If you or any of your friends or family members suffer from migraines, you’re in good company. In fact, in the United States alone, over 40 million people suffer from migraines, more than 75% of which are women. Migraines are severe headaches that occur following sensory warnings such as flashing lights, blurred vision, vertigo, nausea, vomiting, as well as light and sound sensitivity. For some people, the agony can last several hours, while others several days. The key to reducing the frequency and duration of migraines is prevention. Here are 17 of the most common migraine triggers that you probably never knew about.
1. Perfumes and cleaning solutions
Perfumes and strongly scented products such as cleaning agents are widely recognized as powerful migraine triggers. Stay away from heavily scented products whether it is perfume, laundry soap, dish detergents, or even household cleaners. More and more office spaces are also advocating for scent-free workspaces and encouraging all staff to avoid wearing scented products due to allergies and chemical sensitivities.
It is no surprise that excessive drinking can cause headaches, let alone migraines. Some of the most common migraine triggers are wine because of nitrates and preservatives. If you enjoy wine and don’t want to risk the huge headache, look for organic varieties that aren’t full of pesticides and harsh preservatives.
3. Computer screens
If you are often on the computer or working under fluorescent lighting, you might be putting yourself in migraine territory. Be sure that you take ample breaks throughout the day looking away from your screen and do some eye exercises. The easiest thing to do is try to take a short walk once every hour or so and allow your eyes to adjust away from the monitor.
4. Allergies and food intolerances
Food allergies and intolerances are another migraine trigger that can be easily avoided but often go unnoticed. A simple blood test will tell you which foods that you should limit and avoid completely. Simple dietary changes can make a huge difference in the number and intensity of migraines that you experience.
5. Eye prescriptions
Be sure that you are regularly having your eyes checked. Improper eye prescriptions as well as failing to protect your eyes from the sun are mistakes that cause you a lot of unnecessary suffering. Be sure to keep your glasses in good condition and wear proper eye protection when exposed to sunlight.
Stress is associated with more health issues than perhaps any other condition. Stress management such as exercise, relaxation, physical activity, becomes even more important for people who suffer from migraines as the two are intricately connected. Learn to better manage your stress and you will likely see a drastic change in your migraine patterns.
7. Seasonal allergies
Seasonal allergies to outdoor stimuli including ragweed and pollen are also known to set off migraines. Try to limit your exposure to sources of allergic reactions and be well prepared with anti-histamines and other allergy treatments as prescribed by your medical professional.
8. Sugar and artificial sweeteners
Sugar binges, either from real sugar or artificial sweeteners (such as aspartame or high glucose corn syrup) should be on your no-no list if you suffer from migraines. Best to choose natural sources of sugar such as fruit to wean yourself off of sugar addictions.
9. Disturbed sleep and jet lag
Changes in circadian rhythms, often caused by disruptions in sleep patterns are another well known cause of migraines. To avoid this, best to maintain a proper sleep routine as much as possible and give yourself ample time at the end of the day to relax before hitting the hay. If you are travelling, stay well hydrated, especially if flying, and be sure to plan for sufficient recovery time both upon arrival and return prior to commencing your work or holiday activities. Exhaustion, particularly when caused by sleep deprivation is well known to cause migraines.
10. Cigarette smoke
Exposure to cigarette smoke is a very strong migraine trigger, particularly for children. Smoking inside with the windows open or fan on is not enough to keep the nicotine residue away as it clings to fabrics and surfaces. Avoid cigarette smoke exposure if you or family members notice any sensitivity.
11. Processed meats
Processed meats such those used on deli sandwiches and even bacon are full of nitrites and nitrates which are commonly associated with migraines. If you eat these foods regularly, consider switching over to foods that aren’t full of heavy preservatives so that you aren’t putting yourself in migraine’s way. Some people even find that avoiding meat all together substantially reduces the incidence of migraines.
12. Diets and detoxing
When changing your diet or while detoxing, you might notice the onset of a migraine. These can be isolated incidents but nevertheless, monitor your food consumption, sugar levels, as well as any potential side effects of your detox. Different detoxes release different chemicals in the body which can trigger a host of unpleasant symptoms. Similarly, dieting or coming off of stimulants can cause withdrawal headaches, coffee being a great example.
Most people are aware that being overweight is very bad for your health, but few people know that it actually increase your frequency of migraines. Another good incentive to adopt a healthier lifestyle and start losing some excess pounds.
14. Skipping meals
If you are constantly working on the fly or trying to lose weight by skipping meals, you might be aligning yourself for some serious migraines. Researchers from John Hopkins University have demonstrated in their research that blood sugar crashes are highly correlated with migraine attacks. Meaning, if you aren’t eating regularly and healthy, you are increasing your chances of developing a migraine. Best to pack plenty of healthy snacks with you and make sure that you aren’t skipping meals.
15. Artificial lighting
Fluorescent lights found in many buildings and offices can trigger migraines for light sensitive people. These lights can also cause eye pain and fatigue. You can ask to have the fluorescent lighting turned off above your desk if you are noticing a harsh glare on your screen or get specific indoor light-glasses to reduce the effects of exposure. Excessive eye strain is a known migraine trigger that can be easily avoided.
16. Sudden intense fitness
If you are a weekend warrior or just breaking into the whole workout routine, you might trigger a migraine. Be sure to keep well hydrated, take lots of time for stretching, and wear proper shoes to limit impact if you are running. Other sports such as those that involve contact, particularly impact to the head like rugby and football can also cause migraines. If you are noticing a trend between your workout and your migraines, it might be time to try some lower impact activities.
It is no surprise that there is a correlation between menstruation and migraines when you consider that more than 75% of migraine sufferers are women. Staying well rested, hydrated, and avoiding stimulants during this time will help reduce your incidence of menstruation induced migraines as well as those pesky PMS symptoms.