Major Headache? Seven Common Migraine Triggers

"Estrogen stabilizes the brain from pain," Silberstein said. During pregnancy a woman may not experience headaches. "Postpartum the levels fall, and you get headaches again," he said.

The Weather

Perhaps the phrase "'tis an ill wind that blows no good" originated because storms can literally make some people sick.

No one knows why some people react more strongly to weather changes than others, but changes in air pressure, such as before a heavy rain or snow, can trigger migraines.



Seventy percent of migraine sufferers experience migraines during changes in air pressure systems, according to Newman. This includes changes in altitude and traveling between humid and dry climates.

Your Sleep Pattern

It may not be that "early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise." Rather, it may be that sticking to a consistent sleeping schedule is what is worth striving for.



Getting too little or too much sleep disrupts normal bodily rhythms and can trigger a migraine. Sleeping irregular hours can also interfere with normal eating patterns, causing blood sugar levels to rise and dip when they should not.

Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, even weekends, is critical. After a late night out, doctors recommend waking up at your normal hour, eating breakfast and taking a nap later in the day.

Your Diet

What you eat — or don't eat — can have a profound effect on how you feel. Additionally, there are a host of chemicals in food, both natural and added, that can trigger migraines. Sensitivity to these ingredients can vary widely from person to person.

Saper recalled one patient who reported terrible headaches each morning and was totally baffled by the cause. Eventually, the patient figured out that the glass of milk he drank each night before bed was the reason behind the migraines.



Other, more common dietary triggers include monosodium glutamates (MSGs), chemicals used to add flavor to food; nitrates, used to preserve and add color to meats like bacon and hot dogs; and tyramines found in aged cheeses and red wine. Even chocolate and oranges, foods otherwise known for their antioxidant properties, contain chemicals that can trigger a migraine.

Red wine is a particularly well-documented trigger, as they are known to bring about migraines in many people.

Lights and Sounds in Your Surroundings

People who suffer from migraines are known to be very sensitive to sensory stimuli, particularly bright lights and loud noises. Bright, fluorescent or flickering lights can be very painful to someone with a migraine.

Some times, in these cases, staying in bed is the only thing that feels comfortable.



In fact, this has been a contentious issue among migraine sufferers who prefer gentler, incandescent light bulbs, due to the recent push to use environmentally friendly fluorescent lighting.

Your Stress Level

Stress seems like the cause for many diseases, but it can be particularly injurious to migraine sufferers.

"Migraineurs don't have any more stress than anybody else. They just can't handle it as well," Silberstein said.



In addition to tension, the letdown period after a period of stress can bring on a migraine because of the quick shift to a new, less intense physical and mental gear.

For example, Newman said that when someone prone to migraines finishes a large project at work and submits it, "wham, they get a headache."

Silberstein advised taking some quiet time out of each day for yourself.

"Meditate, pray, whatever, but give yourself some time every day to just relax."

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