Tracking diet, sleep, activity, and headaches in a journal can allow you to identify your migraine triggers. Making changes to your lifestyle may help you avoid these migraine triggers and reduce the frequency of attacks.
What does it involve?
Migraine triggers are different for each person. What triggers a migraine in one person may actually help treat a headache in someone else. Some common migraine triggers, such as hormonal changes in women, cannot be avoided. However, identifying some migraine triggers and making lifestyle changes to avoid them may be helpful for some people.
The best way to find out your specific triggers is to keep a headache journal to help identify what you eat, drink, do, and feel before you get migraines. There are many free applications you can download to your phone or computer to help you keep records. You can show these records to a doctor or analyze them yourself to help you better understand what causes your migraines.
Many migraines are stress-related. If you find that your headaches are often triggered by stress, you might consider trying psychotherapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy to find better ways to deal with the stressful circumstances in your life. Too many social, work, or family obligations can add stress to your life. Are there ways in which you can reduce your obligations, or ask for help in meeting some?
Some of the most common food triggers for migraines are caffeine, chocolate, alcohol, aged or strongly flavored cheese, cured meats, citrus fruits, and food additives such as monosodium glutamate (MSG), aspartame, nitrites, nitrates, dyes, preservatives, and flavorings such as meat or vegetable extracts. You can adapt your diet and drinking habits to switch to less triggering choices. Hunger and thirst are also triggering for some migraines. Try to stay hydrated and stick to a regular meal schedule. Eating smaller meals more frequently may help prevent migraines in some.
Track your sleep. Either inadequate or excessive sleep can be a migraine trigger. Use your headache journal to figure out the optimal amount of sleep, and try to stick to a regular sleeping schedule.
Intense physical activity such as high-impact exercise or sex causes migraine in some people. Consider trying gentler, lower-impact forms of exercise. Make sure you stretch and warm up first and cool down after exercise. Eat at least an hour and a half before physical activity in order to avoid low blood sugar, and stay hydrated throughout. If you use medication that prevents migraines, allow it to take effect before you begin activity.
Medications themselves can promote migraines. Overusing certain medications such as opioids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) can lead to migraine. Some medications you take for other conditions, such as hormonal birth control or hormone replacement therapy, may promote migraines too. Track medication in your headache journal or migraine app, and note any patterns that arise. Work with your doctor to find medications and dosages that do not trigger headaches.
You may find it difficult to remember to keep headache journal records. Consider setting an alarm to remind you before bedtime each night.
Some migraine triggers may be challenging or impossible to change. Focus on the ones you can control.
For more details about this treatment, visit:
Migraine Triggers – Healthline
Migraine – Mayo Clinic
Identify Migraine Triggers – Help for Headaches