What Are The Most Common Triggers For Migraines?

Have you ever had your migraine triggers properly assessed?

Studies show that up to 100% relief can be found through removal of triggers. That’s HUGE!

What is a trigger?

A migraine trigger is a substance or circumstance that causes the onset of a migraine usually within a few hours to a few days. Some foods can take up to 3 or 4 days to trigger a migraine.

Migraine triggers can include weather changes, hormonal changes, mental emotional stress, allergies, food sensitivities and intolerances, food additives, alcohol, caffeine, exhaustion, physical activity or tension, medications and over stimulation of the senses.

Why do we have triggers?

Triggers, in my opinion are the wrong word for many of the substances and circumstances that cause migraines. A trigger implies something that is set in stone and will cause a migraine when it occurs.

In many cases we find triggers to actually just be the straw that broke the camel’s back. Lets call this the “threshold”.

A trigger is usually a stress on the body that is just a little more then it can handle and process effectively. When our body is pushed past our “threshold” it creates an inflammatory response by the body to try and remedy the situation.

Our body only has a few ways of dealing with an almost infinite number of stresses and the main one is inflammation. This inflammation then aggravates the circulation in our brains and creates a sort of swelling that triggers our sensory system to release a pain response.

Other symptoms of this inflammatory process include auras, exhaustion, cravings, nausea etc.

Of course some triggers are poisons, such as MSG, that should be completely avoided and even if we become healthy enough to be able to ingest it without triggering, it is still causing mayhem in our bodies.

How do we find our triggers?

Triggers can be found in a variety of ways such as an allergy tests, elimination diets, muscle testing, pulse testing and experimentation.

Because our bodies sensitivities and desires are always changing, it is tough to use testing as an end all be all for finding our triggers.

For example I find when I am relaxed, well slept and hydrated that I can have that slice of cake and eat it too.

But if I have been on minimal sleep for a few days, drank caffeine to keep me energised, dehydrated because of the caffeine and extremely stressed because of deadlines I have for work then having a slice of cake is a likely trigger.

This combination of circumstances sets me up to have low stomach acid and enzyme function, poor gut strength because of the gut-brain connection and terrible blood sugar regulating because of it.

Because of the dynamic and constantly changing nature of our health it’s much more effective to log diet, exercise and sleep so that you can track your “threshold”.

When you re-establish a deep connection with your body you can monitor your own stress level and gauge where you are on the “threshold” spectrum. Using pulse testing and muscle testing helps bring our minds into our bodies and learn to listen to them.

What are the most common triggers?

The most common migraine triggers are an average of all the migraineurs and what triggers them. At the end of the day, migraine triggers are very individual to ourselves and can vary widely between people. We must remember the “threshold” to not get obsessive about triggers and end up living in a bubble.

Some foods, if ingested regularly, become seen by the body as pathogens or hostile which causes our body to create antibodies to them. This will cause our body to attack that food and anywhere it is (think of our guts, causing leaky gut OR if we have leaky gut then food particles can end up in our joint and our bodies will attack our joints)

The most commonly found triggers:

Food sensitivities and intolerances including the Big Eight and Cross Reactions

– The big eight are the most common allergenic foods and more likely to be headache triggers.

– They include eggs, fish, milk, nuts(from trees), peanuts, shellfish, soy and wheat.

– There are many more sensitivities such as orange juice and cured meats that are individual to each person.

– Cross reactions are a very common problem because we generally find people having some level of compromised gut function and “leaky gut” which means food particles can end up in our bloodstream and trigger our immune system to attack them. This in turn causes our body to attack parts of itself like our joints and intestines. Even if we remove this food, sometimes our body will identify foods that are in the same family to the intolerant foods and attack them to.

– For example if you are allergic to wheat then your body might also create an immune reaction to other grains or to its own thyroid gland because of some of the compounds in wheat having a large similarity to thyroid tissue.

Hormonal changes

Hormones are produced by our glands which are very very sensitive organs. They can easily be affected by stresses and chemicals.

Hormonal changes occur when we have been under stress, nutrient loss(such as when we have compromised digestive systems), as well as different times in our life such as menses, puberty, menopause and illnesses.

These changes are often severe and trigger migraines when our body doesn’t have the resources to keep them properly regulated and within normal ranges.

This is one of the reasons that eating lots of high quality fats and cholesterols is actually very good for you because all of our hormones are made from them.

