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How To Uncover the Root Cause Of Your Migraines

How To Uncover the Root Cause Of Your Migraines

People who can identify the root causes of their migraines can work with their doctors to find the right treatments and change contributing lifestyle behaviors.

Migraines are severely painful headaches that can interfere with your day-to-day activities. These headaches can be extremely debilitating due to the way they can cause serious symptoms including vomiting, depression, and vision loss.

Migraines are a symptom of many different health conditions. This can often make it difficult for you and your doctors to find treatments that work. However, there are steps you can take to uncover the root cause so you can effectively treat your migraines and find relief.

Here’s how to identify the underlying cause of your migraines, and how to contact Lompoc Valley Medical Center when you’re ready to seek a proper diagnosis and treatment.

What Are Risk Factors For Migraines?

Anyone can get migraine headaches. However, certain factors may increase your risk.

Migraine risk factors include:

  • Being female. Migraines are three times more common in women than in men, according to a 2022 article published in JAMA. These headaches affect an estimated 17.1% of women and 5.6% of men in the U.S.
  • Having a family history of migraines.
  • Your age. Many people experience their first migraine during their teen years. Migraines tend to peak during your 30s.
  • Hormonal changes. In women, migraines commonly occur during pregnancy, and before and during menopause.

What Are Common Causes Of Migraines?

Researchers are not entirely sure what causes migraines. These headaches may be caused or triggered by many things, such as foods, genetics, and lifestyle behaviors.

Here are some of the most common causes, or triggers, of migraines:

  • Changes in brain chemicals and hormone levels. Fluctuating estrogen levels may cause migraines, as well as imbalances in serotonin. Many factors can lead to changes in brain chemicals and hormones, such as birth control pills and poor nutrition.
  • High intake of alcohol and caffeine.
  • Poorly managed stress, or chronic stress.
  • Sensitivity to bright and flashing lights, loud sounds, and strong odors.
  • Not enough sleep, or too much sleep.
  • Strenuous or high-intensity exercise and physical activity.
  • Certain medications, such as sleeping pills and over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers.
  • Certain foods, such as processed meats and those with high amounts of yeast.
  • Food preservatives and additives, such as monosodium glutamate (MSG) and aspartame.
  • Dehydration.
  • Skipping meals.
  • Too much time in front of TVs, computers, and other screens.

Steps You Can Take To Uncover the Root Cause Of Migraines

Your doctor can help you discover the root cause of your migraines. During your appointment, your doctor will review your medical history and ask you lots of questions about your lifestyle behaviors. This can help your provider learn more about the source of your headaches. Before meeting with your doctor, it may help to have a better idea about what could be causing your migraines.

Here are steps you can take to get to the root cause of your headaches.

Check Your Medications

Migraines are a side effect of many types of medications. Read all the labels on your medications to see if headaches or migraines are listed as side effects.

Medications that are known to cause migraines include:

  • OTC pain relievers, such as acetaminophen, aspirin, and ibuprofen.
  • Naproxen.
  • Triptan and ergot migraine drugs.
  • Opioids, such as codeine and oxycodone.
  • Sleeping pills.
  • Drugs that contain caffeine.
  • Birth control pills.
  • Hormone replacement therapy.
  • Nitrates.

Talk to your doctor if you think your medications may be triggering your migraines. Your doctor may try switching your medications to see if it helps. In some instances, some of your medications may be interacting with one another to cause migraines.

Drink More Water

Dehydration is a commonly overlooked cause of migraine headaches. Make a point of drinking lots more water throughout the day to see if your migraines go away. Drink less sugary drinks like sodas and fruit juices, as these may worsen your dehydration. Try to drink less alcohol, coffee, and caffeinated teas as well.

Aim to drink about 15 cups of water a day if you’re male, and about 11 cups of water a day if you’re female. If you’re highly active or spend lots of time in warm or hot temperatures, you may need more. Your doctor can also give you advice on how much water you should be drinking.

Improve Your Sleep Quality

Lack of sleep can lead to a wide range of chemical and hormone imbalances that can trigger headaches. You may get migraines if you suffer from chronic sleep deprivation—especially if you have a sleep disorder like insomnia or sleep apnea. If you have these disorders, work with your doctor to improve your symptoms so you can avoid migraines.

