Migraine Triggers

Migraine Triggers

Migraine headaches are often times brought about or started by a “trigger”. This trigger is some environmental or situation or condition the patient is exposed to which is thought to precipitate the migraine attack.

According to a 2010 article in The Journal of Head and Face Pain common triggers included “emotional stress,” “too much or little sleep”, “odors”, and “missing meals”.  Additionally 62% of the female migraineurs reported menses as a migraine trigger.

People have reported many other types of triggers also including many types of foods. An article from The Journal of Head and Face Pain reports “The foods most commonly cited as triggering agents are presented in descending rate of frequency: chocolate, alcohol, cheese, monosodium glutamate, nuts, citrus fruit, meat, coffee, nitrates, fish, dairy products, onions, hot dogs, pizza, wheat products, bananas, tomatoes, apples, and various vegetables.”

Keeping a Migraine Diary may help elucidate your particular migraine trigger. Remember, not every migraine patient has a trigger.

For many patients, specific environmental or internal factors can trigger headache severity and frequency. A trigger is any stimulus that initiates a process or reaction. Commonly identified migraine triggers include the following:

  • Alcohol (red wine)
  • Environmental factors (weather, altitude, time zone changes)
  • Foods that contain caffeine (coffee, chocolate, cola), monosodium glutamate (MSG; found in Chinese food), and nitrates (processed foods, hot dogs, bacon, sausage)
  • Glare
  • Hormonal changes in women
  • Hunger
  • Intense activity
  • Lack of sleep
  • Medications (over-the-counter and prescription)
  • Perfume
  • Stress

Pregnancy may either cause migraines to increase in frequency or result in temporary improvement.