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Causes of a Migraine Headache

There are many triggers that can lead to a migraine headache...

What is a migraine headache?

Anyone who suffers from migraine headaches will tell you that they are not just a headache. Migraines can vary from being moderate to severe and tend to last longer than a normal headache, averaging from around two hours up to 72 hours!

Migraine headaches often have several other accompanying symptoms that make you feel so much worse, and include sensitivity to light, a feeling of nausea or actual vomiting, and experiencing ‘flashing lights’ before your eyes. Migraines are always unpleasant, but bad migraines can be really debilitating.

What causes a migraine headache?

Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer as to what causes a migraine headache. There is no reliable diagnostic test to see if you will suffer from migraines or to predict when one may occur and sadly, there is as yet no cure for a migraine headache.

Research taken into the causes of a migraine headache has identified a number of triggers in different people that can lead to a migraine, but the exact triggers vary from one individual to another.

Triggers of a migraine headache

There are several triggers of a migraine headache, with some being more common than others. However, migraine triggers can be broadly split into these different categories:

One of the most common types of migraine triggers is emotional imbalance or stress. Migraine sufferers often report that a migraine can occur at times of stress when they are worried or tense or experiencing anger. Conversely, the happier emotion of excitement can also lead to a migraine attack.

Many migraine sufferers have particular foods that will trigger a migraine headache. The most common foods associated with migraines are cheese, chocolate and coffee. However, there are several other foods that are known as migraine triggers and include citrus fruits, onions, seafood and wheat. Drinking coffee is often associated with a migraine, but any drink containing caffeine, such as tea, can have the same effect, as can alcoholic drinks, particularly red wine and sherry. Many of these foods and drinks are high in histamine, involved in our immune response, which also seems to be involved in migraine headaches.

Physical stress can also often lead to a migraine headache. This is most often associated with over-tiredness from late nights, a change in sleeping pattern, or over-exertion. Many migraine sufferers report migraines when travelling which is unsurprising as long-haul travel often involves the other symptoms mentioned!

Environmental factors can often lead to a migraine. Many migraine sufferers become sensitive to light when having a migraine, but bright light or flickering and flashing lights can often be the trigger for a migraine. Loud environments or loud noise is also often a migraine trigger. Your sense of smell can often be a trigger for a migraine as intense, penetrating smells can trigger a migraine and being in a smoky room is also often a cause of a migraine. Many sufferers report that changes in climate can cause a migraine. A change in humidity or temperature when bad weather occurs can trigger a migraine, which is believed to be due to a sensitivity to the change in pressure.

There are also several hormonal triggers that can lead to a migraine. PMS and menstruation makes it more likely that you will suffer from a migraine. Likewise, other hormonal changes such as going through puberty, pregnancy and the menopause are all times when there is a heightened likelihood of suffering from a migraine.

There are other more isolated triggers for a migraine headache which can be associated with a particular incident. Having toothache can often lead to a migraine, people suffering from sinusitis are prone to migraines and eye strain is often an attributing factor to a migraine attack, for example.

How to prevent a migraine headache naturally

Although there is no cure for migraines so far, they can be treated with painkillers. However, many sufferers would prefer not to experience a migraine in the first place.

Many migraine suffers will recognise some or all of the triggers mentioned so far, and the best advice to avoid a migraine is to try and avoid those triggers – or combination of triggers – that can lead to a migraine.

The NHS also recommends that you try and lead a healthy lifestyle which includes taking regular exercise, getting the correct amount of sleep and limiting the amount of caffeine and alcohol that you consume.

There are also other natural remedies that may help to reduce the chances of having a migraine.

The Feverfew herb has been used for headaches since at least the 17th Century when the famous herbalist Nicholas Culpepper wrote “It is very effectual for all pains in the head” and it is said to provide ‘mild and transient’ benefits resulting in fewer migraine headaches per month. Feverfew also appears to block the release of histamine and helps widen blood vessels, helping to reduce severity of migraine attacks.

Feverfew is found in MigraHerb Migraine Relief, a traditional herbal medicinal product used for the prevention of migraine headaches exclusively based upon long-standing use as a traditional remedy. It should only be taken by patients who have been diagnosed with migraine by their doctor. Always read the label.

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