Figuring Out Your Migraine Triggers

Migraines are truly an individual problem. No two migraine sufferers are exactly alike, and no generic treatment is going to alleviate everyone from the horrors of migraines. The only way to find true relief from the destructive forces of a migraine is to figure out your triggers. This takes a bit of work, but it is vital to achieving your highest quality of life. Today, I am going to outline how you can start this process.

Before we begin, migraine triggers can usually be linked to three main human functions:

·         Food

·         Stress

·         Sleep

These are not the only triggers, however.  They’re just the most common parts that must be addressed and balanced.  Therefore, I’ll spend this post helping you understand how to identify triggers within these functions.

Food Triggers

Food can trigger migraines for several reasons. We have already talked about the impact of different food compounds like gluten and sugar. The trouble is each person’s migraine symptoms are triggered uniquely, so finding the specific food triggers unique to you will take a bit of work.

Starting the process is easy, but it will take commitment. First, keep a food journal. Write down everything you eat and when you eat it; make a note of anything that seems to correlate with migraine symptoms.

Once you’ve done this for a week or two, you can start to identify patterns. If your migraines are food related, it’s most likely because of one of two things:

1.      The type of food

2.      The time and amount you eat

If it is a specific food, it should become obvious with consistent tracking. If it is the timing of the food, it might be you aren’t eating frequently enough or you’re eating the wrong foods at the wrong time, such as heavy carbs right before bed. If you notice you get migraines after skipping breakfast, you’ve found a trigger.

Stress Triggers

Food isn’t the only thing that can trigger a migraine. Common, yes, but not singular.  Stress is another likely contributor. It’s part of normal daily life, but for migraineurs, it can be the ultimate enemy.  The constant release of hormones to accommodate high-stress situations can be gruesome to the body and deplete your chemical stores, leading to glandular fatigue and a decline in health.  

Therefore, it would be helpful to identify specific stressors in your daily life and actively work to avoid or reduce them.

Like with food, keeping a log of your daily stressors can help illuminate specific triggers. For instance, if you notice you are getting migraines every day right after your commute to work, it’s likely the commute is stressing you to the point of inducing a migraine. These patterns should become relatively clear as you consistently track your activity.

But, it’s not just about identifying stressors.  For this information to be useful, you must act on the knowledge and look for ways to reduce or avoid the stress.  When you can’t reduce or avoid the trigger, try to adjust your response to the stress. Ask yourself what your time and health are worth and look for ways to think more positively.

Sleep Triggers

Just like food and stress, figuring out sleep triggers is as simple (and as difficult) as keeping a consistent log.  Keeping track of how much you sleep each night and comparing it to the appearance of migraine symptoms may help you identify issues with your sleeping habits.

Many of my patients have migraines because they are sleep deprived, but sometimes they are sleep deprived because they have migraines.  Your situation is unique, but you can still start by developing healthy sleep habits and consistency in your nightly routines.  Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, (including the weekends) take a warm shower before bed each night, meditate for 10 minutes before bed, or do something similarly relaxing.  

Finding your triggers can be a long process, but it’s worthwhile. Again, these three common triggers are not the only ones.  You have weather, environment, hormones, and underlying medical conditions possibly causing pain as well; but what I’ve learned over 15 years of practice and a lifelong commitment to relieving my migraines is the causes are usually many.  Focusing on improving the internal environment of your body is your best bet for treating migraines, even if you’re not triggered by food, stress, or sleep.

Sources:

Mychronicmigraine.com – Migraine causes and triggers

EU Natural –How to Identify Your Migraine Triggers