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    Tips to avoid migraine triggers

    On this page
    1. What are common migraine triggers? 
    2. Can food trigger migraines?
    3. Tips to avoid migraine triggers
    4. How to treat migraines 

    A migraine is usually a moderate to severe headache. They tend to include a throbbing pain down one side of the head, and lots of people will also feel nauseous, be sick and have visual disturbances. They can be quite debilitating, especially if you experience them a lot.  

    It’s not fully understood what causes migraines, but there are some things that can trigger a migraine attack.  

    What are common migraine triggers? 

    Sleep

    Getting too much or not enough sleep can cause a migraine. Some people find that after a couple of nights of bad sleep and getting very tired can bring on a migraine. And the same can go for getting a lot more sleep than usual. 

    Hormones

    Hormonal changes can sometimes trigger migraines. Lots of women find that they get migraines near to the start of their period. And some women might find that their migraines can become hard to manage during the menopause. 

    Alcohol

    Drinking a lot of alcohol can give you a headache, but a hangover headache and a migraine are quite different. Having said that, drinking alcohol, even in small amounts, can be a trigger for some people’s migraines. 

    Red wine is particularly associated with causing migraines as it contains a chemical called tyramine which is a common migraine trigger.  

    Caffeine

    Too much caffeine or sudden drops in caffeine can set off a migraine.  If caffeine is a trigger, it is best to gradually reduce the amount you have rather than abruptly stopping. 

    Sensory stimuli

    Many people find that over stimulation of the brain can trigger a migraine. Flashing lights and/or being around loud noises for a long period can cause a migraine to come on. Strong, overpowering smells can also sometimes contribute to a migraine attack. 

    Physical exertion

    Exercise is generally good for your health, and it’s thought that regular exercise can help your body release natural painkillers. However, for some people, sudden heavy exercise can bring on a migraine. 

    Weather

    Sometimes weather changes can trigger migraines. For example, if you’re somewhere that’s high altitude or there’s high humidity. 

    Medication

    Some medicines, like the contraceptive pill and vasodilators (treatments taken to open your blood vessels) can cause migraines. You might also find if you’re taking lots of medication to relieve migraine symptoms, you can end up with a medication overuse headache. 

    Can food trigger migraines?

    Certain foods can trigger migraines. We’ve already mentioned tyramine in red wine can cause a migraine, but it’s also found in some soft cheeses. Other foods like MSG (found in some Chinese cooking), nitrates and artificial sweeteners can also trigger migraines. 
    You can find out more about migraine and diet by reading our guide here. 

    Tips to avoid migraine triggers

    Certain foods can trigger migraines. We’ve already mentioned tyramine in red wine can cause a migraine, but it’s also found in some soft cheeses. Other foods like MSG (found in some Chinese cooking), nitrates and artificial sweeteners can also trigger migraines. 

    You can find out more about migraine and diet by reading our guide here

    Sleep

    Too little, too much and irregular sleep can all trigger migraines. Think about how much sleep is right for you, and when would be the best times to sleep and wake. Try to keep to a regular sleeping pattern and make your sleeping environment as restful as possible.

    Exposure to natural light during the day, and sufficient darkness at night can help your brain fine tune your body clock and release enough sleep hormone at the right time.

    Regular exercise

    Regular exercise can be an effective way of decreasing the number of migraine attacks. Walking, jogging, swimming, dancing, and cycling are ideal. Make sure that you have had enough to eat and drink, and are not tired before you begin, as this may bring a migraine on.

    Eat well and eat regularly

    Foods, drink and eating habits have long been linked to migraines.

    Sometimes it’s not necessarily the food itself that triggers the attack, it may be a food additive.

    The brain needs a continuous energy supply to work. Not eating enough, skipping meals, dieting or exercising without eating can all cause a dip in energy levels and bring on a migraine.

    Specific foods known to cause a migraine include chocolate and citrus fruit. in addition to foods containing the substance tyramine. Tyramine containing foods include cured meats, yeast extracts, smoked fish and certain cheeses. Foods that have been stored at room temperature rather than being refrigerated or frozen can have rising levels of tyramine so may induce migraines.

    Stay hydrated

    Water is essential for so many chemical processes within our bodies. If you are not getting enough of it, your body cannot function well and can cause migraines. To avoid this it is recommended that you drink at least eight glasses of water per day.

    Caffeine intake

    Try to cut down slowly as stopping suddenly can also be a trigger factor. No more than two to three cups of tea, coffee or caffeinated drinks (like cola) a day is ideal.

    Limit screen time

    Spending long periods of time looking at a screen can lead to migraines. Take a break every hour, use an anti-glare screen and sit comfortably to help avoid the build-up of muscle tension in the head, neck and shoulders.

    Stress management

    Try not to hold on to stress, everyone needs to offload. Get plenty of fresh air and practice deep breathing, you might even want to learn some relaxation techniques.

    Take care with your posture

    Looking after your posture is particularly important if you do a repetitive job or a job that involves sitting for extended periods of time. Take regular breaks and make sure your working environment is as ergonomically designed as possible.

    Avoid sensory overload

    So, it might be helpful to avoid large reflective surfaces (e.g. plain white walls) and bright, flickering, flashing or fluorescent lights. Also, to wear sunglasses and a hat in bright sunlight and stay clear of strong perfumes.

    Learn to say NO

    Migraines can be your body’s way of saying you need to slow down and recharge. Put yourself first at least once every day.

    How to treat migraines 

    There are lots of migraine treatments available, from over-the-counter painkillers like paracetamol and ibuprofen, to non-medicinal options like the migraine TENS machine, Some people also take anti-sickness medications, if they’re feeling nauseous or have been vomiting.  

    Here at Online Doctor, we have three migraine treatments our clinicians can prescribe, if you’re medically suitable.  

    Sumatriptan 

    Taken when the headache phase of your migraine begins, Sumatriptan is a type of triptan, an effective migraine treatment. If after two hours the pain hasn’t subsided, you can take another one.  

    Rizatriptan 

    Rizatriptan is another type of triptan. It’s available as a tablet or a wafer placed under the tongue. Like with Sumatriptan, you can take another wafer or tablet after two hours, if the pain has not gone away.  

    Vydura 

    Vydura contains the active ingredient rimegepant, which is another effective migraine treatment. It can be taken when you feel a migraine coming on, or it can be used as a preventative measure if you experience chronic migraines.  

    Find out more by visiting our migraine clinic.  

    References

    https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/migraine/
    https://migrainetrust.org/live-with-migraine/self-management/common-triggers/
    https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/facts/health-effects-of-alcohol/effects-on-the-body/can-alcohol-cause-migraines
    https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/migraine-headache/symptoms-causes/syc-20360201

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