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Migraine Triggers and How to Avoid Them

Migraine Triggers

What are migraine triggers and how can I avoid them? Those are the questions that plague migraine sufferers!  Their loved ones would like to know too. We can travel down this road of triggers and how to manage them together.

Migraine Triggers can feel like your worst enemy, but if we are intentional we can try to conquer a few of them and maintain the rest.  It may be surprising to some that everything from that lovely rain storm to flashing lights could cause a migraine.  We might suspect loud noises or even stress, but would we expect a long list of potential foods? 

Wait, you mean that innocent cheese and cracker snack or appetizer could cause a migraine? Yep, depending on the person.  Everyone has different triggers.  Bonus, it may even depend on the type of cheese!  Aged cheese is the guilty one. It’s like we are solving a mystery.  

In fact there is a pretty hefty list of foods that are culprits, but my hope is knowing will be power.  So it’s a big list, but it might be only one of these things that is a trigger for you.  Or it would be great if none of the foods was a trigger! Cleveland Clinic lists these as foods potential headache/migraine triggers:

  • aged cheese (blue cheese, brie, cheddar, English stilton, feta, gorgonzola, mozzarella, muenster, parmesan, swiss)
  • Alcohol (red wine, beer, whiskey, Scotch, and champagne are the most commonly identified headache triggers)
  • Peanuts, peanut butter, almonds, and other nuts and seeds
  • Pizza or other tomato-based products
  • Potato chip products
  • Chicken livers and other organ meats, pate
  • Smoked or dried fish
  • Pickled foods (pickles, olives, sauerkraut)
  • Sourdough bread, fresh baked yeast goods (donuts, cakes, homemade breads, and rolls)
  • Brewer’s yeast found in natural supplements
  • Bread, crackers, and desserts containing cheese
  • Most beans including lima, Italian, pole, broad, fava, navy, pinto, snow peas, garbanzo, lentils, and dried beans and peas
  • Onions, garlic
  • Avocados
  • Certain fresh fruits, including ripe bananas, citrus fruits, papaya, red plums, raspberries, kiwi, and pineapple
  • Dried fruits (figs, raisins, dates)
  • Soups made from meat extracts or bouillon (not homemade broth or bouillon cubes that do not have MSG or “all natural preservatives” on the label)
  • Canned soups
  • Cultured dairy products, sour cream, buttermilk, yogurt
  • Chocolate
  • Caffeinated beverages, including coffee, tea and colas
  • Aspartame and other artificial sweeteners
  • Nitrate/nitrite-containing meats including hot dogs, sausage, bacon, lunchmeats/deli meats, pepperoni, other cured or processed meats
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG) containing products including soy sauce, meat tenderizer, Asian foods, and a variety of packaged foods. MSG is an often disguised ingredient; also look for these common aliases: monopotassium glutamate, autolysed yeast, hydrolysed protein, sodium caseinate

Additional Triggers

Now, I know that was a comprehensive list! My hope is equipping people with information to avoid some of the pain.  Let me tell you there is a list of smells that could accompany the list of foods.  For the migraine sufferer when it comes to smells let’s just say strong is a dirty word.  I have had my worst migraine from being near too much perfume or the honest truth is around some serious body odor.  Sorry, I teach kids and well, I did say strong smells were a problem. 

Two other triggers mentioned above deserve more attention and those are lack of sleep and stress. These are two things depending on the circumstances that may feel hard to control as well, but if you can they may make a positive difference. They are big triggers for me so I know the challenge in maintaining them. For example, if you have a sweet little one that keeps you up or a stressful situation out of your control you just have to do your best. Try to give your body the most rest you can and take care of yourself. Eat well, reach out for support, and if able exercise can be beneficial.

 Each individual will know when something strikes them.  It could even be an odor from a chemical.  Wait, does that mean no cleaning products?  Hold it right there.  I am actually kind of a clean freak so there are a lot of products to choose from.  However, it never hurts to know your boundaries.  Choose what works for you!

A couple other triggers not mentioned yet  are allergies and hormones.  Both can be dealt with at your best with your health care professional, but you can’t totally control them either.  Both are triggers for me.  In my other post, “Help Now Please: Can These Painful Migraines Be Hormone Related?” I discuss hormones and how my neurologist approached them.  It might be medication with your doctor or you may find something else that works for you. Taking care of your body is a priority.

