Written by Karah Frizzell

Ask Dr. Armstrong: What are migraine triggers?

1. Are there specific triggers that can cause a migraine attack? Yes, migraines can be triggered by a variety of factors, which may vary from one individual to another. Common triggers include: hormonal changes in women (like those due to menstruation, pregnancy, or menopause), specific foods and drinks (such as aged cheeses, processed foods, wine, and caffeinated beverages), stress, sensory stimuli (like bright lights, loud noises, or strong smells), changes in sleep-wake patterns, physical exertion, changes in the environment, certain medications (especially those for hypertension and angina), and consumption of substances like alcohol, especially wine, and too much caffeine.

2. How can I identify and avoid my migraine triggers? To identify personal migraine triggers, it’s helpful to keep a detailed headache diary. Record when your migraines start, what you were doing at the time, the foods you ate that day, any stressors you encountered, the medications you took, and any other relevant factors. Over time, patterns may emerge, helping you identify specific triggers. Once identified, you can work to avoid these triggers. For example, if a certain food or drink seems to precede your migraines, try eliminating it from your diet. If stress is a major factor, consider stress-reducing techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, and physical activity.