4 Migraine Triggers You Need to Know
A throbbing pain in your temples. Sensitivity to light. Nausea.
Those suffering from migraine headaches know all too well how crippling those sensations can be. And they are certainly not alone. More than 35 million Americans experience the genetic neurological condition. In fact, it’s the third most common medical condition in the world.
While there is no cure for migraines, there have been many advances in diagnosing and treating the condition. One of the most important things you can do is to understand common triggers so that you can avoid migraines.
With that in mind, the following are four of the more common migraine triggers and ways you can help lessen their severity or avoid them altogether.
Stress appears at the top of many lists of this type. Its negative effects reverberate throughout so much of our lives. As for migraines, nothing is cited by more often than stress as its main cause. In fact, nearly 70% of those experiencing a migraine point to stress as a cause. One begets the other: stress leads to more migraines and migraines cause more stress. It can be a painful cycle.
The good news is there are a few things that you can do that will have almost immediate effects on your stress levels. Exercise, which is beneficial for so many health conditions, has been shown to help lower stress levels. Check out our recent blog highlighting the benefits of getting 10,000 steps each day—along with ways to make sure you stick to that goal. Meditation is another way to relieve the stress in your life. Finally, making sure you get a good night’s sleep will go a long way toward stress reduction.
Estrogen and progesterone, the two main sex hormones in women, can play an outsized role in causing migraine headaches, which helps explain why women are three times more likely than men to experience migraines. Due to changes in estrogen and progesterone levels during a woman’s period, approximately 70% of women experience what is referred to as a “menstrual migraine” or “hormone headache” that occurs only during this five-day window.
Birth control medication can help stabilize hormone levels and reduce or eliminate these types of migraines. Additionally, many women experience relief from migraines once they reach menopause. The menopausal transition lasts around seven years and typically begins between the ages of 45 and 55. And though when you go through menopause is out of your hands, you can talk to your health care provider to discuss birth control options that may be helpful in the meantime.
Of course, our pharmacists will gladly discuss the different birth control options available to you, as well. And we also offer Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement Therapy to help stabilize and balance the hormones in your body. Talk to one of our helpful professionals today to learn more.
Too much alcohol can give anyone a headache. But for about 1/3 of those suffering from migraines, any amount of alcohol can trigger a pounding headache. While the exact reasons for this are unknown, there are different chemicals in alcohol that cause your body to react in different ways. For example, alcohol contains histamines and also causes your body to make more, which increases inflammation throughout the body. It also contains congeners, which are more prevalent in darker-colored alcohol and have been linked to headaches more generally.
Avoiding alcohol, though, is simple enough. Depending on the severity of your migraines, it may be something you want to eliminate from your diet completely. Alternatively, if you find there are certain types of alcohol that you can tolerate, limit yourself to those.
It is well known that salty, processed foods are triggers for migraines. So, too, are aged cheeses like brie, Swiss and blue, thanks to a substance called tyramine. Monosodium glutamate (MSG), has been known to cause migraines, as well. MSG is found in all sorts of foods, but it is very common in fast food, chips, soy sauce, and instant noodles. Artificial sweeteners, particularly aspartame, have also been shown to trigger migraines.
Keeping a food journal can be very helpful in determining those foods you should steer clear of. As with alcohol, avoiding the food that triggers your migraine is easy enough in theory. After all, it can be hard to pass up a juicy burger at the drive-thru, but if you find through food elimination that those fast-food binges are directly linked to your migraines, it may very well be something you need to do.
Not all migraines are linked to a trigger—and certainly, not all are linked to one of the triggers above. However, if you understand the triggers that are causing your migraines, you have a much better chance of avoiding the next debilitating headache.
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