A migraine trigger is any event, change or physical act which results in a migraine. Almost any factor can cause a migraine attack so identifying triggers is not easy. The triggers vary for everybody and sufferers may not necessarily have the same trigger for different attacks.
As we approach the summer months, the hot and humid weather is likely to cause migraines. But does that mean you can’t go on picnics, have barbecues or lay by the pool? Most likely not, but understanding what triggers your migraines is important and by addressing what they are, you can reduce the frequency of migraine attacks not only in summer, but all year round.
Know your migraine triggers
10% of migraine sufferers will experience food related triggers. Foods such as citrus fruits, particular cheeses, chocolate, dairy and spicy foods are just some common examples of foods that trigger a migraine. If you so find any foods are triggering an attack then eliminate them from your diet.
Excessive caffeine consumption can trigger an attack, so reduce the number of caffeinated drinks you consume in a day. However, some find that stopping caffeine altogether can also trigger an attack, in this case it is better to cut caffeine consumption gradually. Also note that caffeine can be found in a number of other products such as over the counter painkillers and chocolate.
When your body loses more water than it can replenish or if you do not drink enough water in the day, it can trigger a migraine attack. It is recommended that you drink 8 glasses of water a day and although it might be tempting in summer but try to avoid fizzy drinks when you can as they contain a sweetener called aspartame which is linked to migraines.
Frequent migraine sufferers find that the weekend tend to trigger an attack. During the week, there may be a gradual build-up of migraine triggers and the change in your routine from weekday to the weekend is likely to lead to an attack. Individuals may find that being relaxed after a stressful week is likely to trigger an attack.
Lack of Sleep
A lack of sleep triggers migraines and at the same time migraines disrupt sleep. The link between sleep and migraines is complex because too much and too little sleep can initiate a migraine and even just a 30-minute difference can be enough to trigger an attack. The longer days in summer often causes people to stay out later than usual disrupting their sleeping pattern. Maintaining a consistent sleeping pattern is key.
Changes in environmental factors and sensitivity to the atmosphere can lead to a migraine attack. Examples include extreme weather changes, high altitudes, loud noises, intense odours and bright or flashing lights. Humidity produces more allergens in the atmosphere and you are more likely to pick up odours you wouldn’t normally pick up on a less humid day, making migraine triggers worse.
How to manage migraines
Pay attention to the foods you’re eating
Knowing which foods trigger your migraines and avoiding them altogether will reduce the frequency of attacks. Try to eat at a similar time each day, and try not to skip meals as this increases the chances of an attack.
Since migraines can occur from a number of factors from dehydration to the weather, if you try be more consistent in your routine you can prevent the frequency of attacks. This can be from your meal timings, exercise to your sleep schedule.
Protect your eyes
Bright lights from sunlight, the glare from lakes, pools, the ocean or even the sun flickering through trees whilst driving can easily trigger a migraine. Wearing tinted sunglasses, especially ones with a purple-pink shade (also known as FL-41) will provide relief from light sensitivity.
Exercising in the scorching heat in the middle of the afternoon isn’t probably the best time. Shift your routine to early mornings or evenings when the sun has set and it isn’t too hot and humid if you want to exercise outside. Try activities such as yoga, light aerobics or spinning for indoor forms of exercise.