Weather changes

Weather changes such as fluctuations in temperature, incoming storms and barometric pressure drops are common threshold factors especially if we have problems with mucus, our sinuses , ears or throat.

Storms can sometimes be detected by sensitive people hours and even days before they show up and it’s a natural part of life.

When we aren’t healthy enough to adjust our bodies balance with these changes they can often end up triggering our migraines.

Blood sugar imbalances

Blood sugar imbalances are often caused because of improper diet structure, as well as poor fasting capability, exhausted body systems, low hormone levels and a lack of entering into ketosis.

Diets should be balanced to maintain energy for atleast 4-5 hours after meals, if you are getting tired, yawning , bloating between them then they are not balanced.

Fasting has been used since the beginning of time for not only getting through periods of famine but also to optimize the body and create more efficiency through healing different systems. When we fast for extended periods of time from hours to days we enter into ketosis.

Ketosis means our body switches from burning carbohydrates for energy to burning fats. This process breaks fat down in the liver into ketones, the main of which is called butyrate. Butyrate is an extremely potent antioxidant and anti inflammatory and helps lower total body inflammation that is necessary for migraineurs.

If our hormone levels are low because of exhaustion and improper diet then fasting may not be comfortably possible at first. You should speak with your healthcare provider first before starting any new dietary plan or fast.

Food additives and preservatives

There has been thousands of new chemicals added to the food supply to improve flavor, shelflife and other benefits to the products.

Oftentimes, our bodies do not recognize these chemicals and create adverse reactions to them. Some of these can also be found as natural parts of some foods but cause adverse reactions especially in migraineurs. The most common is MSG as it’s a well known migraine trigger but others include:

– artificial sweeteners

– sulfites

– nitrates/nitrites

– soy/wheat/milk/corn extracts

– processed sugars

– biogenic amines

– glutamates

– trans fats

The easiest way to limit intake of these is to eat fresh whole unprocessed foods. Try and go organic especially for meats and get it as close to the farm as possible.

Caffeine and alcohol

Caffeine and alcohol are both quite stressful on the body and require being in a very good place to process them without side effects most of which of the time its not possible.

They create inflammation, exhaust your adrenal system, dehydrate the body, take the nervous system, act as emotional crutches and cover up the effects of meals and if the meal was a good balance and fit for you.

Whenever possible avoid them, and especially for the beginning of a healing journey caffeine and alcohol have been shown to push the “threshold”.


Dehydration is commonly known to trigger migraines but is not commonly known that the majority of people are statistically dehydrated. This explains why renal disease is at an all time high. Our body requires water and hydration for every single biochemical function of which there are billions every second.

Half of your body weight(lbs) in ounces of water should be drank every day. This water should be clean and pure and not contain run off that’s usually found in most tap waters.

Things like chlorine, fluoride, estrogens, and heavy metals are huge organ disruptors and will tax the body’s resources lowering your “threshold”.

Nerve irritation and muscle tension

This is commonly found in industrialized countries where we sit for long periods of time with bad ergonomics and posture, lack magnesium in our diets to relax muscles and have a whole host of other problems that lead to bad posture, muscle tension and eventually with the wrong movement, migraines. A physical health professional should be seen such as a chiropractor, osteopath or NUCCA certified specialist.


Mary wakes up in the morning, unrefreshed again. She skips breakfast because it will just make her more tired. Gets to work and grabs a coffee to get out of the fog. A few hours pass and she’s starving because she skipped breakfast and is craving something sweet and chocolatey to wind her up. She grabs something quick because she’s in a rush and doesn’t want to get tired from a meal. It usually consists of an apple and a bagel. After lunch she feels exhausted and grabs another coffee to perk her back up. Around 3-4pm shes got another craving and grabs a granola bar then heads home. When she gets home she has so much to do before bed she doesn’t gets hungrier and hungrier. Eventually she has a late dinner around 9-10pm and then gets a terrible craving around midnight with which she has some chocolate to satisfy her.

Does this sound familiar? Do you see anything wrong with it?Every day millions of people around the world go through this process. They skip proper meals and end up getting cravings and having to take sugary caffeinated pick me ups that wind up their bodies and blood pressure.

