In about 30 percent of migraine sufferers, certain foods and beverages can induce a headache. Alcohol is a common migraine trigger, especially wine. People frequently cite caffeine or caffeine withdrawal, chocolate, certain kinds of beans and nuts, processed meats, and some food additives as triggers. If you think a certain food or beverage could be linked to your headaches, consider limiting it or cutting it out of your diet to see if that makes a difference.
Stress is associated with migraine. If you have a lot of stress in your life, or if your headaches seem to be associated with specific stressful events, consider ways to lower that stress as much as possible. Release from stress (e.g., vacation, the weekend) is also a recognized migraine trigger.
Exercise can be a particularly good way to help prevent migraine headaches. Research has shown that exercising on a regular basis can make headaches less likely and may lower headache severity when they do happen. Mind/body practices, such as yoga and tai chi, can be quite useful in managing migraine, too.
If you catch them early, occasional migraine headaches typically respond to medication. Over-the-counter painkillers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, may be all you need for mild to moderate migraine headaches. If taken too often or for too long, over-the-counter migraine medications could lead to other problems, such as ulcers, gastrointestinal bleeding and rebound headaches. When taken occasionally, however, they are generally safe and may provide you some relief.
Prescription medications are effective for more severe migraine attacks. Preventive anti-migraine medications are available for patients with frequent, severe migraine headaches that don’t respond to acute therapy.
If you try these strategies and find that you still get the same amount of headaches, consider making an appointment to see your doctor. He or she may be able to recommend additional lifestyle changes or discuss the role medication could play in managing your headaches. -- Robert Sheeler, M.D., Family Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.
(Medical Edge from Mayo Clinic is an educational resource and doesn’t replace regular medical care. E-mail a question to email@example.com. For more information, visit www.mayoclinic.org.)