Migraines are a riddle and a headache. Well metaphorically speaking at least, for in some rare individuals, migraine is not accompanied by headache. They occur when the brain has abnormal activity involving its blood vessels, chemicals and nerve signals. Migraine exhibits a host of possible symptoms including headache, visual disturbances (often with an ‘aura’), vertigo, nausea, pins and needles and temporary body dysmorphia – when your body (or body parts) feels bigger/smaller than it actually is, known as ‘Alice In Wonderland’ syndrome.
There is no definitive reason why migraines occur, or why they affect certain people and not others, though a genetic factor has been established. Their immediate causes, or ‘triggers’ are hard to identify, and are specific to each individual sufferer. Many contributing factors have been cited:
- the weather
- atmospheric pressure
- emotional and physical stress
- moods (both good and bad)
- hormonal levels
- sleep deprivation
- hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar)
- certain chemicals
- changes in temperature
- certain medication
Migraine is more complex than the commonly held notion that it is a severe headache (or a way to make your headache sound worse than it is!). This article establishes the social stigma attached to suffering from migraine, due to a lack of common knowledge about its debilitating effects.
Food intake and migraine
Some foods have been commonly established as headache triggers, eg alcohol can cause blood vessels in the brain to constrict, and in some people it causes head pain. Very cold food like ice cubes can bring on an instant headache.
Migraine symptoms are less immediate and the causes are more varied and complex. Typically, GPs associate migraine with food less often than they consider other factors, and this may be partly due to the time and complexity of linking your migraine with your diet, both for you and for your doctor. However, many migraine sufferers consistently link their symptoms with what they eat. (Triggering foods typically take effect around 12 – 24 hours after ingestion, to further complicate the symptom picture). Research also suggests some migraine sufferers have ‘hidden’ allergies to foods that are not always commonly associated with the condition
More commonly known dietary triggers of migraine
Certain foods are commonly associated with migraine, though what causes migraine in one person may not cause it in another.
- Foods containing tyromine – eg cured meats, certain cheeses, yeast extracts, smoked fish (eg smoked salmon), pickled herrings
- Alcohol – particularly red wine
- Caffeine – eg in coffee, tea, chocolate, cocoa
- Citric fruits – eg lemon, lime, grapefruit, orange
Keeping a diary of all you eat and do
So what is causing your own migraines? If it’s not in your nature to be meticulous, having to record your diet, your habits and your environment daily can be a challenge, especially if you are going through bouts of migraine (which can be more frequent in heavy, turbulent weather). Using an effective, NHS endorsed health tracker app like AlliApp will simplify the process, and help you to help your doctor see what is triggering your migraines. Without this personal and specific day-to-day information, finding out what causes your migraines can seem like a hopeless cause.
Environmental migraine triggers
- Bright lights
- Flickering lights eg a candle on the dinner table, indicator lights on cars
- Computer and TV screens
- Close, stuffy air
- Weather eg humid, close or thundery atmosphere
- Loud noises
- Strong smells eg perfumes, cooking smells
- Changes in temperature from hot to cold or vice versa
A day-to-day record
It’s essential that you maintain a record of everything you do so you can take this evidence to your doctor or medical specialist. For example:
- What is the weather like?
- What is your mood?
- Have you been watching TV or using a computer screen?
- Did you have dinner with a flickering candle on the table?
- Have you been stuck behind a car with flashing indicator lights?
- What have you eaten?
- Are you aware of unusual smells?
- Have you been exercising?
- Are you having a monthly period
- Have you felt either very hot or very cold?
- Are you unusually stressed?
- Are you dehydrated?
This may seem daunting, even impossible – who has the time? Well migraine accounts for missed work days, and days (and nights) when you are suffering, sometimes incapable of any activity other than being in a dark, quiet room. Making the time to establish the triggers of your migraine can change the quality of your life.
Using a reputable health-tracker app
Premium AlliApp health-tracker is medically endorsed and is configured to take note of all dietary, environmental and emotional factors in your life that can cause migraine (as well as allergies and food intolerance). Practically, AlliApp makes your life much easier if you need to keep a diary of your food, mood and environment. Crucially it helps you identify your migraine triggers. Avoidance of the situations that trigger your migraines can mean the difference between a healthy, active life and a life lived with the unpredictability of migraine, due to undiscovered migraine triggers.