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?
#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.