Migraine Awareness Month #3: Just shoot me now! My worst migraine trigger

Today is the third day of Migraine Awareness Month and the prompt is “What’s your worst Migraine trigger?” This is a “no brainer” for me – skipping meals will trigger a Migraine attack.

Skipping meals is a problem for me on two fronts as a Migraineur and overweight individual. I never knew skipping meals was a Migraine trigger for me until about six years ago when I actually took the time to keep a >detailed Migraine diary. In this diary I recorded what I ate and if I had a Migraine, when I had a Migraine attack, what time I had a Migraine attack, what medications I took and interruptions in my sleeping pattern. After doing this for several months, it was clear that skipping meals, dehydration and sleep issues were my main Migraine triggers. This was good news, because I could control my eating and sleep schedule and stay hydrated.


Being determined to avoid my new found Migraine triggers, I began a regime of drinking water more frequently during the day, eating smaller meals throughout the day and maintain a regular sleep schedule. I began by keeping a large cup with a straw attached filled to the brim with water and drank it all day long. As soon as it gets near the bottom I refill it and drink away.

The next thing I do to try and reduce my Migraine frequency is to eat six smaller meals during the day. It seemed that I would get too hungry in between meals which would then trigger a Migraine attack. Eating six smaller meals instead of three big ones seems to keep my belly half full (like a gas tank!) and reduce some Migraines but take a bit of forethought. I try to eat healthy smaller meals because I’ve lost about thirty pounds over the last few years and I am NOT going back to what I used to weigh.

Maintaining a regular sleep schedule is the other thing I try to do to reduce my Migraine frequency, but I have to tell you, this one is not easy for me. It’s not that I don’t want to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day; it just seems that my head gets in the way. If something is bothering me it will keep me awake for a few hours, thus interrupting my sleep schedule. Or if I am experiencing fatigue from any one of the other chronic conditions I have and I need to rest/nap during the day this will also wreak havoc with falling asleep on time. Thankfully, my sleep schedule is a Migraine trigger that doesn’t seem to strike unless my routine is disrupted for days on end. Not like skipping a meal when I get a Migraine right away.

There you have it, my Migraine triggers, skipping a meal being the worst and how I try to avoid getting myself in that situation. What are your Migraine triggers?

National Migraine Awareness Month is initiated by the National Headache Foundation. The Blogger’s Challenge is initiated by www.FightingHeadacheDisorders.com.

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Comments

View Comments (32)
  • glassmind
    2 weeks ago

    My greatest instant triggers are overwhelming smells and lights and well as exercise.

    My greatest buildzup triggers are sensory overload and stress.

  • Nancy Harris Bonk moderator author
    1 week ago

    I hear you glassmind. I may have mentioned this before, but as I age, odors are becoming a bigger issue for me and I’m beginning to have a hard time keeping my mouth shut when I encounter offending scents.

    Nancy

  • Carl
    5 years ago

    Hunger is a strange one. It was a big trigger for me. But as I was improving I began a 5:2 diet. Which involves ‘fasting’ for a day. Probably silly to try if hunger is a trigger. But I really wanted to give it a go – so I psyched myself up for it and actually survived without a migraine – to my amazement. Since then I’ve kind of desensitised myself to hunger being a critical trigger. This isn’t something I’d advise for others necessarily, but its something that helped me.

  • Bear Peterson
    7 years ago

    Skipping meals is bad for me, but the smells of liver cooking, or the smell of scorched eggs or burnt hair, feathers or popcorn are worse (more immediate acting) triggers for me.

  • Cyndi Thomas Deerfield
    7 years ago

    Quick queston – do you often burn your hair? 🙂 I hear ya, though, certain smells will cause an instant head explosion.

  • Melanie Symonds
    7 years ago

    My absolute worst migraines, the ones that have come on the fastest and been the most intense, have been triggered by noxious fumes, things like burning rubber, an electrical fire or fresh varnish. I’ve gone from being perfectly fine to experiencing blinding pain and vomiting in just a few minutes. If I can get away from the trigger quickly enough, though, the attack will usually resolve quickly too. Fortunately I don’t run into this type of trigger very often!

    After that, I’d have to say hormones have been my worst trigger, with food, weather changes, and stress rounding out the picture. :o)

  • Cindy Padgett
    7 years ago

    Hormones are #1 for me, but oversleeping is a close second. I keep my self on a very rigid sleep schedule. Undersleeping not as much of a problem unless it goes on more than 3-4 days..

  • Therese Pace Tuley
    7 years ago

    Cindy, so sorry you are still suffering w/ migraines. One of the good things about getting older for me has been almost no more migraines. Maybe living in the calm countryside will help you 🙂

  • Diana Lee
    7 years ago

    Routines are so important to migraine management!

  • Janene Zielinski
    7 years ago

    Unfortunately I eat all the time – psychologically thinking this will help me avoid a migraine because skipping a meal is a huge trigger for me. The hard part for me is eating healthy. I am ravenous for carbs and sugar when I am in the prodome phase – and that sometimes lasts for three days for me! I can put on 3 pounds in a week and because exercise is a trigger- it’s tough to lose it. Well, that’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it. But honestly, I have food issues because of migraine that I don’t think I would have otherwise. It is very frustrating and a viscous circle.

