Migraines are a type of headache that can be incredibly debilitating. They are often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. Many people report migraines preceded by an “aura” — a visual disturbance such as flashing lights or zigzag lines. While the cause of migraines is not fully understood, several possible theories exist. It is thought that genetic and environmental factors may cause migraines. Here are six potential migraine triggers:
1. Food Intolerance or Allergy
It is estimated that up to 30% of people with migraines have some form of food intolerance or allergy. The most common allergens that trigger migraines are dairy, wheat, eggs, and nuts. However, any food can trigger a migraine in someone sensitive to it.
The best way to determine if a food intolerance or allergy is causing your migraines is to keep a migraine diary. This will help you to identify any patterns between your migraines and the foods you eat. If you suspect food intolerance or allergy triggers your migraines, you should speak to a doctor or allergist about being tested for food allergies.
If food intolerance is causing migraines, you need to get food intolerance treatment. Such treatments can help find the ingredients causing the allergy and help avoid them in the diet. Dieticians who are part of food intolerance treatment can also help you with a diet plan and treat any food allergy reactions.
2. Hormonal Changes
Many women suffer from migraines, and hormonal changes are a common trigger. Estrogen levels fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle, which can result in headaches. Some women find that their migraines improve during pregnancy when estrogen levels are high. However, they may worsen after menopause, when estrogen levels start to decline.
Several medications can help to stabilize hormone levels and relieve migraines. These include birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy, and antipsychotic drugs. Surgery may sometimes be necessary to remove the ovaries or the pituitary gland. Hormonal changes are just one of many possible triggers for migraines.
Stress is a common trigger for migraines and can come from various sources. Work demands, relationship problems, and financial worries can increase stress levels. When stressors are constant or severe, they can contribute to chronic migraines. In some cases, people with migraines may find that their symptoms worsen during periods of high stress.
Stress can also cause migraines by disrupting the body’s natural stress-response system. This can lead to a decline in the production of certain hormones, including serotonin. Low serotonin levels have been linked to an increased risk of migraines. If you’re struggling to manage stress, several coping strategies can help. Exercise, relaxation techniques, and time management skills can all be effective ways to reduce stress levels.
4. Sleep Issues
Sleep is critical for our overall health and well-being, yet many don’t get enough quality shut-eye. Lack of sleep can lead to several health problems, including migraines.
Studies have shown that people who suffer from migraines are more likely to have sleep disorders such as insomnia. Research has found that nearly half of all migraine sufferers also have some sleep disorder. While the exact cause of migraines is still unknown, experts believe that sleep problems can trigger the release of chemicals in the brain that contribute to headaches. Getting a good night’s sleep is important if you’re suffering from migraines.
5. Sensory Overstimulation
Sensory Overstimulation (SOS) can cause migraine. People exposed to bright lights, loud noises, or strong smells are more likely to experience migraines. SOS can also be caused by temperature, humidity, or barometric pressure changes. In some cases, even the motion of a moving car can trigger a migraine. The good news is that you can take steps to minimize your exposure to SOS.
For example, you can wear sunglasses and earplugs when you know you will be exposed to bright lights or loud noises. You can also avoid strong smells by sparingly using scented products and keeping your environment well-ventilated. If you are sensitive to temperature or barometric pressure changes, you may want to carry a portable air conditioner or humidifier when traveling.
Medications are a common trigger of migraines. They can be divided into three main categories: those taken for other conditions, those that contain migraine-triggering compounds, and those taken to treat migraines. Common offenders in the first category include birth control pills, hormonal medications, and antidepressants. These medications can cause a change in hormone levels, which can trigger migraines.
Medications in the second category include certain painkillers, blood pressure medications, and sleeping pills. These drugs often contain caffeine or other stimulants, leading to migraines in susceptible individuals. Finally, some medicines used to treat migraines can cause them if they are not used correctly. These include beta-blockers and certain antidepressants.
While the exact cause of migraines is unknown, several possible triggers exist. If you think you may be susceptible to migraines, keeping track of your headaches and identifying any potential triggers is vital. Once you know what triggers your migraines, you can take steps to avoid them.