What causes migraines is still somewhat of a mystery. Doctors believe that it has to do with the blood vessels in the head contracting and then expanding. This happens from time to time to most people, but with migraineurs this tends to be more intense and painful. The exact cycle of events taking place in our brains during a migraine attack is still not fully understood.
Why You Should Know Your Triggers
Knowing what triggers attacks is a major step towards preventing them. If you can avoid the triggers, then you can avoid the pain and suffering of the attacks, right? Well, not quite.
There are many possible triggers for migraines and they differ from one migraine sufferer to another. Sometimes you’re not dealing with one single trigger at a time, but with a combination of potential triggers, which makes it all the more difficult to determine what exactly it is that you need to avoid.
Of course, knowing that something may trigger your migraine doesn’t always mean you can avoid it. Some possible triggers, such as certain weather conditions, or certain times of the month for us ladies, may be unavoidable.
However, preventing even some of your potential migraine episodes can be a blessing. Every migraine avoided means less suffering and an enhanced quality of life. It won’t mean that your migraines are cured, but that your condition becomes more manageable.
Possible Triggers of Migraine
The list is very long and if you’re serious about identifying your own migraine triggers, you need to look at ideas from more than one website, as well as do some thinking of your own… I will try and list a few common triggers to get you going.
First of all, for many people, going without food can trigger a migraine. For some migraineurs skipping a meal is all it takes.
Cheese (especially the old smelly type), alcohol, nuts and alas, chocolate are the prime suspects in the food department. Also, anything that contains nitrates (such as sausage and hot dogs), Monosodium Glutamate and certain artificial sweeteners.
The Menstrual Cycle
Many female migraineurs report a correlation between their menstrual cycle and migraine episodes, often with migraines coming prior to, or during menstruation. Another fact that links migraines and female hormones is that many women no longer suffer from migraines once they reach menopause. For some migraine sufferers, though not all, pregnancy can bring about a change in the frequency and intensity of migraines.
You may find it hard to avoid them, but for some people, environmental changes can trigger a migraine. Changes in temperature, humidity and barometric pressure are all potential migraine triggers. A change in altitude is also a possible trigger.
Stress and Depression
Blaming your mental state for migraines is a wee bit problematic. You see, for centuries, female migraineurs have been looked upon as sensitive, or even hysterical, women with a bad headache. Today, migraine is acknowledged as a serious neurological condition and patients are no longer “blamed” for their condition. The national Migraine Awareness Group (MAGNUM), takes special care in their website to stress that migraine is a purely physiological disorder and not a psychological one.
However, many other resources include stress and depression on the list of possible triggers. Some even go to say that a migraine maybe triggered by the end of a stressful situation, so that when it’s time to relax – your body lets go… and gets hit with a migraine.
Keeping a Good Record
You may find it easy enough to identify what triggers a migraine for you. Maybe it’s as simple as the date of the month, eating lots of chocolate, a spell of dry weather or skipping a meal. Or maybe that explains only some of your migraines, but not all of them.
If you’re not sure what triggers your migraines, you may want to start keeping a record. Like a little migraine diary. Following a migraine, you will have to write down what happened during the 24 hours previous to the attack. Make sure you note your schedule for that day, what you had to eat, how much sleep you got, environmental conditions and your general state of mind.