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What can give me a headache?

Many headache sufferers experience headache attacks more frequently following certain types of exposures or events, called triggers. Identifying and modifying headache triggers can help reduce headache frequency and eliminate the need for medications.

Certain exposures or events can activate, or bring on, a headache. Triggers include certain foods, climate or environmental changes, emotional states, physiological states, or for women, hormonal cycles.

Food triggers include:
  • aged cheese and other dairy products
  • alcohol
  • broad beans, peas, and lentils
  • caffeine
  • chocolate
  • nuts
  • peanut butter
  • pickles
  • pickled food
  • processed meat (hot dog and sausage, products containing nitrites)
Environmental triggers include:
  • a change in temperature
  • a change in humidity
  • a change in altitude (including air travel)
  • bright light, glare (including computer monitor)
  • loud noise
  • strong odor
Emotional triggers include:
  • anger
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • excitement
  • stress
Physiological triggers include:
  • exercise
  • eyestrain
  • fasting or missing a meal
  • fatigue
  • lack of sleep
  • motion
  • oversleeping
Hormonal triggers for women
  • birth control pills
  • estrogen and/or hormone supplement
  • hormonal change
  • menstruation
  • ovulation
  • pregnancy

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.