For many people, there are certain triggers that can start a migraine. A trigger is any environmental, nutritional, or physiological factor thought to activate processes that cause a migraine to happen.

Environmental triggers can be things like:

  • Odors
  • Bright lights
  • Noise
  • Weather changes
  • Or any other excessive sensory stimuli

Food is also a trigger and there are hundreds of different types of foods that can potentially contribute to a migraine. This may sound overwhelming, but these types of foods mainly fall into two categories: Byproducts of food aging and foods with chemicals similar to the neurotransmitters that our brains use. Byproducts of food aging are mainly found in foods that have a fermenting process like red wine, aged cheeses, or yeast in fresh bread and yogurt. The chemicals in food that are similar to the neurotransmitters in our brains are things like coffee, chocolate, MSG (monosodium glutamate) and the nitrates used as preservatives in many of our prepackaged foods.

Physiological triggers include things like:

  • Physical or emotional stress
  • Lack of sleep
  • Hunger
  • Overexertion
  • Pain from another part of the body
  • Hormonal – for women, menstrual cycles can also be a trigger for developing a migraine

Even something as subtle as eye strain can trigger a headache. It’s important to regularly have your eyes checked in case you need glasses or your eyeglass prescription needs to be updated! If you’re not sure what triggers your migraines, use your Day Tracker or a Headache Diary to help you identify any patterns. Once you’re able to identify your triggers, it will be easier to avoid them and reduce your chances of developing a migraine.


Let your care team know what you’ve learned! If you’re not sure about tracking, your Health Advisor can help you learn how to narrow down your migraine triggers.


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