What triggers a migraine?
Certain triggers may increase your risk of a migraine attack. While triggers do not directly cause migraines, they are thought to activate abnormal brain activity in people who are prone to get migraine headaches.1
Tracking your migraines
Migraine triggers vary from person to person, and a single trigger won’t necessarily cause a migraine headache every time you’re exposed to it.1 A combination of migraine triggers may be more likely to bring on a migraine attack.2 And sometimes migraines come on spontaneously — during sleep, for instance.3
It’s a good idea to keep track of the factors that may trigger your migraines. By avoiding your triggers, you may be able to reduce the number of migraine headaches you get.1
Potential migraine triggers
Some common migraine food triggers
Below is a list of common migraine food triggers.4 However, food triggers can vary widely, and yours may be different.
- Aged cheese (and other foods, such as smoked fish, that contain tyramine)
- Alcohol and red wine
- Artificial sweeteners
- Citrus fruits
- Coffee, tea, and cola
- Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
- Nitrates in cured and processed meats (hot dogs and lunch meats)
- Nuts and peanut butter
- Salty foods
1. American Headache Society. Information for Patients. Headache Hygiene — What Is It? Trigger avoidance. Available at:
http://www.achenet.org/resources/headache_hygiene__what_is_it/ Last accessed July 2011.
2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Migraine Fact Sheet. Available at:
Last accessed July 2011.
3. American Migraine Foundation. About Migraine: What Is Migraine? Available at:
http://www.americanmigrainefoundation.org/whatismigraine.aspx Last accessed July 2011.
4. American Headache Society. Tools for Healthcare Professionals & Their Patients. Trigger Avoidance Information. Available at:
http://www.achenet.org/resources/trigger_avoidance_information/ Last accessed July 2011.