Working with your doctor and finding what works for you is the most important.  I know for me having a plan has made a big difference.  That has actually worked for allergies too.  I start taking my allergy meds before prime allergy season to get myself ready. I also make sure I take that medicine when I should as it can be hard to distinguish between an allergy headache and migraine starting at times. Then if you wait to take the migraine medication you could have a problem. If needed I may have to avoid some activities which isn’t fun, but may be necessary.

 I also know my limits.  With both of these triggers being out of my control I have to really work hard to keep everything else in life in check so I don’t compound issues.  All we can do is our best and I know on a daily basis that it takes determination and perseverance.  

How to Avoid Migraine Triggers

 So, there is the other layer.  Not just knowing what the triggers are, but having the ability to avoid them. Perhaps, we can choose at times who to be near and what is in our environment. Bright lights or fluorescent lights can also be migraine triggers.  In my classroom I have placed lamps that have bulbs specifically targeted for migraine sufferers. This helps me avoid the not so migraine friendly fluorescent lights. 

There are also settings that you can put on your phone or computer to adjust the lighting and if you desire you could try out the blue light glasses.  I have not tried those yet.  I will update if that changes. I dim the lighting on my computer and phone.  Some androids actually have a specific blue light setting. 

Although there are some triggers we can avoid, there are some we cannot control.  The big one is the weather.  Barometric pressure, storms, and big temperature changes are not things a migraine sufferer loves to hear about. That said, we can still roll with what the weather brings us.

When the weather strikes it is helpful to be sure you have avoided all other triggers you can and are up on your medications.  You could also have some other items to soothe you during this time if that is helpful.  An eye mask is a great option.  I have a favorite that I will be sharing with you.  

What is most important is that you find a way to be as comfortable as you can and away from all the triggers you can avoid. I find the compounding of triggers makes things harder to control. Then we just have to find peace with the truth that the weather isn’t ours to control. The line “this too shall pass” are words I live by.


The answer to what are migraine triggers and how to avoid them lies not just in this information, but in the power of the individual.  Each person must do their own investigation of what brings on their migraine.  Tracking their migraines can be a great way to do this.  I will be writing about this in an upcoming post and going over a variety of ways to do this.  There are many options that make it both manageable and meaningful.  

Be In The Know

Stay up to date on new posts by subscribing as I will be sharing above information and much more! Or join us in our Facebook group called migraineroad. You can do that on our contact page. This migraine road is a challenging one, but it is much nicer with support and encouragement along the way. That is what you will find here and in our group.



Although we strive to provide accurate general information, the information presented here is not a substitute for any kind of professional advice, and you should not rely solely on this information. Always consult a professional in the medical and health area for your particular needs and circumstances prior to making any medical or health related decisions. For your health related questions, please seek the advice of a licensed physician or any other qualified health care provider immediately.

33 thoughts on “Migraine Triggers and How to Avoid Them”

  1. Pingback: Migraine Buddy App Review and More - Migraine Road

  2. I do not get migraines, but headaches have started getting MUCH worse as I age. Thank you for this detailed list of migraine triggers…there are a lot of these I indulge in…ugh! This is very helpful!

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  7. Just knowing this is helpful for me to be aware of any triggers I might accidentally put someone else through. Thank you for raising awareness with this post! <3

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  9. I’ve suffered from migraines for years, and have gotten much better identifying my triggers, however always had a hard time when it came to food triggers. They don’t seem consistent. I had no idea there were so many trigger foods!

      1. From you, I am learning migraines are so much more complicated than I ever thought. I love that you are informative without being over the top. Simply stated, but getting the point across.

  10. Posts like these are so helpful especially as people are traveling or shopping and can have the list set for them that you made. Thank you so much for sharing this!! So lovely!

    1. Thank you for your comment! You have given me an idea of a tool to offer our readers. This is what will make our community great at migraineroad! Conversation and sharing our thoughts.

  11. Thanks for Nice post, I usually suffer from Migraine Triggers and I’m scared the light too. But I still have to work with Laptop so much then it can’t improve~

    1. I feel you there! My hope for you is you might be able to utilize some dimming features on your computer. I know giving yourself breaks can help too if that is doable. I wish you well!

  12. My son got migraines when he was younger and they were awful. I felt so bad for him, but he seems to have outgrown them thank goodness.

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