What Causes Migraines: Doctors Explain 5 Things That Cause Migraines (And How to Avoid Them)

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“ Migraines are a result of specific changes within the brain. It causes severe head pain that is often accompanied by sensitivity to light, sound, or smells. ” – Danette C. Taylor, DO, MS, FACN

Migraines are a common disorder that cause extreme pain, nausea, and blurry vision. According to Danette C. Taylor, DO, MS, FACN, “The exact cause of migraines is not known. Changes in neurotransmitter levels within the brain are thought to play a role. Migraine headaches usually are associated with sensitivity to sound, light, and smells. Some people have symptoms of nausea or vomiting.

For most people, migraines can be managed with medication and avoiding triggers. However, figuring out where most migraines stem from can be a great tool in figuring out how to best take care of them. Doctors have isolated some of the main causes of migraines. Check out this list of common migraine triggers for something that could help you.

Doctors Reveal These 5 Things That Can Cause Migraines

1. Medication

Medicine is supposed to help us heal from sickness or disease. Even so, some medication can have adverse side effects. For women, some forms of birth control can cause migraines as a side effect. Dr. Helen Webberley MBChB MRCGP MFSRH says, “Some sleeping pills, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) medications, and the combined contraceptive pill have all been named as possible triggers.

If you recently started a new medication and have migraines as a side effect, talk to your doctor.

2. Stress

We all know the things that stress can do to our body. Stress headaches are incredibly common. It’s no wonder, then, that doctors have pointed out that stress is one of the major causes of migraines. When your hormones get out of whack, muscles tense up and blood sugar drops; it becomes a recipe for disaster – and migraines. Chronic stress is one of the main causes of migraines in adults.

Chronic stress defaults the body into fight or flight mode and we are never in a relaxed state to repair and regrow. When we focus on a positive and let all the other worries melt away, our bodies begin to relax and repair,” says health coach Amanda Patrick.

3. Poor Physical Health

Our bodies are usually finely tuned machines. However, there are still ways for that machine to go a little haywire. When it comes to migraines, our physical health can be a root cause. Anything from poor sleep schedules to bad posture that puts unnecessary pressure on our bodies can be the cause. If you have many sleepless nights and poor physical health, you might be at risk for migraines.

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4. Gluten Intolerance

Gluten is in just about everything. If you notice that your migraines come on after a meal, this is a red flag. Doctors have found that people with gluten sensitivity or intolerances are more likely to experience migraines. People who have gluten intolerances, like Celiac disease, aren’t able to absorb gluten. This can cause all kinds of problems, like chronic migraines.

5. Sensory Stimuli

One of the main causes of migraines is environmental stimuli. Sensory or environmental stimuli usually involves bright lights. According to a recent study by a group of scientists, “… exposure to visual, auditory and olfactory stimuli may trigger a migraine attack. These observations suggest a role for multisensory integration in migraine pathophysiology.

Loud sounds can also trigger or cause a migraine. Even extremely strong smells or temperature changes can be the culprit. Keep track of what’s going on around you at the onset of a migraine.

Here Are 5 Best Ways To Avoid Migraines

With migraines, figuring out how to deal with the cause will help the migraine itself. Doctors have also come up with the best ways to fix the root of the migraine.

1. Diet Change

When it comes to migraines, making sure there’s not an underlying gluten intolerance is important. This can be easily ruled out with a two-week diet change and food trial. “Take 2 weeks and eliminate gluten and dairy. Keep track of how you’re feeling. After cutting out gluten and dairy for 2 weeks you can slowly add them back in one at a time and continue to track your symptoms,” says Patrick.

Talk with your doctor about the best way to go about cutting gluten out of your diet to see if this is the cause of your migraines.

2. Switch Up Your Medication

Of course, you never want to go off your medication without consulting your doctor. However, if one of the side effects happens to be migraines, you may want to talk about changing your medication. For a lot of medicine, there are several different kinds. Doctors are often willing to switch it up, especially if one of the side effects is migraines.

3. Stress Relief

Chronic stress can cause all kinds of issues, so it’s best to start dealing with your stress right away. According to Web MD, “During stressful events certain chemicals in the brain are released to combat the situation (known as the ‘fight or flight’ response). The release of these chemicals can provoke blood vessel changes that can cause migraine headaches.

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This is why it’s important to be able to unwind from a long day, especially if migraines are an issue for you. Getting into meditation or yoga can be a great way to learn how to release tension and stress from your body, both mentally and physically.

4. Sleep And Exercise

Sometimes, the best thing to avoid a migraine is simply making sure that you’re getting enough sleep. According to a group of scientists, “Consistent with prior studies on chronic migraine, poor sleep quality is uniquely associated with episodic migraine, and this relationship is not solely attributable to comorbid psychiatric symptomatology.

You might also want to make sure that you’re getting exercise and keeping your body in good physical health. You’d be surprised what a consistent sleep schedule will do for migraines!

5. Know Your Triggers

When it comes to sensory stimuli, sometimes the best preventative measure is to simply know what sets a migraine off. If you know that bright, flashing lights or loud noises set off your migraines, then be prepared. You may also have other underlying causes that can be setting off your migraine. So, make sure you speak to a doctor about what else could be going on in your body.


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