Patient Blogs | Migraine
What I Do to Manage Migraine Triggers
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I don’t know if I was born with a personality well-suited for a routine lifestyle or became this way out of necessity. Either way, here I am. My everyday life is on the consistent side of the spontaneity scale. Consistency is a helpful tool in determining migraine triggers.

When a migraine episode strikes, I ask myself, “What was different about today or yesterday?” The answer often provides a good clue to tracking down the culprit responsible for setting off the chain reaction resulting in painful consequences and loss of precious time.

Many people use journaling to keep track of weather conditions, sleep patterns, foods eaten, smells encountered, etc. Nowadays, there are apps to make journaling easier no matter where you are or what you are doing. If I was less strict in following my daily routines, I’m sure I would utilize the diary technique to figure out my triggers.

Food triggers have been the toughest for me to nail down. I love food. A wide variety of foods find their way to my dinner plate. Back in my younger years of struggling with migraine illness, I consulted an old-fashioned paper list of possible food triggers whenever a migraine hit.

Sometime in the ’90s, I went to a migraine lunch-and-learn seminar put on by the Kansas University School of Medicine. One of the handouts was a multi-page list of foods known to be possible migraine triggers. For many years, I consulted that trusty list to nail down my major and minor food triggers.

I was always torn between my desire to track down the responsible villain and hoping I didn’t have to give up some of my favorite foods. If more moderate consumption or complete elimination of the item in question helped decrease my migraine frequency, then that item was deemed a trigger whether I was happy about it or not.

My old paper list is gone now, replaced by a computerized version, summoned with a few keystrokes when needed. I’m past the detective stage of learning about my version of migraine disease. Now in my late 50s, my efforts are focused on management based on what I know to be true for me.

Raisins and bananas are two of my biggest food triggers, although I can eat them in moderation. The largest threat from my food triggers lies in stacking, when I’m exposed to more than one trigger in a short amount of time.

My first known migraine trigger was related to food: changes in eating patterns. My mom figured this one out before we even knew my illness was an episodic neurological disease called migraine. Mom, who’s in her 80s now, is a little fuzzy on how she determined that I needed a routine schedule for eating.

The trial-and-error method was likely the route she took to get to the cause of my headaches. Regardless of the road traveled to get there, three squares a day has been the norm for me throughout all the different stages of my life.

For a logical-minded retired accountant such as myself, the trial-and-error method of figuring out my migraine triggers has worked well. I may have the tendency for a routine lifestyle imbedded in my genes, but I’ve also nurtured that tendency through learned behavior.

Migraine management is more effective because I know my triggers. Knowledge and discipline are crucial to taking power away from my migraine enemy and taking control of living the best life I can.

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Photo Credit: NickyLloyd via Getty Images

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Tammy Hader

Tammy Hader

Diagnosed since 1986

Tammy Hader has been a migraine warrior for over 5 decades. A staunch proponent of migraine management, she has developed the knowledge base to help her navigate relationships, an accounting career, and many lifecycle changes. Hader lives with her husband and cat in southcentral Kansas and enjoys writing, cooking, hiking, and football season. Follow her on Twitter, Medium and Bizcatalyst360.

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