Migraine Triggers- Everything You Need to Know

By Dr. Pallavi Sharma

Table of Contents


Migraine headaches are one of the most common medical problems in the world.

They are characterized by a throbbing pain on one side of the head that worsens with routine activity and usually lasts for hours or even days. The exact cause of migraines is unknown, but they are believed to be caused by changes in the brain that result in neurological events such as inflammation and blood vessel constriction.

Approximately 85 percent of migraine sufferers have no known underlying causes other than genetics or a migraine family history.  The remaining 15% are suffering from an underlying condition, such as heart disease, stroke, thyroid disease, or high blood pressure.

The best way to treat migraines is to prevent their triggers. We will discuss migraine triggers in this article and how to avoid them.

Stress and Migraine

Stress and migraine are often linked in the minds of sufferers. Stress can cause headaches, but it also has a huge effect on your life.

If you’re stressed out all the time, it’s going to be hard to focus on getting better. And if you’re under stress, it’s unlikely that you’ll have time to do anything about the headache itself.

Tension-type headaches and migraines are two different headaches that can occur with stress. Stress can alter brain mechanisms and neurotransmitter levels in the brain.

So it is a trigger that has been identified to provoke migraines in some people.

Stress management plays a huge role in preventing migraines in susceptible individuals.

Beverages and Migraine


If you’re a caffeine drinker, you may want to cut back.

Drinking too much caffeine can lead to migraines, and excessive amounts can get in the way of using drowsiness or pain medications.

The caffeine in coffee, tea, chocolate, and other beverages acts as a vasoconstrictor, which means it narrows blood vessels in your body.

This can make you more susceptible to having a headache because your blood pressure will increase.


Alcohol is another substance that can cause migraines for some people. Alcohol can also cause headaches for some people. Alcohol acts as a diuretic, which means it causes you to urinate more often than usual.

This increases dehydration levels and makes your body more susceptible to dehydration-induced headaches such as hangovers or migraines.

Take Care of Your Sleep Disorders!

Migraine is a serious condition that can affect your sleep.

You may not be able to fall asleep, or you may wake up during the night with headaches and nausea.

The good news is that there are many things you can do to help your sleep quality during a migraine attack. Here are some tips:

  • Take a warm bath before bedtime.
  • Don’t eat big meals before bedtime
  • Try non-prescription pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen (Tylenol) for headaches.
  • Sleep in a dark room
  • Take Care of Your Hormonal Issues

When you have a migraine, your body’s internal chemistry shifts.

During menopause, menstruation, and pregnancy, several hormonal changes are occurring in our bodies. (Estrogen levels are changing.)

These released hormones may trigger a migraine attack.

These hormones can cause symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and sensitivity to light and sound.

Food and Migraines

One factor that can cause migraines is diet.

A diet rich in foods like

  • Saturated Fats
  • Sugars
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Nitrates and nitrites from processed meats and food additives

These additives can cause inflammation, and inturn migraines. Thus, avoiding foods containing those and maintaining a diary of migraine triggers is essential to prevent migraine.

Food Additives and Migraines

The prevalence of migraines has been increasing over the years.

One of the causes is food additives.

The additives can be found in processed and packaged foods, drinks, and even cosmetics.

Food additives like monosodium glutamate and aspartame have been found to trigger migraines the most.

Migraine and Bright Light

Bright iight is a key factor in triggering migraine headaches.

How does light trigger a migraine?

It helps us to see and it keeps us awake in the evenings. But, too much light can also be harmful to your health.

It can cause migraines, as well as eye strain, blurred vision, and other eye-related problems.

This is because too much light affects our eyes’ natural ability to adjust to the brightness of the environment.

The retina of our eyes becomes sensitive to bright light and can’t process it correctly, which may lead to migraines or headaches that are triggered by changes in exposure to sunlight or artificial light.

Weather Changes and Migraines

A person’s migraine severity changes when the weather changes. The change in weather can cause migraines due to the fluctuation in temperature and humidity.

When it is hot outside, the air becomes dry, and this causes a headache. A person’s migraines are also triggered by changes in barometric pressure in the environment.

