Migraine triggers or trigger factors are rarely stand alone causes for migraines but they can help to bring about an attack. Triggers are highly individual and even the most common ones may not be detrimental to you at all. We now talk about the ‘migraine threshold” when a person can build up a battalion of possible triggers throughout the day leading them over their threshold and triggering a migraine. So a stressful day at work could mean you are not hydrating properly, eating irregularly and the glass of red wine you have to unwind when you get home could send you over your “migraine threshold” and trigger an attack. So maybe reassessing your work-life balance, adopting a more healthy lifestyle and looking at stress reduction techniques and regular exercise could have better outcomes in terms of reducing your migraines in the long run.
might be triggering migraines. Despite current medical practice many migraineurs will tell you that there are certain foods that when eaten instantly trigger a migraine attack. Stay up to date with latest findings and articles on dietary triggers for migraine and sign up for our ezine or follow us on social media.
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Common Dietary Triggers for Migraine.
Dehydration: Not being adequately hydrated is often a common trigger for migraines. Drink regularly throughout the day and ensure you adequately re-hydrate after exercising or drinking alcohol.
Long Gaps Between Meals: the most common trigger for migraine is not what people are eating but the frequency with which they are eating. Long gaps between meals are not good for the migraine brain. Have healthy snacks on hand throughout the day such as sunflower seeds or almonds which are high in magnesium which can helps prevent migraines. Do not skip meals and if you wake up with a headache try eating a small snack and drinking some water before bed as overnight fasting can often be too long a period for the migraine brain to go without food.
Caffeine: episodic migraine patients should limit coffee intake to 2 cups a day or avoid it completely. Different types of coffee have varying levels of caffeine so changing your brand of coffee can also be an option. Avoid coffees at restaurants/cafes that you feel trigger your migraines, as they may contain higher levels of caffeine. It’s important to identify if caffeine is your trigger as some people find their daily cup of tea or coffee is in fact a preventative for migraine and if they skip it they suffer an attack.
Nitrates: recent studies have found that people with migraines have more nitrate processing microbes in their mouths. This opens up the possibility that they may in fact process nitrates much quicker than other people, causing a spike in nitric oxide and triggering migraines and headaches.
Nitrates are an essential element of healthy eating though so you should continue eating healthy nitrate rich foods such as leafy green vegetables and salads. Foods organically grown and in season vegetables have less chemicals involved in the growing process so they should be consumed when possible. The following processed foods are rich in nitrates and should be avoided:
- Dark Chocolate
- Processed and cured meats
- Some red wines
- Certain cheeses
Common Dietary Triggers for Migraine Contd.
Artificial Sweeteners: Artificial Sweeteners can trigger migraine attacks in some people. Aspartame, a commonly used sweeteners can affect dopamine and serotonin levels in the brain, which can be a factor in migraine headaches.
MSG: MSG is often cited as a common trigger in the migraine community. MSG is most commonly used to flavor Chinese food, but can also be found in soups and processed meats.Many takeaways now offer MSG Free menu options.
Sulfites and Tannins: high levels of sulfites and tannins occur in certain red wines and cheeses. Red wine has higher levels of tannins and sulfites than white wine. If you enjoy red wine maybe trying an organic red wine could be an option as they have lower levels of nitrates. Alcohol in general is a trigger for migraines and many people believe that the lighter in colour the alcohol the less triggering it is, so many people will drink spirits and avoid red wine and beer altogether.
Tyramine: is an element that occurs in high levels in aged cheeses. Tyramine levels also rise in leftover food if left unrefrigerated so ensure your food is covered and refrigerated as quickly as possible.