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4 Common Causes of Migraines

While most headache sufferers are aware of foods that cause migraines, there are some unexpected triggers you may not know about. Following are four common migraine triggers.

1. Food triggers

Tyramines, an amino acid found in foods like aged cheeses (blue, cheddar) as well as aged and dried meat like sausage and pepperoni, can trigger migraine headaches.

Other food triggers include additives or preservatives like MSG, Nitrites, and Sulfites (commonly found in wine). Finally, certain individuals can be allergic to soy products, and any variety of nuts.

2. Hormonal imbalances

Estrogen receptors are plentiful in the brain and play a significant role in the activation of other neurotransmitters including dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. This helps explain the mood changes in relation to a woman’s menstrual cycle, but what about headaches?

In relation to headaches, estrogen can directly affect blood flow in the brain. Chronic sources of excess estrogen from foods like soy or medications like the birth control pill can cause an excessive estrogen state in the brain. Moreover, regular cyclical fluctuations associated with ovulation and menstruation can trigger headaches.

From Medscape:

“By binding to receptors in the endothelium, estrogen stimulates the release of nitric oxide, which causes vasodilation.” Vasodilation accounts for the throbbing pain associated with migraines.”

 3. Genetic Predisposition

In 2010 the a collaboration of research professionals identified the “first ever genetic factor associated with common types of migraine.” It would seem that those individuals who have “a particular DNA variant on Chromosome 8 between two genes—PGCP and MTDH/AEG-1—have a significantly greater risk for developing migraine.

4. Chronic muscle tension

In many individuals who suffer from migraines, there is an additional component of chronic muscle tension in the neck and shoulder region. Muscle tightness in the neck can directly increase pressure in the back of the head and jaw. This tightness can radiate over the top of the head to the eyes and forehead. Further contributing to headaches may be stress, which triggers muscle tension, as well as repetitive stress associated with working at the computer, driving, and job-related activities.

Treatment option

Acupuncture can be extremely helpful at relieving headache symptoms in real time (as they present) and also preventing future headaches. First and foremost, relieving tension in the neck, jaw, shoulders, and upper back can remove one headache trigger. Relieving stress, improving sleep, and supporting energy are also benefits of acupuncture treatment over time. Finally, optimizing the endocrine system (hormonal balance) can reduce both the severity and frequency of headaches.

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