Poor sleep may also be caused by stress, anxiety, or an uncomfortable sleeping environment. Practice healthy stress management techniques that can help you relax before bedtime. If your bed or bedroom is too uncomfortable, try buying new, softer sheets or a new mattress, or adjust the room temperature so you can sleep more comfortably.

Change Your Diet

Certain foods can cause headaches and migraines, especially those that are high in sugar and man-made ingredients. Foods that can cause migraines include fast foods, highly processed foods, and foods that contain MSG. Cheeses and foods high in yeast have also been linked to migraines.

Modify your diet to include more fruits, vegetables, nuts, fish, beans, and low-fat dairy. Stop eating fast foods and processed foods like fried chicken, pizza, and hot dogs. Learn about the many different names and types of MSG. Yeast extract and glutamate sodium are some of the many variants of MSG.

Talk to your doctor if you need help finding out which foods may be causing your migraines. Your doctor may refer you to a nutritionist who can evaluate your current diet and make helpful suggestions.

Consume Less Caffeine

Caffeine is a stimulant that affects a natural substance in your body called adenosine. As the day goes by, adenosine binds to certain receptors in your brain to make you feel sleepy. Caffeine helps you stay alert by preventing adenosine from binding to those receptors. However, adenosine is the same substance that increases during a migraine.

Try drinking less caffeine every day, or eliminate it from your diet altogether. If your migraines stop, then you’ll know that caffeine may have been the source.

Evaluate Your Exercise Routine

High-intensity workouts have been linked to migraines. This is partly because intense workouts can sometimes cause dehydration and reduce your blood sugar levels. They can also increase your adenosine levels.

If you typically experience migraines after exercising, your workouts may be too intense. Start decreasing the intensity of your workouts. For example, if you go running, run a shorter distance or run at a slower pace. It’s also possible you’re not drinking enough water during and after your workouts or eating enough healthy foods. If necessary, consult with your doctor or a fitness trainer to learn how to have safe, productive workouts that won’t cause migraines.

Stop Smoking

Nicotine causes your blood vessels to narrow. This allows less blood to reach your brain to cause migraines.

Nicotine is also a stimulant and addictive substance that can lead to withdrawal when you don’t smoke for a period of time. Migraines are a common symptom of nicotine withdrawal. According to a 2017 study published in Clinical Case Reports, migraines that occur during nicotine withdrawal may also cause double vision.

Stop smoking as soon as possible. If you don’t smoke, never start. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about treatments and medications for smoking cessation. Medications and nicotine replacement therapy are some of the many effective treatments that can help you stop smoking.

Manage Stress and Anxiety

Long-term stress, also known as chronic stress, can often cause migraines. According to the American Migraine Foundation, nearly 70% of people who suffer from migraines say their headaches are triggered by stress.

Stress increases amounts of a stress hormone in your body called cortisol. High levels of cortisol can interfere with a wide range of bodily functions to cause many health problems, including migraines.

Stress management is essential to good overall health and well-being. There are lots of ways you can reduce stress naturally. Exercising regularly, going to bed earlier, and taking warm baths are things you can do to relax and de-stress. Spending time with your pets and loved ones can also help reduce stress.

Balance Your Hormones

Hormonal changes can sometimes trigger migraines. If you’re female, track when your migraines happen to see if they coincide with your monthly periods. If you are going through pre-menopause, migraines could occur with other symptoms like hot flashes.

Migraines may also occur with pregnancy, nursing, hormonal birth control pills, and hormone replacement therapy. Talk to your healthcare provider if any of these situations occur with your migraines. Your OB-GYN, midwife, or primary care doctor can discuss ways to prevent or avoid your headaches. You may need to switch to another birth control method or hormone therapy.

Treatment For Migraines At Lompoc Valley Medical Center

Lompoc Valley Medical Center is home to a large team of board-certified physicians who can work with you to uncover the root cause of your migraines and provide the treatment you need to start feeling better. Contact us today at (805) 737-3382 to request an appointment and learn more about our many healthcare services.