Triggers of Migraine Headaches – 6 to Avoid

Many people have headaches but for those of us who suffer from migraines, the pain can sometimes be unbearable or even debilitating. What can cause migraine headaches may vary from person to person and we have generated a list of 6 common triggers of migraine headaches to help you along. Whether it is certain foods, drinks, or medication.

Every migraine sufferer has a different set of triggers and discovering what your triggers are can sometimes be a difficult task. Keeping track of your diet and daily activities can help you figure out what may be behind your migraines. You may already be aware of what causes yours and you can take preventative measures to avoid those things.

#1. Foods with a High Salt Content

Salt, also known as sodium, is used to enhance the flavor of much of what we put into our bodies. However, because of our growing tolerance for higher sodium levels, we are also becoming less aware of the amounts we are actually consuming and thus, experiencing more episodes of migraines.

As a society, we are eating more and more prepackaged, processed foods, which almost always contain far higher levels of salt than is ever required. Ridding the body of that excess sodium is possible.

If you have a preference for salty snacks or find that you are continually adding extra salt, start cutting back slowly or begin using natural herbs and spices to bring out the flavor. It is amazing how a squirt or two of a fresh lemon can perk up the flavors of a chicken breast or your favorite vegetables. Once you start experimenting with other flavors, you’ll see the extra salt that causes a migraine headache is completely unnecessary!

#2. Alcohol and Red Wines

It is no surprise that drinking too much alcohol can cause a pounding headache in almost anyone. However, if you experience migraines, any type of alcohol may be the culprit but be especially wary of dark-coloured alcohols and red wines. They contain high levels of tyramine – an amino acid known to be one of the triggers of migraine headaches.

Drinking alcohol can lead to dehydration and being dehydrated results often in headaches. Consuming a simple glass or two of red wine can leave you with a full-blown migraine. Therefore, it may not be worthwhile to indulge in that glass at all to avoid the migraine but also the harmful effects it has on your teeth.

#3. Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners are found in a multitude of foods we consume – diet drinks, chewing gum, desserts, and yogurt. Anything artificial often means it is also something our bodies were not meant to process.

It is often a replacement for sugar and may be thought of as a way to control or maintain one’s weight but can be a nasty trigger for brutal migraines. If you are craving something sweet, reach instead for something like a piece of fruit (natural sugar!).

Aspartame, a commonly used but dangerous artificial sweetener, may not be preventing you from putting on the pounds but maybe one of the causes of your migraine headache.

#4. Fast Foods, Convenience Foods, Processed Foods

It has been a long day and the last thing you want to do is cook an actual meal. Your belly is growling like there is a ravenous bear inside so you decide to take a quick turn into your local fast-food restaurant. At the time, it serves its purpose but it could be that fast food that could be forcing you to stay in the dark with an ice pack on your head.

Many foods that are considered “convenience” foods are also highly processed which means they contain a myriad of food additives like MSG (monosodium glutamate), sulfites, and nitrates. These are some of the top triggers of migraine headaches.

It is these additives that prolong the shelf life of many foods we enjoy and keep our fast food fresh and delicious. However, it is also these chemical additives that may be forcing you to take a sick day. Things like sandwich meats and different types of seasonings also are high in these preservatives.

Be conscious of what you are consuming and read the labels before your purchase. Again, our bodies are meant to consume what nature provides and that is always your best choice.

#5. Chocolate

Ohhh, chocolate! Is there anything better than spoiling yourself with a creamy chocolate bar after a stressful day? If you are prone to migraines, you may want to think about all that excess sugar you would be consuming and begin to break your sugar addiction.

Chocolate, especially milk chocolate, can trigger those throbbing headaches. Many women experience a craving for chocolate at different times of their monthly cycle due to hormonal changes.

The body is then already experiencing an imbalance and the tyramine in the chocolate can set off a migraine

#6. Birth Control Pills

The hormone, estrogen, found in birth control pills is often a trigger for those prone to migraines. A woman’s hormones naturally change throughout the month and they may notice that the headaches are worse at certain points during their monthly cycle.

When on birth control pills, active pills (those containing hormones) are taken for three weeks, and then inactive pills (essentially pills taken for the purpose of reminding you to take them on a daily basis but contain no hormones) for one week.

When the inactive pills are taken, the levels of estrogen in your system drop dramatically and it is this sudden imbalance that may be one of the triggers of migraine headaches.

Final Thoughts…

Each individual is just that – an individual – and will consequently, respond to the foods they eat and generally, whatever is consumed.

The previously mentioned triggers of migraine headaches may not all apply to you or maybe not even at all but should give you at least a point at which to start figuring out what is causing your migraines. If you think you may be triggered by some of them, try eliminating them first and slowly introducing them back into your routine.

Pay special attention as to when your migraines occur and become aware if there appears to be any correlation. This way you can possibly prevent or at least lessen the frequency of the headaches. Your body will often provide you with indicators as to what it can handle and what it cannot!

Here’s to you and a migraine-free existence!

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