1. Health

Migraine Headache Triggers

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Updated January 07, 2009

What causes migraine headaches?

The exact cause of migraine headaches is not known; however there are many theories. Migraines may be triggered by several factors such as changes in your environment, behavior, diet, physical condition, or drugs that you take.

Physical triggers of a migraine:

Pharmacologic triggers include:

  • oral contraceptives

  • glyceryl trinitrate

  • theophylline

  • reserpine

  • nifedipine

  • indomethacin

  • cimetidine

Dietary triggers include:

  • alcohol

  • tyramine (aged cheeses and fermented foods)

  • aspartame (artificial sweetener)

  • monosodium glutamate (MSG)

  • phenylethylamine (present in some OTC drugs and chocolate)

  • nitrates (preservatives used in sausage, bacon, and lunch meats)

  • citrus foods and products

Missing meals, changing your sleep routine, and stress are behavioral triggers that can start migraine headaches. Ask yourself a few questions to determine if your environment is triggering some of your migraine attacks:

  • Do you get headaches when you use certain household products or perfumes? Strong odors are frequently a trigger for migraines. It took me years to figure out why I got headaches when I did a big cleaning job, perfume is almost nonexistent in my life.

  • Do you get migraines when the weather changes?

  • Do you feel bright or blinking lights bother you?

  • Are you under acute stress?

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