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Causes and Triggers of Migraine

Experts believe that migraines occur when blood vessels in the brain dilate and chemicals from nerve fibers are released and coiled around these blood vessels. Migraine headaches are commonly accompanied by nausea and vomiting as a response from the sympathetic nervous system.

Unfortunately, migraine is oftentimes misdiagnosed as other types of headaches. This may be due to lack of understanding of the causes of migraine.

Why exactly do blood vessels dilate and why does the dilation result to a throbbing pain?

Causes of Migraine

Below are some scientific findings that explain the causes of migraine headaches.

Changes in the Chemicals of the Brain

Studies reveal that during a migraine, a chemical called serotonin decreases. Low serotonin level can cause some blood vessels in the brain to contract. This may then result to symptoms of aura or the signs that accompany migraine headaches. Sooner or later, the blood vessels widen; thus the headache.

Change in Hormones

Scientists also suggest that migraines are related to the changing levels of hormones, particularly among women. Some women sufferers of migraine reveal that they usually experience attacks during their period. This is called a menstrual migraine. Take note that levels of estrogen fall before women have their period.

Migraine Triggers

While the exact cause of migraine is not fully understood and defined, there are a lot of factors that are clearly identified as migraine triggers. Some of them are the following.

Physical Triggers

It is important to observe your daily activities, for they may have some physiological effects that can trigger a migraine. Among the common physical triggers include travelling for a long time, poor posture, neck or shoulder tension, low blood sugar, and poor quality of sleep.

Emotional Triggers

Stress from work, depression over financial problems, and excitement about an upcoming event: these seemingly normal emotions that you get from everyday living may also lead to migraine attacks. Other emotional triggers are anxiety, tension, and shock.

Dietary Triggers

Some dietary triggers include alcohol, caffeine products, lack of food, and irregular meals. Your blood sugar levels fall when you do not eat regularly. And when you eat foods with high sugar content, your blood sugar levels will significantly increase. For your information, these extreme changes trigger migraine attacks.

Some Unexpected Triggers

Presumably, you have accepted and understood the above-mentioned migraine triggers. Now, let us discuss some triggers that may surprise you.

Rest Days or Holiday Season

Did you know that some migraine sufferers experience headaches during rest days and holidays? This is called “letdown headache”. You may be stressed about so many things during regular working days; hence on the weekends and holidays, you release the stress and your body may respond by getting a headache.


Scientists also believe that changes in sleeping patterns can cause migraines. Thus, migraine sufferers need to observe a regular sleep schedule.

Reactive Hypoglycemia

For migraine sufferers who love to have large intakes of carbohydrates, they should take note of this: Excessive amounts of simple carbohydrates, like white sugar and pasta, can cause migraine headaches. When you eat simple carbohydrates, your blood sugar rises. Your body responds by producing additional insulin to crash the sugar. When this happens, your blood sugar levels drop significantly. This can cause migraine attacks.

Migraine triggers differ from one person to another. It is important for migraine sufferers to closely observe some patterns and happenings before attacks occur. With this, they may lessen the recurrence of migraine by avoiding the factors that may lead to these pounding headaches.

Jim Gilbertson