What Are Your Triggers

Whether your migraines are episodic or Chronic, discovering what triggers them can go a long way toward helping you control them. While triggers are different for everyone, the list below includes some of the most common. And you can use our free Migraine Monitor app to help you find your triggers!

Food/food additives. While food triggers tend to be unique for each individual, the more likely culprits, according to the National Headache Foundation and American Headache Society, are:

  • Aged cheeses (such as blue cheese and Cheddar)
  • Processed meats with nitrates or nitrites (such as bacon)
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG; often found in soy sauce, meat tenderizers and seasoned salts)
  • Coffee and tea
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Alcohol (especially red wine)

Eyestrain. Particularly from staring too long at a TV, computer or phone screen, or attempting to read too-small text or reading in low light.

Glare. Nearly 90% of migraine sufferers are sensitive to light. In a study in Nature Neuroscience, researchers found a pathway in the brain that links the visual system to that which produces head pain.

Dehydration. Thirst can spark a migraine; stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day.

Odors. Perfume and/or certain scented cleaning products can trigger a headache.

Food temperature. Very hot and very cold foods can trigger a migraine in some.

Skipping a meal. Migraine sufferers’ bodies crave predictability.

Changes in your routine. Migraine sufferers are sensitive to schedule changes, such as sleeping too much or too little.

Hormonal changes. Sixty percent of women who suffer from migraines do so when estrogen levels drop (such as before menstruation).

Intense exercise. It sparks the release of nitric oxide, a chemical that can cause nerve irritation.

Stress. Everyday hassles like running late for an appointment or working long hours to meet a deadline can cause nerve irritation and inflammation. Experiencing “letdown” after stress can have the same effect. “[The migraine] doesn’t happen when you finish your deadline, but it can happen the next day,” says Stephen D. Silberstein, MD, professor of neurology and director of the Jefferson Headache Center at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia.

A change in temperature. Going from warm air to cold (such as being out on a warm summer day and going into an air conditioned room) or vice versa can spark a migraine.

A change in pressure. Changes in barometric pressure can alter your body’s chemical balance.

Cigarette smoke. It can cause nerve irritation.