  • Ellen Schnakenberg
    7 years ago

    Food is a biggie for me too! I don’t have much of an appetite, and sometimes can forget to eat. I remember pretty quickly if a Migraine ensues, but that often means I’m down for the day at least, because it’s hard to get control of an attack after the fact… for me.

  • Rebecca Hutchinson
    7 years ago

    I am the same way. Like when we travel I don’t eat as much and then I end up with a migraine. I need to remember to eat small meals.

  • rachmelrose
    7 years ago

    Coming down from work related stress.

  • Karen Mullins
    7 years ago

    Thanks. I didn’t even consider skipping meals as a trigger. I will ponder this for awhile. Hopes for a migraine free day!

  • Nancy Harris Bonk
    7 years ago

    I was surprised that skipping meals triggered a Migraine for me too!

  • Becky Dunlap
    7 years ago

    Red wine for a friend of mine was her trigger for migraines.

  • Donna Espinosa
    7 years ago

    How do you find triggers if you have daily chronic migraines?

  • Donna Espinosa
    7 years ago

    @Janet- I lovemy Dr. now and do not want to go downtown!

  • Ellen Schnakenberg
    7 years ago

    @Donna Espinosa – sometimes doing an elimination diet can help with food triggers. Keeping the journal is actually often more helpful than you might think when you consider that Migraine triggers are cumulative over several days. It’s definitely tougher for those of us who are chronic, but provided you don’t’ have MOH, there are things you can do, little by little, to help. 🙂

  • Janet Cole Benedict
    7 years ago

    Donna Espinosa — you must go to the Diamond headache clinic- helped Spencer a ton!!!

  • Andrea Kayy
    7 years ago

    Thank you. I have never kept a migraine diary and intend to start one!

  • Kimberlee Wise Fletcher
    7 years ago

    Just about everything is a trigger for me. fluorescent lighting, the sun, heat, certain foods noises and smells, humidity, too much or not enough sleep, stress, bumping my head, bending, sneezing, and the list goes on and on.

  • Nancy Harris Bonk
    7 years ago

    It’s tough when we have multiple triggers. If we can avoid and manage some of them, like sleep and hunger and dehydration we may be able to reduce their frequency

  • Rae Sawyer
    7 years ago

    I think anyone who suffers with migraines should try a migraine diary. I kept one for 3 months. Wow, was it an eye opener! My biggest issues with migraines are hormones, foods and allergies.

  • Janice Worden Lamb Clemens
    7 years ago

    I tried that, but nothing I did seemed to make a difference, so after about 4 months I gave up the diary…changed my diet, changed my attitude to relieve the stress, meditation, etc….I am now on Topamax*working on the memory issues that go with it, so I have a notebook), zanaflex, metoprolol, and CoQ10. Triptans and Esgic for the really bad ones. I just keep trying…

  • Rae Sawyer
    7 years ago

    By keeping the diary, I saw that not all of my migraines were the same. I have 4 different types and 2 are controlled with meds. I am now taking birth control and Clarinex-D as preventive treatment for 2 of my migraines. I am trying propranolol and Zanaflex for the other 2 types.

  • Donna Espinosa
    7 years ago

    My doctor is investigating my hormones. He did a blood test on me 5 days in a row at the same time (as close as possible) every day. This told him what my estrogen levels were like. He put me on an estrogen patch to raise estrogen until I could start a birth control pill that was correct for me. The previous one was too low. I was on them before because we suspected hormones may be a cause, we just didn’t think they were such a major cause. I am 44 and must be entering perimenopause.

  • Lisa Drago
    7 years ago

    What did you do to resolve the issues?

  • Janice Worden Lamb Clemens
    7 years ago

    skipping meals is a trigger for me, but sometimes not a choice as money is so tight that I make sure everyone has what they need first and then if I can , I eat. If not, I don’t. Which then can trigger a migraine.Ny nigraine that started 2 weeks ago tuesday was brought about by stress at work. Now if one more person tells me stress is not a trigger I will tell them the are full of s***. Stress is one of my biggest triggers especially work realted stress.

  • Janice Worden Lamb Clemens
    7 years ago

    I know, I’m working on it…..

  • Nancy Harris Bonk
    7 years ago

    If you don’t eat you won’t be able to take of anyone either. Sometimes we forget to take care of ourselves….

  • arden
    7 years ago

    My worst and most obvious trigger was alcohol. Having a hang-over/migraine was hell. Even if I drank moderately I would often pay a dear price. So now I totally abstain which is the healthy choice anyway.
    Identifying triggers is elusive and anything but scientific. Who wants to experiment on themselves to prove something is a trigger? So we guess and assume but never really know. Like how long after the exposure does the headache begin? If its not immediate there are so many other life incidents that come into play that one could blame. I went off peanut butter for 6 months because of some list I saw. Began to eat it again and absolutely no effect. So its a guessing game at best. (except for booze and me)
    Does anyone have a more valid way of identifying triggers?

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