If you’ve ever had a migraine headache, you know why they’re in a completely different category. For people whose migraines are recurring, life can be put on hold whenever one kicks in. A lot of people have certain triggers that can set off a full-blown migraine. Learning your personal triggers is the first step for how to prevent migraines. Once you know these triggers, avoiding them can avoid them starting altogether. 

Sleep 

Many triggers have to do with lifestyle choices we make like our diet and sleep routines. Manipulating these can help identify triggers and make changes that will make migraines less common. 

One of these triggers is sleep. Times where we get a drastically different amount of sleep than normal can trigger a migraine headache. This can be getting much less or much more sleep than usual. Try to maintain a consistent sleep schedule, going to bed and waking up within the same hour each night and day. 

Diet 

There are a couple ways diet can trigger migraines in those prone to getting them. First,  going too long in between meals leads to a drop in blood sugar that can be a migraine trigger in some people. This includes methods like intermittent fasting, which are great for other health benefits but can be a migraine trigger. Try adding small snacks between meals to see if it makes a difference. 

12 to 60% of migraine sufferers report that certain foods trigger their migraines. You can try an elimination diet, eliminating common trigger foods one at a time. When you find one that causes improvements when eliminated, there’s a trigger that you can stop eating to help prevent migraines. Common food triggers include:

  • Artificial sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Dairy 
  • MSG
  • Processed meats 

Keeping Track

Many professionals recommend keeping a journal around frequency, duration and severity of your migraines. Trying to think back on the last few you had can be difficult, and that makes it harder to avoid triggers. This is because you often don’t remember the circumstances surrounding your last migraine. After you recover from a migraine, write down the details of what you ate that day, how you slept, what you did and what environments you were in. Doing this can help you see patterns and give ideas for how to prevent migraines.

MyFitnessPal can help with the food side of things. This way you can scroll back to any given day and easily view the foods you ate that day. 

Medication for Preventing Migraines

If you get four or more migraines in a month and lifestyle changes aren’t helping, medication might be the route for you to prevent them moving forward. These medications lessen the frequency, severity and duration of migraines. Sometimes, by the time we notice a migraine coming on and take a pain reliever, it’s too late. These medications help prevent them in the first place, and manage pain better when they do happen. See your doctor to find one for you. Some commonly prescribed types of drugs include anti-seizure meds, beta blockers, antidepressants, CGRP inhibitors, Triptans and even Botox. There are other medical devices that serve as migraine interventions, so ask your doctor what the best route is for you in terms of how to prevent migraines.