|After slicing, dip in batter and deep fry. Now you know what a migraine feels like.|
The Mayo Clinic web site, a favorite of mine for researching various maladies, doesn't offer much when it comes to the cause or causes of migraines. Mayo staff state that there's a lot we don't know about what causes migraines, but "genetics and environmental factors both seem to play a role."
According to the government’s DHHS Office of Women’s Health, “Most researchers think that migraine is due to abnormal changes in levels of substances that are naturally produced in the brain. When the levels of these substances increase, they can cause inflammation. This inflammation then causes blood vessels in the brain to swell and press on nearby nerves, causing pain.” Also, “People who get migraines may have abnormal genes that control the functions of certain brain cells.” What those gene abnormalities are remains a puzzle.
DHHS Office of Women's Health states that experts know that people with migraines react to a variety of factors and events, called triggers. These triggers can vary from person to person and don’t always lead to migraine. A combination of triggers — not a single thing or event — is more likely to set off an attack. A person’s response to triggers also can vary from migraine to migraine. Many people with migraine tend to have attacks triggered by:
- Lack of sleep
- Sleeping over long after exhaustion
- Skipped meals or lack of a regular meal schedule
- Bright lights, loud noises, or strong odors
- For women, hormone changes during the menstrual cycle
- Stress and anxiety
- Weather changes
- Alcohol (often red wine, perhaps because of sulfides)
- Caffeine or caffeine withdrawal, possibly on a weekend
- Foods that contain nitrates, such as hot dogs and lunch meats
- Foods that contain MSG (monosodium glutamate)
- Foods that contain tyramine, such as aged cheeses, soy products, fava beans, hard sausages, smoked fish, and Chianti wine
- Aspartame (NutraSweet and Equal)
- Glare or flicker from computer monitors or TV screens
- Poor ergonomics at computer causing neck strain
The best way for you to determine what's causing your migraines is to keep a headache diary, noting when you headache started, its severity, what you were doing, what you were eating/drinking in the day or two before your headaches, and what you did during your headaches to moderate its effects. Take this information to your doctor. It will help him/her prescribe a course of action for helping you deal with what can be a very troubling, even disabling health problem.