggers? The common “repeat offenders” are chocolate, coffee, wine, hard cheese, cured meats, smoked fish, soy sauce with MSG, and overripe fruits.
Non-dietary migraine triggers include a long list of environmental factors such as the weather, barometric pressure, pollen count, humidity, strong scents, harsh bright lights, and loud noises.
Sometimes, migraine triggers are caused by change. Migraine sufferers are extremely sensitive to fluctuations of any kind, and that includes changes in the way you eat and sleep. To keep migraine attacks down to a minimum, adopt a rigid sleep and eating schedule, and stick to it.
Hormonal fluctuations also account for many migraine triggers- many migraine sufferers experience their worse migraines during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, or menopause.
Understanding your migraine triggers is a valuable tool for successful migraine management. By isolating and eliminating migraine triggers from your life, you effectively increase the number of pain-free days in your future.