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There are a wide variety of known as well as assumed migraine causes. It appears that most of these migraine causes “trigger” a change in brain chemistry, mostly related to decreasing levels of serotonin, which seems to be related to the formation of migraines.
The triggers that lead to migraine are widely varied. The triggers themselves can be exposure to or withdrawal from a number of different factors. These factors can be classified broadly as hormonal, chemical, dietary, behavioral, or environmental. Each individual sufferer has his or her own experience with certain environmental triggers, and each person should attempt to identify and subsequently manage his or her exposure to triggers that usually set them off. It should be mentioned that migraines may only occur once a certain amount of a trigger is ingested or a certain time is exceeded. For example, chewing gum for an hour may produce no reaction, but prolonged chewing may cause the migraine to appear. In other instances, migraine causes are more likely to occur when a number of different “triggering” variables are present. For example, eating a certain food may cause no reaction, but in combination with a lack of sleep and certain weather conditions, eating that same food will be an effective trigger to cause a migraine. Unfortunately, there are certain triggers such as humidity which are nearly impossible to avoid, short of moving to Alaska. Finally, some migraines appear to have no trigger at all, which is most frustrating to a migraine sufferer who is conscientious of his or her behavior and environment. Below is a list of some common migraine triggers:
For some reason, exposure to light is a common migraine cause. In fact, nearly half of all sufferers blamed bright light as the main migraine cause or trigger for their migraine condition. Many believe that over illumination can cause migraine because sunlight directly influences (reduces) serotonin levels in the body. Migraine sufferers also report that loud sounds and unpleasant smells can also trigger migraines to occur.
There are some diverging viewpoints about the relationship between caffeine intake and migraines. The most widely held belief is that caffeine, taken in small quantities, can actually alleviate migraine symptoms because caffeine constricts blood vessels. However, once caffeine exits the system, caffeine withdrawal can cause increased occurrence of migraine causes. Another unintended consequence of caffeine is that the resulting increase in anxiety and stress can also increase the likelihood of migraine.
Exposure to stress can precipitate a migraine because the presence of stress releases certain chemicals in the brain which can cause blood vessels to expand. Stress can also be one of those contributing variables, meaning that stress combined with another trigger, for example exposure to light or lack of sleep, can cause or exacerbate a migraine. Sometimes, migraine sufferers experience migraines after a stressful period has past, as the body chemistry changes and adjusts to a relaxed state. The bottom line seems to be that any significant increase or decrease in chemical levels in the body created by disruptions to homeostasis, whether they are environmental or other, can trigger migraines.
Certain foods and beverages are known migraine causes. Also, skipping meals can also cause migraines because this disturbs the normal stability of the body. Alcohol, for instance, increases blood flow to the brain when ingested, which can trigger a migraine. Food additives and preservatives can also be migraine triggers. There is a long list of foods that has been shown to trigger migraines. Some items such as cheese, chocolate, nuts, monosodium glutamate (MSG), and fatty foods are prime suspects for inducing migraine but this list is far from exhaustive. The best solution is to be aware of what works best for the individual and want foods and beverages to avoid, as everybody reacts differently to different foods.
One of the more challenging migraine causes is in the weather because avoiding it is impossible. Studies have found that changes in the weather, meaning changes in humidity or barometric pressure, are more common triggers for migraine than simply the existence of heat or humidity. Another example is differing levels of sunlight from day to day. If it is sunny one day and cloudy the next, migraines are more likely to occur. It is generally believed that migraine sufferers inherited (genetically) a greater sensitivity to environmental changes and a lower pain threshold than those not prone to migraines.
In general, women have migraines more frequently than men and the vast majority of women report that migraines causes are related to their menstrual cycles. Scientists believe that progesterone and estrogen, which help regulate a woman’s menstrual cycle, can interfere with chemicals in the brain that are associated with migraines. It is the fluctuation in the hormone levels that seems to be the migraine trigger. There are contradictory reports of oral contraceptives and/or hormone replacement therapies either helping to mitigate migraines or worsening migraines.