headaches migraines head pain

Common Headache/Migraine Triggers

Common Headache/Migraine Triggers are foods, environmental factors and other parts of your lifestyle that you have associated with an increase in headache activity. You may already know what your triggers are, or you might still be in the process of identifying them.

chocolate linked to migraines

Particularly with migraine, it can sometimes be tricky to tell if something is a trigger or an early symptom.

A good example of this is chocolate.

Many people report chocolate as a trigger for their migraines, however it has been shown that the association may be due to the craving for something sweet (the symptom) rather than the chocolate triggering the migraine.

Read more about that here:


Common triggers to pay attention to include:alcohol can cause headaches

  • Hormonal Changes – migraines can be linked to an increase in Oestrogen, so many women experience an increase in migraines before or during their period
  • Alcohol – can cause dehydration which can lead to headache. Withdrawal from alcohol can also produces a headache
  • Caffeine – too much or too little can produce a headache. This can explain why some people get a ‘weekend headache’ when they have a lie-in on a Sunday. Their body is used to that dose of caffeine early in the morning!
  • Sensory overstimulation – this can include bright or flashing lights, loud noises or strong smells.
  • Sleep – changes to sleeping habits can worsen or produce headaches or migraines. This includes jetlag effects of travel between timezones.
  • Intense Physical Exertion – dilation of the blood vessels of the brain can in some cases produce a migraine after intense physical activity – such as high intensity exercise or sexual intercourse
  • Weather – changes to barometric pressure or rapidly changing weather can influence headaches and migraines
  • Foods – many people notice a link with some foods and migraine. There seems to be a connection between foods high in tyrosine, including aged cheese, red wine, some fruits, chocolate, as well as some preservatives and migraine.

How do you know why you have a headache?

If you are unsure what is causing your migraines or headaches, it can be helpful to keep a headache diary.

Useful things to include in your entries are:

  • Foods eaten
  • Alcohol/caffeine consumed
  • Any activities that were outside your usual routine
  • What time the headache/migraine started
  • How long it lasted
  • What medication you took, if any, and did it work

You will need to be proactive in keeping your diary, as it usually takes a while for the migraine to begin following a trigger – so you need to know what you did yesterday!

We don’t recommend keeping a diary forever – just a snapshot. 30-60 days is usually long enough to pick up on a pattern.

headache diary journal

There are several apps that can store your diary – our favourite is Migraine Buddy. Don’t worry if you get headaches that aren’t migraines – this is equally applicable to you!

You can find migraine buddy in the App Store here:


and on Google Play for Android here:


Do you find it helpful to track your triggers? Do you know what your plan is once you’ve got the beginnings of a headache or migraine? Click here to read about a headache action plan.