What Are the Most Common Migraine Triggers?

Figurine mimicking effects of migraine attackAre you someone who struggles with recurrent migraine headaches? An attack can be extremely debilitating and difficult to relieve, so it’s important to know what sort of factors could be triggering your migraines. From especially fragrant perfumes to certain foods, one of the first things you’ll learn is that people can have very specific triggers– this can make identifying yours a challenge.

That’s actually one of the key benefits to be gained from maintaining a detailed journal on your migraine headaches. However, there is a general consensus among those in the medical community about what the most common triggers are. We’ll be taking a brief look at these today in hopes that it will help you identify your personal migraine triggers.

Common Food Triggers

The National Headache Foundation’s website is a great resource for you to check out if you’ve been hampered by repeat headaches. They have compiled a comprehensive list of the most commonly listed food triggers for migraine headaches, including:

  • Chocolate
  • Certain cheeses such as Emmentaler, Brie, Stilton, Camembert and cheddar
  • Pickled, fermented or marinated foods
  • Foods that contain MSG or nitrates such as soy sauce, seasoned salt and hot dogs
  • Sour cream
  • Sourdough bread
  • Nuts and peanut butter
  • Citrus fruits
  • Lima beans, fava beans, snow peas and broad beans
  • Figs
  • Avocados
  • Raisins
  • Papayas
  • Red plums
  • Beer, red wine and other popular alcoholic beverages
  • Caffeinated beverages such as coffee or soda


The menstrual cycle tends to be a migraine trigger for many women. Clinical studies have shown that most attacks occur during or a few days prior to the beginning of their period. Some women also experience some issues at ovulation. So why would this cause issues? Experts theorize that it is the drop in estrogen levels that is the likeliest cause. Along the same vein, entering menopause can cause an increase in migraine attacks if you tend to get them.

The Environment

The office space can trigger many headachesPublic spaces like an office or even the grocery store contain plenty of potential triggers for migraine sufferers. Strong perfume is a highly referenced trigger, but there are several that you should be aware of, including:

  • Changes in climate or weather
  • Change in altitudes
  • Flickering lights
  • Sunlight reflections
  • Intense smells
  • Heat

Too Much Stress

Unfortunately, the most common migraine trigger is stress, which is something that we all deal with from time to time. It’s incredibly important to learn how to deal effectively with stress. Why? Because worry, anxiety and sadness can trigger the release of particular certain brain chemicals which can cause migraine symptoms.

(Ironically enough, migraine clinical research has shown that the chemicals the brain releases after relieving stress levels can sometimes cause migraine headaches too.)

Track Your Triggers in Your Migraine Headache Journal

Now, we aren’t telling you to avoid everything listed here right off the bat. Triggers are different for every person, and this information is merely meant to get you to investigate probable culprits. Again, this is where the migraine journal will provide a lot of benefit. Keep it updated with the personal triggers that you have been able to identify during your investigations. There’s actually a really great app that could help you too– it’s called the Migraine Buddy App.

Over time, tracking the patterns that most often lead to migraine attacks will allow you to make the necessary lifestyle adjustments to limit the number of headaches that you experience.



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