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Migraine Headache Triggers

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Triggers of migraine headaches are different for each person. Triggers include changes in daily routine, foods, hormones, medicines, lights, odors, or other things in the environment.

The most common migraine triggers are:

Recommended Related to Migraines/Headaches

Migraine Triggers: Your Personal Checklist

Things that can trigger a migraine headache include foods, drinks, activities and exercise, medications, stress, too much or too little sleep, bright lights, hunger, odors, and hormones, among other factors. To figure out what causes your migraines, print the list below. Then check for triggers at the first signs of a headache. Review the list every few weeks or months to see if you can spot a pattern. Chances are, the items that get the most checks are your triggers. After you've narrowed down...

Read the Migraine Triggers: Your Personal Checklist article > >

  • Stress (either during a stressful time or right after stress subsides).
  • Menstrual cycle in women.
  • Changes in your routine, such as how much you exercise or how much you sleep.
  • Fasting or skipping meals.
  • Changes in the weather, heat, or high humidity.
  • Bright lights, glare, or reflected sunlight.
  • Foods, such as chocolate.
  • Alcohol—all alcohol, or one type of alcohol in particular, like beer or wine.
  • Odors such as perfume, paint, dust, and certain flowers.

Other migraine triggers include:

  • Strong emotions, such as depression or anxiety.
  • Pushing yourself too hard when you exercise.
  • Aspartame.
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG).
  • Nitrates, which are found in cured meats such as hot dogs, bacon, and cold cuts.
  • Tyramines, which are found in pickled or marinated foods, aged cheeses, and yeast.
  • Smoking or being around someone who smokes.
  • Excessive caffeine or caffeine withdrawal.
  • Birth control pills and hormone therapy.
  • Medicines that expand (dilate) the blood vessels (vasodilators), such as nifedipine, and nitrates.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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