DM - Neurology, MD - General Medicine, MBBS
8 Common migraine triggers you need to know about
A neurological disease that occurs mostly on one side of the head, migraine is a severe headache that is characterised by a variety of symptoms, ranging from nausea and disturbed vision to sensitivity to light. Since the triggers of a migraine are many, it can be difficult to identify the exact cause of your pulsating headache.
Here are some of the common stimulants associated with migraine:
1. Fasting: Not taking proper meals, insufficient liquid intake and fasting can be a major trigger towards headaches and migraine. It could be associated to lowered blood glucose levels. Skipping meals or fasting must be completely avoided.
2. Sleep: Sleep can also be a trigger factor as well as a preventive factor for migraines. You can suffer from a migraine attack if you sleep too little or too much. Migraine caused by sleep problems usually arises when the brain’s serotonin (a compound that constricts blood vessels) production experiences a fluctuation, and there is a reduction of dopamine (a neurotransmitter that helps in the transmission of signals) levels. While the former neurotransmitter is necessary for regulating your sleep cycle, the latter is vital for helping you to focus. Several studies reveal that developing good sleep habits can bring about a reduction in the intensity as well as number of migraine attacks.
3. Stress: Another common migraine trigger is stress. Emotions like sadness, worry, shock and anxiety can cause migraine attacks as they bring about the release of migraine causing brain chemicals. At the same time, it is also commonly reported that a migraine may occur right after a stressful period, usually during the weekends, and is therefore called a weekend headache.
4. Food: Several studies show that migraines triggered by food occur in 10% of the world population. Many of the food items that cause a migraine attack contain a substance called tyramine or phenylethylamine. This substance can cause the nerve cells of your brain to release a chemical called norepinephrine. The increased quantity of the two (tyramine and norepinephrine) can lead to migraine attacks. These amino acids are present in aged cheese, chocolates, citrus fruits, nuts and soy foods.
5. Caffeine: Too much caffeine consumption can cause you to have a migraine attack. Ideally, you shouldn’t have more than 2 cups of caffeinated drinks (like coffee, tea and cola) a day to prevent yourself from experiencing migraine headaches.
6. Computer screens/ Sunlight: Sitting in front of your computer screen for a long time can trigger a migraine attack. It happens as muscle tension builds up around your head, neck and shoulder areas.To prevent the problem from occurring, you need to take regular breaks, use good lighting, and anti-glare screens.
7. Alcohol: Certain alcohols like red wine, beer, vermouth, and sherry contain substances such as tyramine, phenylethylamine, histamine, sulphites, and flavonoid phenols, all of which have been known to trigger migraine attacks. Red wine is considered to be the worst trigger, and you should avoid it if you suffer from migraine.
8. Exercise: Like sleep, even exercise has been reported to cause as well as prevent migraines. Exercising in a moderate and regular manner is known to prevent the onset of migraine.By doing so, you end up stimulating the release of the body’s natural painkillers, while improving your overall health. On the other hand, by exercising vigorously and without prior planning, your body’s demand for oxygen increases significantly, triggering an attack.
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