Common Migraine Triggers

Understanding your migraine triggers is critical to being able to control them.  To help you be able to narrow in quicker on your exact triggers I have come up with a list of common triggers and plus my triggers.

  • Caffeine – Most of us need a dose of caffeine to get us going in the morning. However, for migraine sufferers, that caffeine, or lack of it, may be creating a big pain in the head. If you are used to consuming large amounts of caffeinated coffee or other drink, then skipping that caffeine cold-turkey can lead to pain if your blood vessels have become sensitized to it.  Personally I have no sensitivity to caffeine and don’t even get withdrawal headaches!
  • Stress – Stressful events often lead the body to induce the “fight or flight” response. That’s when the body is on high alert due to impending physical danger. With stress, the danger is not always physical but the body responds in the same way. Worry, anxiety, repressed feelings, and tiredness can lead to increased muscle tension in and around the brain, neck, temples, and eyes.  My stress trigger actually occurs after a highly intense situation and not during so remember that stress does not have to be immediate.
  • Menstrual cycle – Women are the ones who primarily suffer from migraines. In this case, another likely culprit for migraine headaches could be the fluctuation of hormones in the body during puberty, pregnancy, each cycle, and perimenopause.  This is also one of my triggers, but I have found that if I follow a good diet, workout, get sleep and don’t have any cocktails during my cycle I drastically reduce these migraines.
  • Lack of food – When we don’t eat and give our body the nourishment it needs it can lead to a headache. Some call it a “hunger headache” but constantly skipping meals can intensify the headaches and turn them into migraine episodes.  This is a big one for me.  I carry snacks in my purse and eat about every 2 – 3 hours.
  • Food additives – The human body wasn’t designed to digest many of the preservatives and additives that you’ll find in highly processed foods. These additives can trigger a migraine episode in many people. One well-known additive that is problematic for many migraine sufferers is the nitrates found in processed meats such as hot dogs.  Another one that is big for me is sulfites, commonly found in wine, dried fruit and processed foods. (Sulfites are naturally occurring but many are added to make food last longer).
  • Tyramine – this is a naturally occurring substance in food.  It is released as protein rich foods are aged.  This can be found in aged cheeses, processed meats, wine and nuts.
  • Sleeplessness – The sleep cycle allows the body to shut down non-vital systems and begin the work of repair. The average adult needs six to eight hours of sleep a night. When you shorten your sleep cycle or stress brings about insomnia, that sleep deprivation might be what is triggering your migraine headaches.  This is big for me!  I might be able to skimp on a night or two, but it always catches me.  Plus if I am having any of the other triggers and don’t get sleep then it instantly impacts me!
  • Weather – it used to be that this was an “old wives” tale, but new research is starting to show the validity of this.  This is typically a trigger when there is a quick change of some kind in the atmosphere.  I know that if a change in the air pressure is drastic I will get a migraine.
  • Dehydration – this is also a big one for me!  When you are dehydrated your body also looses other items that are important for support such as sodium and potassium.  Plus lack of water can mess with your blood volume level which can also
  • Sensory Overload – too much of smells, sounds or lights can trigger a migraine.  I cannot handle 3D movies because they trigger a migraine.  You may find that too much perfume, loud sounds or flashing lights do it for you.

Hopefully this helps to get you started to understanding your migraines.  Just remember that everyone’s triggers are different, so keep looking for your specifics and don’t give up!

You may like our article on how to figure out your triggers.