Triggers: Not Just Food! (by a long shot)

It seems that, most often, when people talk about triggers they’re referring to foods that trigger a migraine attack.  But our latest poll shows that food is not the only trigger – in fact, it may be a ways down the list!

Triggers: Weather? Pollution? Travel?
Triggers: Weather? Pollution? Travel?

#1 Trigger: Weather

full third of those who voted said that weather was the biggest trigger for them.  This could include heat, changes in barometric pressure, storms – we weren’t specific in this poll.  But weather is obviously a big one.  Read more about headache and weather.

#2 Trigger: Hormones

Yes, hormonal changes can be a trigger (not a cause) of migraine attacks.  This is what I call an "internal trigger".  18% of our guests said that this was the big one for them.  Read about some types of hormonal headache here.

#3 Trigger: Changes in Schedule

13% said that changes in schedule – including when they go to sleep, or wake up, or hours of sleep, or changes in eating times, or skipping a meal – was the big trigger for them.

#4 Trigger: Flickering Lights

11% said that this was their main trigger.  It’s well established that migraine brains process flicker differently than everyone else.  The biggest question is what types of flicker actually trigger attacks.

#5 Trigger: Environmental Factors

The culprits here are things like perfume, second hand smoke, pollution – and maybe even natural factors like pollen.  9% claimed this as their biggest trigger, though I’m sure a much higher percentage of people find environmental triggers to be a problem some of the time.

#6 Trigger: Food

That’s right, food was waaaay down the list!  At #6, only 6% said that this was their biggest trigger.

#7 Trigger: Exercise and exertion

Only 4% put this as their biggest trigger, but we do know that exercise headache is a widespread problem.

#8 Trigger: Travel / motion

Motion sickness is a common predictor of migraine.  But the motion itself can trigger attacks.  Plus, travel can include changes in schedule, flickering lights, trouble controlling food, changes in weather – a nice package of triggers all together.  3% of our guests put this as their biggest trigger.

#9 Trigger: Other disease / condition

Medically, a headache brought on by another disease isn’t usually considered a trigger, but a symptom.  However, as many of us know, those of us prone to migraine can end up with increased attacks from something as simple as a head cold.

Trigger #10: Medications/supplements

Actually, this one hardly shows on the graph with only 3 votes.  However, migraineurs often do need to watch out for certain ingredients that are added to supplements.  And we all know that the labels of many migraine medications actually list "headache" as one of the side effects!

There are a lot of fascinating things I could point out looking at this poll.  But one of the most remarkable things is how low on the list food is.  I can remember going to the doctor and hearing right off the top – let’s try taking bananas, chocolate and caffeine out of your diet for a while.  Are doctors taking the wrong approach here?  Are we as patients focusing on the wrong things?

Maybe we need to investigate a little further into what is actually triggering our attacks, and not blame everything on food.  Don’t get me wrong – I believe that diet is one of the most important things that a migraineur needs to focus on.  But it’s not the only thing.  We could be missing some key triggers if we just talk about food triggers.

Read more about migraine triggers and how to find them here.

Be Sociable, Share!
9 comments… add one
  • Jessie Wickliffe Sep 12, 2012

    Weather seems to be my biggest trigger, followed my stress and hormones.

  • I agree with and experience all of the above-mentioned triggers and more.

  • Theresa Maddox Sep 12, 2012

    Weather, stress, lack of sleep and not eating regularly. Pain disrupts most of these triggers

  • ^^ agreed ^^

  • it is not new about the weather…

  • Karen Koestler Sep 12, 2012

    I suffer from daily chronic migraines and I get migraines from all 10 trigger list items! Luckily I qualified for disability because it means I can avoid a few of the triggers. The one trigger I was suprised to not see listed is STRESS, unless I missed it.

  • Mandy Mulholland Sep 12, 2012

    Hormones stress gym food and drink strong smells ie perfume and coffee weather bending over running upstairs/exertion missing mealtime especially if I don’t have meat. Loud noise bright lights reading using a computer. Migraines six days a week and had to give up my job. No benefits at all. Fed up.

  • Ilex Sep 12, 2012

    I think the reason that food gets focused on so heavily is that it is under our control to a large extent.

    The weather is my primary trigger (msg and similar chemicals are a secondary one) and I can’t do a darn thing about the weather. I occasionally take some abortive meds a little ahead of big weather fronts though, which sometimes helps.

  • Aurora Nov 25, 2012

    All of those named on the list!!! When there’s a low pressure in the area where I live, I am almost paralysed. Hormonal migraines are the most painful and unstoppable. The most annoying triggers are the ones inflicted by other people (LOLS).

Leave a Comment