Migraine triggers are different for each person. It's important to identify and avoid your personal triggers. Keeping a journal can help you find your triggers - make a note of the foods you were eating, your activities, stressful events, your menstrual cycle (for women), and any other changes in your life around the times of your headaches. Then check your journal to see which things seem to be related to your migraines.
The culprits may not be obvious. For example, did you know that certain odours (perfume, paint thinner, etc.) can set off a headache in some people? Other triggers include bright lights and exposure to sunshine, stress, intense physical exertion, and changes in weather, barometric pressure, altitude, and time zone.
Alison* was sensitive to chocolate and the monosodium glutamate (MSG) in takeout food. She also found stress to be a trigger. Other common triggers include alcohol (especially red wine and beer), foods that have been marinated, fermented or pickled, caffeine, aspartame, aged cheeses, and foods that have been processed or canned. Hot dogs and luncheon meats, which contain nitrates and MSG, can also bother some people.
You won't necessarily have to cut all of these foods out of your diet, but check your journal to see which foods you were eating around the times of your headaches, then try eliminating these foods to see if it makes a difference in the frequency of your headaches. Be sure to eat regularly - skipping meals or fasting can also lead to migraines.
You may also need to make some simple changes to your lifestyle. For more information, see "Migraine: changing for the better."
*Alison's story is a hypothetical story based on experiences of migraine sufferers.
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