Migraines are not mere headaches: They are a serious, debilitating condition that affects 1 in 4 U.S. households. Twelve percent of the population suffers from migraines, making it the third most prevalent illness in the world, according to the Migraine Research Foundation.
What makes a migraine different from a bad headache?
A migraine is a neurological disorder accompanied by symptoms that are so severe, they are incapacitating. Researchers believe that a combination of genetics, disorders of nerve pathways and brain chemicals are main components of a migraine, and these make it different from a generic headache.
Migraine symptoms make it difficult for those affected to work, go to school, or function. These symptoms include:
- Severe pain or throbbing on one or both sides of the head
- Numbness in hands, feet or face
- Sensitivity to light, touch, sound and smell
- Visual problems/disturbances
Attacks typically last anywhere from four to 72 hours.
What are the common causes of migraines?
According to the Migraine Research Foundation, it’s important to realize that different things can trigger migraines, but they don’t cause the migraine. For this reason, what may trigger a migraine in one person won’t necessarily trigger it in another.
Triggers may include:
- Sleep difficulties or changes in sleep patterns
- Flickering lights
- Strong smells or odors related to smoke/pollution
- Motion sickness
- Bright sunlight
- Hormonal changes
Can certain foods trigger migraines?
While scientists are still studying if there are direct correlations between foods and migraines, certain foods seem to stimulate headaches or can combine with other factors to trigger a migraine.
These foods include:
- Aged cheeses – According to the Cleveland Clinic, aged cheeses have tyramine, which is formed when protein is broken down as foods age. Cheeses high in tyramine can trigger migraines. This includes cheeses such as brie, cheddar, feta, blue cheeses and Parmesan.
- Processed foods – Artificial sweeteners, MSG and nitrates can be contributing factors.
- Fresh yeast bread
- Alcohol – Red wine is high in tyramine, which can contribute to migraine problems.
- Salty foods
The Mayo Clinic also says that the absence of food – such as skipping meals or fasting – can trigger a migraine.
How can I determine the source of my migraines?
The only way to truly determine what is causing your migraine is to speak with your doctor, who may suggest keeping a migraine diary. This will help you look for any patterns and discover what triggers an attack.
The internal medicine physicians at Raleigh Medical Group take a comprehensive view of your overall health, enabling us to create a tailored plan for you. We’ll work closely with you to pinpoint the cause of your migraines and craft an effective solution.