What Causes Migraines? The Long and Short Answers

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Millions of people suffer from migraine headaches, yet few patients are able to figure out exactly what causes their migraines.  Even with the help of an experienced migraine specialist, the elusive migraine mystery cause sometimes takes years to solve. Actually, there are many causes of migraines, but few theories.

What Causes Migraines? The Long and Short Answers

The short answer

Previously, experts thought that migraines were caused by a blood vessel disorder.

Now, scientists understand that migraines are a neurological disorder, and that migraines are caused by overexcited neurotransmitters in the brain that misbehave, corrupt blood vessel behavior, and produce painful symptoms- headache, neck stiffness, eye sensitivity- that cause a migraine attack.

(Also read: What Causes Migraine Dizziness?)

Migraine triggers, the long answer

Finding the cause for migraines is not really that simple. While we know that migraines happen because of a neurological malfunctioning, what we don’t always know is what outside factors trigger (cause) migraines; in other words, what initiates the chain reaction of symptoms that cause a migraine attack.

Migraine triggers are any elements that push your brain’s “migraine buttons.”

Like a match to a stick of dynamite, migraine triggers don’t really cause migraines, but rather they tease the overactive neurotransmitters into action.


Over 100, and counting

Recently, UC Berkeley scientists calculated over 100 migraine triggers that “cause” migraine attacks. These include influential elements in nature, food, behavior, mood, and biological functioning.

(Also read: Avoiding Migraine Triggers- Here, There and Everywhere)

Common migraine triggers include:

  • Stress
  • Hormonal fluctuations
  • Food additives, such as MSG and nitrites
  • Chocolate
  • Coffee
  • Red-skinned fruits
  • Aged foods, such as cheese, avocadoes, and bananas
  • Dairy products
  • Yeasted foods, including beer and bread
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Skipping meals
  • Sleeping late, or napping
  • Scents
  • Humidity
  • Changes in barometric pressure
  • Sinus headaches

Migraine Weather Triggers- Seasonal Migraines in the Fall

Finding your trigger

Narrowing down migraine causes, or triggers, requires patience and determination.

Many migraine patients discover that a nutritional deficiency or allergy is the root cause of migraines.  By correcting the underlying disorder- by avoiding gluten or dairy, or by supplementing with magnesium or B vitamins- they often see a vast improvement in migraine management.

Another way to find the cause of migraines is to start logging into a migraine diary. Keep track of what foods you eat, which medications you take, your mood, and any other relevant information.

Please tell us…

Have you successfully tracked migraine causes with a migraine diary?

Have you tested for magnesium deficiency as a cause of migraines?

Do you have any questions or suggestions?  Please leave your comments below.

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Like this? Read more:

Treat Migraine Headaches caused by Food Allergies- without Drugs


Migraine Triggers- University of California, Berkeley PDF

Migraine Causes

What Is Migraine? What Causes Migraines?

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