7 Potential Migraine Triggers You Might Not Think Of
Women are definitely no strangers to chronic migraines — in fact, they’re three times more likely to suffer from them than men. A recent study found that a shift in estrogen hormone levels, especially around the menstrual cycle, tended to make women more susceptible in general. Science has yet to find a cure for these killer headaches, so sufferers need to do our best to catch them at their onset, stay ahead of the pain, and fight them off as they come our way. You may know some common causes like stress, your period, or lack of sleep, but there are other, less common triggers that certain patients experience that you might not know. Things you may do every day, like chew gum or drink coffee, can be a trigger for frequent migraine sufferers. Be on your guard for these rarer signs that a migraine could hit.
1. Colds or the Flu: Being stuffed up and feeling crummy can mess with your head in more ways than one. “Sometimes when patients are sick with a cold or virus, that then causes blood flow to the head to be disrupted, resulting in a migraine,” says Windy Zhong, an acupuncturist with APEX Acupuncture in New York City.
2. Dependence on Caffeine: If you’re a coffee addict, you already know that even one cup over your regular amount can sometimes give you a splitting headache where for others, it may help headache symptoms. Here’s why: “Caffeine helps reduce inflammation and can give a boost to common headache remedies. However, it can also cause a headache, because caffeine shrinks the blood vessels surrounding the brain,” Zhong says. It’s kind of a Catch-22: For some people, withdrawal from caffeine often causes a migraine as well, Zhong adds. If your migraines seem to be tied to how much coffee you’re chugging or not chugging daily, it might be best to see your doctor to evaluate a nutritional plan.
3. Chewing Gum: This seems so trivial, but frequent chomping on gum can put serious strain on your jaw, which can lead to headaches. “One study found that children and adolescents who stopped chewing gum experienced significant improvement in their chronic headaches,” says Sara Crystal, a medical advisor for Cove, a company that tailors prescription migraine remedies to your needs and mails them directly to you. And, Crystal adds, the artificial sweeteners in many sugarless gums can actually make headaches worse.
4. Getting Too Much Sleep: When you have a migraine, the only thing you may want to do is retreat to a dark room and shut your eyes. And while this can be exactly what you need, be careful not to let your sleep schedule get too off track. “Many people find that they have headaches on weekends, and while multiple factors may play a role, one culprit to consider is sleeping too much. It’s important not only to get enough sleep, but to maintain consistent waking and sleeping times, within approximately one hour,” Crystal advises.
Something to note: Sleeping more than your normal number of hours could mean that you’re deficient in certain vitamins, which can cause headaches, Zhong says. In that case, be sure to consult a doctor or nutritionist.
5. Changes in Your Birth Control: Suddenly stopping or starting birth control or switching to a new prescription can cause hormones like progesterone and estrogen to fluctuate, a common migraine trigger, Crystal explains. “Sometimes these headaches persist even after hormone levels stabilize,” Crystal says, which would be a reason to check in with your OB/GYN to make sure the BC you’re on is the right one for you.
6. Grief or Emotional Distress: If you think about it, this isn’t that surprising. If high stress is a major cause of migraines, then periods of sadness, depression, or grief may also trigger headaches. In these situations, the sympathetic nerve causes people to go into “fight mode,” Zhong says. “When this happens, the G.I. system slows, causing you to not feel hungry. The lack of food consumption can result in a migraine,” she adds. It makes sense: During highly emotional times, you probably don’t have an appetite, but starting with small meals frequently throughout the day may help you get back on track.
7. Having Sex: But you don’t have to go turning your partner down tonight. According to Crystal, sex can sometimes cause a tension headache due to strain on the muscles in the back of your head and neck, or simply from the exertion of the activity. We can’t change anything about the cardio boost sex gives you, but if your head and neck are killing you when you’re post-coital, switch up your positions until you find one that’s more comfortable, Crystal says.
What is usually your telltale sign that you’re getting a migraine? Tell us @BritandCo.
(Photo via Getty)