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5 Important Lifestyle Changes for Migraine Patients

Daily habits may make a difference in your migraines.

3. Watch what you eat. continued...

"The most common ones are, unfortunately, many foods we love, starting with chocolate," she says. "It's dose-dependent: If the food is a trigger for you, the more you eat, the more likely it is to cause migraine."

Many foods that have been linked with migraine contain a chemical called tyramine, which occurs naturally in food as it ages. This includes aged, smoked, and cured meats, and many aged cheeses.

If you find that cheese provokes migraine, try sticking with white and blander cheeses, like provolone, mozzarella, cream cheese, and cottage cheese.

Other common dietary migraine triggers include aspartame and artificial sweeteners, caffeine, and alcohol.

Interestingly, a mixed drink may be less likely to set off a headache than beer or wine. 

"Those beverages are aged and fermented, plus they contain sulfites, so they appear to be more likely to cause migraine than liquor in general," Friedman says.

4. Get moving.

"Daily exercise appears to be very helpful for many people with migraine, especially when they begin the day with it," Tietjen says.

She points out that a growing body of research suggests that yoga, in particular, is beneficial to migraine patients.

However, exercise is a migraine trigger for some people. The issue sometimes is making the workout too intense, too quickly -- or becoming dehydrated. So aim for moderate exercise and be sure to hydrate before and after. 

If you are not active now, you may want to check in with your doctor before starting a new exercise program.

5. Reduce stress.

"Stress seems to be one of the biggest lifestyle factors associated with migraine," Tietjen says.

Of course, you can't get rid of all stress. But there are things you can do.

"Learning stress management techniques, like biofeedback, meditation, and cognitive behavioral strategies, is absolutely imperative for people with frequent headaches," Tietjen says.

Metzger notes that she's had to give up more intense exercise, like the indoor cycling classes she used to love, because she found that they brought on more pain than they relieved.

"And if I'm in a bad migraine cycle, I can't exercise," she says. "But if I get a break in the migraine cycle and work myself into a place where I'm exercising moderately on a regular basis, it's really good."

Keeping a journal is the best way to figure out which lifestyle factors may play a role in your migraines, Tietjen says.

Here's how:

  • Every day, write down what you ate and drank and when; when and if you exercised; when you went to bed and got up; and any big stresses you experienced.
  • Record when you get migraines.

After a few weeks, you can start to look for patterns in your journal.

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