How to Avoid a Migraine Before it Happens

Written by Leigh Reason and Tricia Kinman | Published on March 10, 2015
Medically Reviewed by The Healthline Medical Team on March 10, 2015

There are certain triggers that cause migraines, such as food, hormonal shifts and even bright sunlight. Find out what your weaknesses are to avoid feeling the pain.

How to Prevent Migraines

Nearly 36 million Americans suffer from migraine headaches, according to the Migraine Research Foundation. If you’re one of these people, you know the annoying and sometimes debilitating symptoms they can cause. Nausea, dizziness, vomiting, and sensitivity to light, sound and odors are some of the unpleasant problems that can accompany a severe headache. By identifying and avoiding specific triggers, you can minimize your chances of suffering from a migraine.

Read on to learn how to avoid a migraine before it begins.

Avoid Loud Noises and Bright Lights

Loud noises, flashing lights (e.g. strobe lights), and sensory stimulation are common triggers for migraine headaches. These stimuli may be difficult to avoid, but certain situations like driving at night, movie theaters, clubs or crowded venues, and glare from the sun are common environments that may cause migraines. Take breaks from the TV or computer screen to rest your eyes, and adjust the brightness levels on digital screens. Pay close attention to all visual and audio disturbances, and make sure you can easily avoid them if a migraine arises.

Pay Attention to Food Choices

According to the Mayo Clinic, certain foods, like chocolate, red wine and dark-colored alcohol, processed meats, sweeteners, and cheese, can initiate headaches. Know which foods and additives bring about a headache for you and learn to avoid them. Foods and drinks with caffeine or alcohol (especially red wines or champagne), are common triggers, so limit the amount you consume during the day, or avoid them altogether if need be.

Keep a Headache Diary

By keeping a diary, you can easily identify your specific migraine triggers. Keep note of what you eat and drink, your exercise routine and schedule, the weather, strong feelings and emotions you may be having, your medications and their side effects, and times and severity of your headaches. This can help you see a pattern in your migraine occurrences, and will make avoiding one easier.

Women: Beware of Hormonal Changes

Hormones play a significant role in terms of migraines. Many women tend to experience more migraine headaches during (or just before) their menstrual period. Women should be especially vigilant with their diet and exercise habits during this time. This will ease symptoms before they begin. According to the Mayo Clinic, oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy may increase the frequency and severity of migraines. Some women may find relief by switching to another form of birth control, while others may find they have fewer migraines while taking birth control.

Take Supplements

Although migraines can be treated with or without medications, it’s important to get the proper nutrients. Taking certain herbs and minerals may help ward off migraines. Magnesium deficiency has been shown to contribute to the onset of migraines, so taking a daily supplement may help reduce outbursts. However, the Mayo Clinic reports that the results from these studies have been mixed. Discuss with your doctor about herbal remedies and other nonprescription supplements that may ease your symptoms.

Pay Attention to the Weather

Changes in the weather can impact your migraine patterns. High humidity and hot temperatures can stimulate headaches, as well as rainy days. If the weather becomes uncomfortable for you, you may need to step inside and take a break from the outdoors. Of course you can’t always avoid going outside, but you can minimize your time spent in certain, headache-inducing weather.

Eat and Sleep on a Regular Schedule

Fasting or skipping meals can trigger migraine headaches. Make sure you eat within an hour after waking up and then every three to four hours. Hunger and dehydration both cause migraines, so make sure you are drinking enough water, and never skip a meal.

Lack of sleep can also aggravate symptoms, so make sure you clock in at least seven to eight hours. Even getting too much sleep can cause headaches, so don’t try to make up for lost sleep by snoozing too long.

Avoid Stress

Although we can't always control stressful situations, we can control how we react to them. Migraines are a common result of stressful events. Relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, and biofeedback can help reduce levels of stress.

Regulate Exercise

Regular exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. But intense exercise, like weight lifting, can trigger headaches.

Pay attention to your body’s response to certain activities. Opt for activities that promote stress reduction without putting too much strain on the body, such as yoga, light aerobics, or tai chi. Taking anti-inflammatory drugs prior to exercise may help ease symptoms.

Tips to Remember

Learning to avoid your specific triggers and planning ahead are an important part of keeping your migraines under control. By catching them early, you can avoid the most severe symptoms.

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