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Avoiding Common Migraine Triggers

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Most people who have experienced the excruciating pain of chronic migraine headaches will do just about anything to alleviate the head crushing, nausea inducing, and aura creating torture. 

Seeing a doctor on a regular basis and using medications and other migraine treatments can help reduce the frequency of the headaches. In addition to this strategy, knowing and avoiding some common migraine triggers can also help prevent the onset of migraines.

Migraines occur differently for each sufferer, and what may trigger an attack for one patient may not affect another in the same way. There are five common migraine triggers that affect a large number of sufferers:

1. The amino acids tyramine or phenylethylamine in foods

These amines are taken apart in the human body by monoamine oxidase enzymes. Migraine sufferers have a low level of monoamine oxidase in their bodies, so there is a shortage that does not allow them to break down tyramine or phenylethylamine properly. These substances remain in the system and affect the blood vessels by expanding their capacity. This dilation mimics the same migraine symptoms that occur at the onset of an attack and can result in a migraine.

Common foods that contain these culprits are chocolate, aged cheeses, wine, canned soups, and other food products that have undergone fermentation, aging, or preservation.

2. Alcohol

Not only can alcohol that has been fermented contain tyramine, but it can also lead to dehydration, which is also a common trigger for migraine headaches. When the body does not get enough hydration, the waste products from certain biological processes cannot be washed away. This causes a build up that can lead to a migraine.

Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to drink water. Regularly drink between six to eight glasses of water every day to help stave off migraines brought on by alcohol prompted dehydration.

3. Hunger

Fasting or forgetting to eat can be a quick instigator of migraines. The results of extreme hunger can produce tension in the muscles and low blood sugar, both of which can be migraine triggers. Rather than completely skip meals, plan to eat small and healthy meals throughout the day to avoid getting to the point of hunger. Carry a nutritious snack around with you, preferably one that does not contain a large amount of sugar. This is handy for instances where you are not able to wait for a regular meal to stave off migraines induced by hunger.

4. Bursts of strenuous physical activity

Going full out with physical activity to the point of overexertion can cause migraine headaches. For some sufferers, even the exertion of sexual activity can trigger a migraine. The most common physical activities that instigate these headaches are those that produce intracranial pressure, such as running, aerobics, or lifting weights.

The people most susceptible to migraines brought on by exertion are chronic migraine sufferers over 40 years old, and those who are just beginning an exercise regimen while likely not in optimal physical shape. This trigger can be eliminated by engaging in lower impact exercises, like walking or bicycling. Do not completely eliminate physical activity from your daily life. Everyone needs exercise to lead a healthy lifestyle.

5. Stress

Most patients who suffer from chronic migraines probably recognize that when they are under increased stress, their migraine attacks occur more frequently. In our fast paced society where there is something needed or wanted from us around the clock, how does one reduce the stress of everyday living?

One way to reduce stress is to practice relaxation exercises. Meditate or breathe deeply while concentrating on your body’s movements, relaxing more with each exhalation. Repeat the deep breathing until you feel relaxed. These simple techniques can be performed anywhere to promote quick relief from escalating anxiety.

Changing the perception of a situation can also help to alleviate stress. Rather than viewing an occurrence in a negative light, try to find the positives in the circumstances. 

Become proactive

Having migraine attacks can change the way you experience life. Educate yourself on the situations and substances that can potentially trigger your painful condition so you can avoid them. By becoming proactive and seeking these out, you will maintain more control over your health and lifestyle. 

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