The Migraine Headache: Common Triggers

A migraine headache is typically characterized by intense, throbbing pain and is often associated with other symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. Additionally, one-third of sufferers also report peculiar visual symptoms (lights, squiggly lines, reduced area of vision) often referred to as an “aura,” just before the onset of pain. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), women are three times more likely to suffer from migraines, which are also thought to affect 10 percent of the world’s population.

Here are some of the most common migraine triggers:

– Allergic reactions

– Caffeine withdrawal

– Stress (physical or emotional)

– Hunger or dehydration

– Alcohol

– Irregular sleeping patterns

– Tobacco smoke

– Foods containing nitrates (such as bacon, salami and hot dogs)

-Foods containing tyramine (found in red wine, soy products, smoked fish and figs)

Foods containing monosodium glutamate (MSG)

– Other foods including fruits, nuts, chocolate, fermented and pickled foods, dairy products, baked goods and onions

– Loud sounds, bright lights and certain odors

– Tension headaches

– Weather changes

– Aspartame (found in certain artificial sweeteners)

– Hormonal changes in females

– Physical factors (including sexual activity and exercise)

– Medications (including oral contraceptives and vasodilators)

– Air travel (due to air pressure fluctuations)


The reasons why some people get migraines and others do not remain a subject of great debate within the scientific and medical communities. To date, many possibilities have been studied, including biochemical and genetic factors.

Despite all this research, there is nothing conclusive to point to and there is also no cure for the condition. The best way for someone who has had a migraine before to prevent another one is to be aware of the most common migraine triggers and make a conscious effort to avoid them.