Common Migraine Triggers

An estimated 39 million Americans suffer migraines. Migraines are a type of neurological disease with severe headaches and other symptoms lasting hours to days. The condition has the power to significantly affect your quality of life.

The exact reason some people suffer these debilitating headaches and others don’t still remains a mystery. But you may be more likely to get migraines if someone in your family has them.

Migraines range in severity and duration, but one thing is true: A migraine attack can force you to miss work, school, leisure activities, and life. Because migraines affect everyone differently, it often takes some trial and error to find effective management strategies.

Finding the most effective migraine therapy for you often starts with identifying your triggers — that is, what tips off your migraine attacks. At Apple Medical Centers, our team takes a comprehensive approach to migraine care. We strive to create a plan to meet your unique needs.

Let’s explore some of the most common migraine triggers and how understanding your triggers is a key piece of your migraine care plan.


Several different types of foods are common migraine triggers:

Foods containing artificial sweeteners or preservatives could also set off migraines.

If you’re trying to identify food-related migraine triggers, look beyond the foods themselves. Irregular eating patterns, such as skipping meals or purposefully fasting, can also trigger migraine attacks.


Drinks containing alcohol or caffeine can trigger migraines in some people. Enjoying even just one glass of an alcoholic beverage, particularly wine, could be enough to tip off an attack.

Too much caffeine can trigger a migraine, but some people find that drinking a cup of coffee can actually relieve their symptoms. Some migraine medications also contain caffeine. 


Stress — mental, physical, or both — can induce migraine headaches. About 70% of people with migraines report emotional stress as a migraine trigger. Rigorous physical activity, such as a hard workout or even sexual intercourse, can also cause a migraine.

Sleep quality is closely linked to stress, and low quality sleep can make migraines worse. To reduce your stress levels, implement healthy sleep habits and strive to get at least eight hours of sleep each night.

Sensory stimuli

Lights, sounds, and smells can all trigger migraine attacks. Bright or flashing lights, loud sounds, and strong smells can send your senses into overdrive. These types of sensory stimulation are a common problem for migraine sufferers.

Along with triggering the migraine itself, these sensory stimuli may also make existing migraines worse. It’s common to experience sensitivity to light, sound, and smell when you’re in the middle of a migraine attack.

Hormonal changes

Both women and men can suffer migraines, but over 70% of migraine sufferers are female. Many women who get migraines report that attacks occur around their menstrual period. In fact, a common cause of migraine is hormonal fluctuation. 

Some women find that hormonal contraception can help stabilize hormones and reduce menstrual migraines. But other women find that birth control pills can aggravate migraines.

If you regularly get migraines, start keeping track of your migraine attacks. Keep a notebook with details that include your diet and activities, along with notes about each attack. Paying attention to your migraine attacks can help you and our team at Apple Medical Centers to identify the triggers that cause your migraines. 

Migraine care often includes a combination of lifestyle changes, trigger avoidance, and medication. Talk to our team to find out more about the options to address migraine symptoms that could help you enjoy every moment of life again.

Contact us today to make an appointment or request your free consultation.

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