Migraines: 6 Triggers To Watch Out For

In the United States, migraines are estimated to affect more than 36 million people, being episodic or chronic in nature. While triggers can vary from person to person, here are some of the common ones reported by a majority of migraine sufferers.  

1. Diet

Red wine and soft cheeses are often avoided by people prone to migraines. But if you suspect another food product may be triggering you, it helps to write down your migraine attacks and your daily meals in a notebook to look for any possible associations. Chocolate, cured meats, artificial sweeteners, and excessive caffeine are among the other common dietary triggers

2. Stress 

Many patients report a link between their daily stress level and their daily migraine activity. However, the nature of this link has been debated by experts. It is possible that stress only worsens an existing migraine rather than inducing one. Others also report the pain setting in as their stress reduces, such as a "weekend migraine" after a tough week at work. Until we gain a better understanding, it is still a good idea to practice self-care activities and other simple steps to reduce overall stress levels.

3. Hormonal changes

Many women who suffer from migraines report episodes before, during or immediately after their period. The so-called menstrual migraine is attributed to changes in the levels of estrogen and progesterone in the body. Though interventions are limited, do speak to a doctor and find out if you can make any changes to your lifestyle or consider a different form of birth control. 

4. Strong smell

Problematic smells not only include chemicals or gasoline — even being exposed to a particularly strong perfume or cologne could activate certain nerve receptors that influence headaches. And if not directly inducing a migraine, they may worsen the pain according to some patients. The smell of tobacco is also a potential trigger which is just another one of the many reasons to quit smoking.

5. Light

Certain kinds of light, both natural and artificial, have been considered possible triggers by migraine patients. Sometimes, the trigger could have more to do with constant flickering rather than the light itself. If there is a faulty bulb in your office or home, make sure to change it as soon as possible. If harsh sunlight is the problem, take steps to reduce your exposure such as wearing sunglasses or tinting your windows.

6. Irregular sleep

An irregular sleep schedule — either too much or too little of sleep — can tie into a lot of the aforementioned factors such as caffeine intake, stress levels, light sensitivity, etc. As recommended by guidelines, try to get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night and follow these simple tips to rest better.