Don’t be fooled by the title. Migraine triggers really do exist. Some of the ‘experts’ say that triggers don’t exist. But they’re the first to tell you that they’re all in your head.
From the definition of a migraine, we know that a migraine attack is the result of a disease process in which the neurons in the brain are oversensitive. Migraine triggers are the stimuli that can excite the neurons and initiate a migraine attack. If you are researching migraine triggers, you’re likely to find a lot of conflicting information. Experts cannot agree on triggers. Sometimes they quibble over the difference between something that triggers a migraine and something that exacerbates a migraine attack.
I don’t think it really matters at this point exactly what a stimulus does or how it does it. If your goal is to avoid migraines, then you need to know about all things that contribute to your migraines regardless of how they contribute. In the end, you have to manage them all, or at least those that are within your control. The rest you need to be aware of so you can see them coming.
What are Common Migraine Triggers?
I would like to preface the answer with this: Even though we are all humans with quite similar DNA, we are individuals. And our reactions to migraine triggers will vary due to our genetics, our diet, our medications, our gender, our sleep patterns, even our current circumstances. To illustrate this, next week I’ll be talking a bit about my migraine journey and the ‘perfect storm’ that brought about my chronic migraines.
Some common migraine triggers include certain foods, food additives, stress, strong smells, chemicals – especially those with strong smells, bright lights, changes in weather & barometric pressure, flickering lights, changes in hormone levels, low blood sugar, lack of sleep, tension, dehydration, drugs, etc. I really could go on and on. Books could be written on this topic. At this point, you just need to be aware of the variety of triggers that exist.
How Do I Know What My Migraine Triggers Are?
This can be tricky. Sometimes we just know that something is a trigger for us because we see an immediate migraine. I’m that way with MSG. It can happen in under thirty minutes. Or perhaps we just have always associated something with migraines. That would be me and walnuts. My grandmother had walnut trees on her farm and she had a little outbuilding that smelled strongly of walnuts. I was 10 or 11 the last time I was there, but I still remember head pain when I think of it.
On the other hand, there can be 24 to 48 hours between exposure and migraine. So it can be hard to know. That’s why I really cannot recommend simply keeping a journal of what you eat. That alone may not be helpful. It can also be a huge stressor. Writing down everything you eat and drink is time-consuming. And you might be amazed how quickly you forget.
And when you’re experiencing chronic migraines, the lines are so blurred that a journal or diary will not be of much help. At this point, some sort of reset is required. That can be as simple as cutting out processed foods and sticking with whole, natural foods. Or it may take trial and error to get to the bottom of your migraine triggers.
Do you need help determining your migraine triggers?
It can be tricky, but that’s where the Headache Decoder can help. I can help you drill down to determine your migraine triggers. Ready to get started? Contact me for more information.
Thanks for stopping by! If you like, share your migraine triggers in the comments below.