12 Reasons You Might Have a Migraine (Besides Hormones)

Updated: Jun. 08, 2021

Migraines affect nearly 20 percent of the population. But why exactly do we get them?

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You consume “trigger” foods

According to the National Headache Foundation (NHF), foods such as aged cheese and processed meats contain preservatives that may trigger migraine headaches. However, the foods that cause migraines often differ depending on the individual; surprising foods such as snow peas, olives, and soy sauce have reportedly triggered migraines in some people. “Be your own expert by keeping a log of the foods you have eaten before a migraine attack,” advises the NHF. Doing so can help you determine which foods to avoid in the future. Aside from tracking trigger foods, here are other home remedies for migraines.

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You drink sugary or caffeinated drinks

Sugary, caffeinated, and alcoholic drinks are also on the National Headache Foundation’s “do not consume” list. These drinks can result in dehydration and also contain preservatives that increase blood flow to the brain, both common causes of migraines. Make sure you know these sneaky signs a migraine may be coming.

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Your sleeping patterns have changed

Many migraine sufferers find that missing sleep or getting too much sleep can trigger a migraine attack. If the migraines are temporary, there’s probably no need to make a change, but if they persist it might be time to regulate your sleeping pattern. (These are the 10 unexpected reasons you keep waking up with a headache.)

Common Conditions that Affect Men and Women Differently
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You’re at risk of a stroke

If migraines are unusual for you, they could be a sign that you are having a stroke. “Migraine headaches can masquerade as a stroke because they have the same neurological symptoms,” Ralph Sacco, MD, professor of neurology at the University of Miami, told Reader’s Digest. “I tell people to treat it like a stroke and call for help; let us figure it out.” Vision problems and numbness in your arms and legs are also migraine symptoms that could signal a stroke. (Don’t miss the 16 signs your headache could mean something much worse.)

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You’re stressed out

Yes, it’s true—stress at home or work could be causing that intense, throbbing migraine pain in your skull. But here’s the good news: research has shown that meditation could be a solution to chronic migraines. One study at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center found that adults with migraines who participated in a meditation and yoga program for eight weeks had shorter and less debilitating migraine headaches than those who received standard medical care. The members of the first group also tended to have less frequent and less severe migraine attacks, and reported having a greater sense of self-control over their migraines. (Here are more ways to deal with stress-related migraines.)

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You’re sensitive to sensory stimulation

Flickering lights and strong-smelling perfumes could be triggering your migraine. A study published in Nature Neuroscience found that when the membranes around the central and nervous system get irritated, pain receptors are stimulated in the brain. For sensitivity to light, wearing sunglasses—even at night—can limit this irritation.

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You have hidden heart problems

Studies have found that those who suffer from frequent migraines could be more prone to vascular problems like heart attacks and heart disease. Researchers stress the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle that lowers high blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as quitting smoking. If it’s not a migraine, here are 13 surprising things that may trigger a headache.

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You’re dehydrated

Migraines can strike when your body loses too much water. Make sure you are drinking the recommended 2.5 to 3.5 liters of water per day to decrease your risk of a migraine attack.


You have a brain tumor

If nausea, vomiting, motor weakness, or changes in memory, personality, or thinking accompany your migraine, you could be at risk for a brain tumor or brain cancer. Talk to your doctor right away if your migraine worsens.

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You’re near bad weather

Certain weather patterns are associated with the onset of migraines, according to researchers at the University of Cincinnati. Their study found that migraines were 28 percent more likely to occur when lightning struck, perhaps due to electromagnetic changes. (Here’s how science says you can predict when you’ll get a migraine.)

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You have caffeine withdrawal

Although caffeine withdrawal is commonly known as a migraine trigger, researchers aren’t quite sure what causes the headache. Some believe it may be due to a signaling chemical, called adenosine, whose receptors are typically blocked by caffeine intake. But caffeine headaches don’t normally occur unless the individual has been used to drinking many cups of coffee a day, according to everydayhealth.com. Thankfully, caffeine withdrawal only lasts for a few days, and cutting back on caffeine gradually instead of quitting cold turkey can limit the painful side effects of withdrawal.

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You’re genetically inclined to have migraines

Sometimes, all you can do is chalk up your migraines to your genes. A 2013 study at the University of California, San Francisco linked migraines with a certain genetic mutation in humans. It found that a significant proportion of migraine sufferers in the families they studied either had the mutation or were the offspring of a mutation carrier. Next, learn more about the different types of migraines you can get.