Dehydration and migraine

It is a common symptom of migraine, and it can also be a side effect of medications or due to excessive vomiting or diarrhea.

It can make your migraines worse by causing:

  • Headaches
  • Muscle cramps
  • Blurred vision

Hydration is a hot topic in the world of headache treatment, but it’s also one of the most important factors to consider when you’re looking for a solution.

So it is important to stay hydrated during a migraine attack.

Smells and Migraines

Smells can trigger migraines in some people.

Some studies have found that those who suffer from migraines are more sensitive to odors than those who do not have migraines.

The study also suggested that sufferers may be more sensitive to certain smells, such as citrus or peppermint, and less sensitive to others, such as lavender or cinnamon.

This is a list of some odors that may trigger migraines:

-Citrus, Peppermint, Lavender, Cinnamon, gasoline, paint, etc.

Medications and Migraines

Migraine medication can also trigger migraines in some people who are sensitive to specific ingredients like caffeine and tyramine, which are found in many migraine medications.

Some of the medications that might trigger migraines are as follows:

  • Oral contraceptives or hormonal contraceptives
  • Hormone replacement therapy
  • Medications for erectile dysfunction (ED)
  • Medications, including caffeine
  • Certain vitamins and supplements
  • Vasodialter drugs (GTN, ISMN)

Rebound Headache

Rebound headaches are caused by overuse of medication for headaches.

They are characterized by recurring headaches that happen after the medication wears off.

Some of the over-the-counter medications that might trigger headaches are as follows:

  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): naproxen (Aleve), acetylsalicylic acid (Aspirin), diclofenac, ibuprofen (Advil),
  • Combined pills: Excerdin , Anacin
  • Prescribed medications: triptans, antiemetics, ditans.
  • Opioids: tramadol, meperidine (Demerol), butorphanol, codeine.

Strenuous Activity and Migraine

Physically strenuous activity is a common trigger for migraine attacks.

A study conducted in the Netherlands has shown that strenuous exercise might trigger a migraine attack.

When to see the doctor

A migraine is a type of headache that is often prolonged, severe, and debilitating. It is a disorder of the brain’s nervous system and can be caused by many factors.

Medication triggers are one of the most common causes of migraines. Migraine triggers can be both physical and emotional in nature.

Physical triggers include changes in sleep patterns, hormonal fluctuations, or certain foods and drinks. Emotional triggers include stress, anxiety, depression, or excitement.

If you’re suffering from migraines, you have to evaluate the triggers of the migraine. The physician will evaluate triggers and advise you to use a migraine diary.

If painkillers such as NSAIDs or Actominophen are not responding, you can visit the doctor to ask for the prescribed medicine.

Prescribed Medicines


The most commonly prescribed medicine for migraine is Triptan; sumatriptan (Imitrex), zolmitriptan (Zomig).

Triptans are a type of medication that constricts blood vessels to treat migraines. They can also help those who suffer from cluster headaches.

Triptans work by binding to serotonin receptors in the brain, which causes blood vessels in the brain to constrict. The result is a reduction in pain and a decrease in inflammation.


This is an injectable medication that may help relieve pain within five minutes. DHE is considered a safe and effective treatment for migraines.

Ditan; Lasmiditan (Reyvow)

It is a newer drug that inhibits the migraine process and severe migraine headaches.


Metoclopramide and domperidone are helpful in reducing nausea and vomiting.

The new onset of symptoms like,

  • Fever
  • Neck stiffness
  • Acute onset of headache; “thunderclap” headache
  • Weakness on one side of the body
  • Slurring of speech
  • Blurring of vision or double vision
  • Confusion
  • Recent head injuries might indicate sinister pathology.

TeleHealthDoc articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Dr. Pallavi Sharma

Dr. Pallavi Sharma is one of Melbourne’s best, well respected cosmetic doctors and aims to provide longstanding anti-aging benefits for her clients. With over 11 years experience in Performing cosmetic procedures, Dr. Sharma has lectured medical professionals regarding cosmetic treatments and is heavily involved in providing up to date cosmetic treatments to her clients and friends.
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