This is a fast track down the road to serious disease, exhaustion and chronic health problems. What could she do instead? Meal prep her days meals with nutritious meals full of protein and healthy fats. This staves away the cravings and maintains her blood sugar and energy levels. When she wants a snack instead she can bring some dark chocolate covered almonds to work to give her a slow trickle of nutrients and energy instead of a fast carbohydrate that picks her up and drops her wanting more. And get to sleep on time, theres nothing more valuable for raising the “threshold” then getting adequate quality sleep.


Parasitic, fungal, bacterial and viral infections are much more common than we give them credit for. They can literally attach themselves to our nervous systems to make us crave junk foods and snacks to feed themselves. They will exhaust our bodies and change the rhythms of of day to suit themselves. It starts with eating high quality food and giving our bodies proper rest, this usually solves it but testing and a specialized protocol might be needed to help them leave us.


Allergies are largely a problem of our modern day and age. We have compromised our digestive and eliminatory systems and clogged our  livers up with more problems than solutions. After a certain point that our livers can’t handle it, our immune system begins to take over and creates allergies to all sorts of substances. My mom once told me she was even allergic to bullshit.

Many allergies can be solved through the systemic healing of the body. Applying holistic principles and slowly reducing the overall stress load of the body. As the body gets stronger, our “threshold” goes down and our reactions to allergies because less and less.

The most crucial allergenic that needs to be watched for is mold spores. Any area that has had water damage or mold damage should not be lived in. Mold spores are microscopic but can completely incapacitate the immune system and cripple our health. If it smells mold, get out. Even one exposure to a lot of mold spores depending on the species can trigger illnesses.

How do we eliminate our triggers?

Eliminating triggers begins with stopping the introduction of the trigger and all similar substances in our bodies. Some triggers are simply poisons(like MSG) that shouldn’t be ingested.

Just as with everything else, we approach the body holistically and lower its stresses. We get out of its way and let it heal itself. 

– Begin with lowering mental and emotional stresses such as bad workplace environments and familial settings. 

– Then include restorative activities such as working in, tai chi, yoga and increase sleep times

– Find a diet that sustains your energy, gives you strength, removes triggers and add in healing foods such as bone broths.

– Tackle environmental stresses and triggers such as lights while sleeping, mold, chemicals in the environment, additives in foods, poor postural supports etc.

– Cover the foundation principles to migraine health 

– Find your constitutional homeopathic remedy and consult a holistic health care practitioner

What do we do once we know our triggers?

Remove them and work towards specifically healing the causes of each one. Sometimes there can be multiple causes for our triggers and they can be things that we wouldn’t make the connection between at all so consulting a Holistic Health Care Practitioner is crucial to saving time, money and energy.

If it’s mostly food triggers then work on healing the digestive and adrenal systems.

If its weather or infections then look at healing the digestive and immune systems.

If it’s mental emotional stress then look at healing the adrenal and hormonal systems.

If it’s blood sugar imbalances then look at healing the adrenal and hormonal systems.

Are our triggers off limits forever?

Sometimes. Sometimes we just have to accept the fact that the foods we are eating are poison. Other times we can make a few steps towards bringing down our “threshold” and our bodies are very forgiving.

Healing or hormonal, digestive and adrenal systems can give us many food intolerances and sensitivities back as well as lower our threshold to the point where we are not triggered by things we used to be.

How do we heal ourselves so that we can still enjoy some of our delicious triggers?

– Start with the foundation principles

– Create a deeper connection to yourself and your body and be authentic with what you are creating in your life.

– Use what was described above to heal yourself, because nobody else can do it for you and we just support you in doing it

– If you want to save time , money and energy then consult a Holistic Health Practitioner to get to the root cause and find solutions fast.

If you have questions or would like to learn more about a holistic approach to migraines then click HERE and schedule a FREE 30 minute migraine relief strategy call.

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Mark Canadic

Mark Canadic

Holistic Health Practitioner

Mark Canadic is a writer, speaker, holistic health practitioner and migraine community leader. Read Mark’s inspiring comeback story, “My Burnout and Brain Fires that Lead me to the Root.” Feel free to send Mark a message here.

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The FREE 5 Most Common Mistakes Of Hormonal Migraines E-Guide teaches you:

– Why hormones are the most important focus around why your migraines and headaches keep triggering

– How PMS is common but NOT normal and why it needs to be addressed to be pain free in the long term

– The 5 most common mistakes why hormones stay broken, why so many women become migraine free with pregnancy and why birth control is not a solution