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Walk the Line

Migrane Awareness Month

How do you balance the need to avoid your Migraine/Headache Disorders triggers with the equally powerful need to enjoy the things that give your life meaning? 

It’s one thing to know what some of your migraine triggers are; it’s a different animal entirely to always make a 100% effort to avoid them.  While I sometimes catch myself (particularly in the middle of a migraine attack) saying, “I would do anything to not have migraines,” those are words I preach but do not practice.  I am a bit embarrassed confessing that, but I’ve talked to so many other migraineurs out there and know that I am not the only one in this boat.

Some triggers were easy to rid myself of.  From the moment my teenage self discovered, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that aspartame was a major no-no for my migraine brain, I cut it out of my life entirely.  No problem, no regrets.  (I have accidentally ingested it before, but I can almost always taste its cloying sweetness at the back of my tongue and know immediately it’s not real sugar—I then spit out whatever I’ve started eating or drinking and proceed to chug water!)

Other triggers have been harder to let go of, and, for some triggers, I can’t quite figure out why I can’t seem to say goodbye.

In other cases, it’s easy for me to see why I don’t want to avoid ALL of my triggers all the time.

Take the summer sun.  While I’m not a beach bum or tanning goddess by any stretch of the imagination (heck, I slather on the sunscreen and often sit in the shade!), I do love being outside in the summer as long as there’s cool water nearby.  I grew up as a swimmer, spending most of my time at the neighborhood pool.  I love slipping through the water and then emerging for a break, reading a book while the sun and heat dry up the water on my skin and suit.

But intense heat (even mitigated by pool or ocean water), strong sunlight (even that filtered through sunglasses or blocked by umbrellas), and summertime weather are all migraine triggers for me.  In recent years, I’ve exposed myself to these triggers less and less, but it’s mainly because I no longer have a neighborhood pool and don’t live anywhere near the ocean—otherwise I’d be outdoors way more often.

I am not ready to give up this part of my life.  During my rare beach vacations, I am not one to lie down on a towel and hang out for hours, sweating and burning. But I am one to play in the water for long periods of time, knowing full well that the sun glancing off the water and the beach will kick my brain into high gear and trigger a migraine attack.  I cannot remember a beach trip in recent years when I did not end up with a migraine by the end of most evenings.

What triggers have you given up with ease, and which ones are a little harder for you?  No judgment here, wonderful readers—I just want to hear from you in the hopes that we can be empathetic listeners.  This illness is tough, and it can be difficult to follow all the rules and avoid all the triggers.

Learn more about the 2013 MHAM Blog Challenge and other MHAM events by visiting: 2013 Migraine & Headache Awareness Month Information Page

June, Migraine and Headache Awareness Month, is dedicated to Unmasking the Mystery of Chronic Headache Disorders. The Migraine and Headache Awareness Month Blog Challenge is issued by

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Theresa
    6 years ago

    MSG For me it cuts out ever eating out. It is on everything. Even fruits and vegetables. If I eat out, I am throwing up with a migraine before I barely leave the restaurant. My migraines are almost constant and that was the one last enjoyment my husband and I could do. People talking, noise, sitting in wrong chairs because of severe arthritis had already cut out 99% of life. It leaves me isolated at home in my lounge chair. It is even hard to have company drop by because voices talking are a instant trigger. I can’t read anymore, or listen to tapes for the same reason. It is a very isolated, empty existence but God is my sustainer when I trust him.

  • Kpandes
    6 years ago

    I am a self confessed coffee addict, and giving it up entirely has proven next to impossible for me. I’m still clinging to one decaf coffee in the morning, although my doctors have advised against it and it can be a trigger (although not always). I’ve been able to give up other things to help my migraines, most notably changing to a gluten free diet last year, but coffee is definitely my Waterloo. Sun is probably the next on the list, but hard to avoid in California! At the very least I want to get better about having hats in strategic locations (car, office, etc.) so that I can wear one when I need it…..

  • katebenson
    6 years ago

    I have a long list of triggers, as waell as a long list of possible triggers, and another long list of ‘sometimes’ triggers. I avoid shrimp and shellfish, go easy on onions and garlic most of the time, and don’t drink or smoke anymore. I no longer wear perfume, and I know there are certain places I can only go to at certain times of the day, such as Home-Improvement stores and salons. Sometimes the only things that seem safe are dark rooms and oatmeal and water. I do try to keep the same sleep schedule, as well as keeping things I can under control as much as possible. Having had migraines for over 30 years, I am still looking for ways to manage them without having to give up EVERYTHING!!!

  • madimw
    6 years ago

    I used to find it easy to avoid triggers…food triggers, that is. Things like altitude change have always been difficult; avoiding hikes in the mountains when we live right next to them is tricky. Flying home to the east coast is problematic as well.

    Then I got pregnant with my son and had a reprieve from migraines until I stopped breastfeeding.

    Since then has been a different story. I had developed asthma, and when I stopped breastfeeding, I quickly found out that albuterol is a trigger for my migraines, and that ibuprofen is a trigger for my asthma. So I have finally, after fifteen years of suffering with migraines, started seeing a neurologist.

    But, even though I know I’m extra sensitive to getting a migraine, I still find myself having a “screw you” attitude towards them, and then I’ll have a cup of tea, or some chocolate, even though I know it’s a bad idea. You know, and then screw myself over rather than the migraines. Yet, I still find myself surprised when a migraine hits.

    I have recently tried a new strategy for avoiding food triggers that’s actually a bit fun, though. I went through all of my recipes and cookbooks (even the “headache” cookbooks and marked which recipes have triggers and which don’t. That way I can easily decide to try a new recipe without feeling disappointed after reading over five or ten recipes and finding they all have triggers I shouldn’t eat. I just don’t even bother looking at the ones that have triggers! So instead of feeling disappointed with my choice, I feel adventurous in trying out a new recipe…the way it should be!

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