Community Feedback: Daily Life Migraine Triggers

Community Feedback: Daily Life Migraine Triggers

Anyone living with the neurological condition migraine, knows that every day can be a struggle.  Migraines can often be unpredictable and unyielding in their symptoms.  While every individual with migraine can have different triggers that initiate an attack, there are some common themes amongst migraineurs at large.  We asked you, the community, what some of your daily life migraine triggers are, and we got an incredible response!  After looking at all of your responses, we found several common “trigger trends.”  While these triggers, also called precipitating factors, seemed to be common amongst our community, it is important to note that not all of them affect every migraineur, and even ones that do may not affect migraineurs in the same way.  Nonetheless, here are the most common daily life triggers you shared:

Environmental Triggers

“I try to keep a sense of humor about what I can’t control so if I see a trigger environment heading my way, like climbing that first hill on a roller coaster, I say to myself, oh boy hang on, here we go…”

“I’ve been living like a vampire for years now, but I can’t drive at night as the lights are too dazzling and set me off”

  • Weather Changes: Allergies, heat, humidity, changing temperatures, and coming on storms can all be accompanied by a change of air pressure or an increase of positive ions in the atmosphere, which can raise serotonin in the brain and set of the bodily chain reaction leading to a migraine attack.
  • Scents: Road or home renovations, air fresheners, home cleaners, clothing cleaners, chemicals, paint, pet smells, smoking, strong perfumes, gasoline, candles, and the smell of certain foods, specifically meats, cooking.
  • Crowds: Too many people, or too many voices.
  • Stress and Anxiety: Stress is often unavoidable, but can come along with managing a chronic disease like migraine, as well as paying for medications.  Additionally, sleep changes or problems, that can come from pain or stress, and extreme emotional changes, like getting mad or sad very quickly.
  • Noises: Road construction noises, renovation noises, dogs barking, bells, loud noises, clicking sounds and children.
  • Vision Changes: Flickering or bright florescent lights, bright sunlight, 3D movies, getting eyes dilated, too much screen time, and driving at night with bright headlights or traffic lights have also been reported as triggering a migraine attack.

Food

“It’s a life of trial and error. Some brands for the same product of food might set one off while others won’t”

Food is a tricky trigger, as oftentimes it isn’t the food itself that is the trigger, but rather an additive in a food or its smell that can trigger an attack.  Certain chemicals in food can alter blood flow, or release chemicals into the brain and bloodstream, such as nitrites releasing nitric oxide into the body, triggering an attack.  While this is the most diverse group of triggers, here are some of the most common food triggers you had.

  • Citrus foods or citric acid
  • Alcohol, specifically red wine (can also be linked to stress)
  • Seafood
  • Chocolate
  • MSG
  • Artificial Sweeteners
  • Caffeine (too much or too little)
  • Aged or fermented cheeses
  • Greasy or oily food
  • Nuts
  • Maple Syrup

For further reading on why many of these foods or compounds can trigger an attack, check out this page.

Hormonal Changes:

Hormonal changes are often associated with the onset of a migraine attack, which could be the reason why many more women are affected by migraine than men.  Some of these changes may include:

  • At the start of menstruation
  • At the beginning or end of the monthly cycle
  • Contraceptive use that utilizes female hormones
  • Pregnancy (although many report a reprieve from migraine attacks during pregnancy, most likely due to an increase in bodily estrogen)
  • Post-partum
  • The onset of menopause
  • During hormone therapy
  • After hormone-changing surgeries, such as a hysterectomy

For more information on why hormonal changes can trigger a migraine attack, check here.

Overall, migraine triggers can vary amongst all migraineurs.  The best way to figure out what affects you the most is to keep a migraine journal, be prepared for a migraine attack at any time by creating a migraine toolkit, maintaining as positive an attitude as possible (even though it definitely can be tough!), and as always, connecting with the migraine community around you for support!

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