What Causes Migraines

What Causes Migraines

While migraines still largely remain a mystery to doctors and scientists, there have been some explanations offered for what causes migraines. Generally, it is understood that the pain associated with migraine is derived from the fact that cerebral blood vessels dilate – become wider. However, it has also been suggested that the neurotransmitter serotonin also plays a part in this dilation process.

Serotonin is usually the neurotransmitter that most people come across in relation to depression, as a lack of serotonin was originally thought to cause depression. However, in relation to migraines, excess serotonin in the region of certain blood vessels within the brain can be the cause of the dilation process that is associated with migraines.

What is not known is why the serotonin levels reach such high levels in these brain regions of migraine patients or exactly how it happens.

While the medical community try to work out what is going on in the brains of migraine patients, many sufferers are looking into their own symptoms and their own lifestyles and diets to see if they can find anything that triggers their migraines.

While the exact mechanism by which this happens is not known, many factors have been suggested as a possible trigger for migraines in many people. Some people have what are known as “photosensitive” migraines whereby they get a migraine in response to witnessing flashing lights or for spending too long staring at a computer screen, for example.

Many migraines sufferers may find that cutting certain foods out of their diet has helped reduce their migraines somewhat. Foods such as chocolate and dairy – particularly cheese – have come up time and time again as possible triggers of migraines.

Generally, foods that contain large quantities of a substance called Tyramine are thought to play some role in the triggering of migraines. These include things such as canned soups, dates, figs, kiwi, nuts, tofu and tomatoes.

Another school of thought suggests that migraines can generally be triggered as a sensitivity to foods that contain lots of food additives an preservatives. The more natural the food, the better it will be for you; is the advice that some are suggesting.

Foods high in nitrates and MSG (monosodium glutamate) are common food additives and are constantly being researched in respect to being triggers of migraines.

Coffee is being touted more and more as a one of the cheapest cures for migraines. While the caffeine in coffee may not be considered as a very strong or specific drug, it has been shown to decrease the effect of the dilation of blood vessels in the brain and some people swear by a cup of strong coffee when they get an aura or feel a migraine coming on.


There is no right answer to all of these theories and so a migraine sufferer just needs to look at their own lifestyle, habits and diet and see what works for them. Like with any ailment, it is important to look for patterns and examining your own life to see what may be leading to the problem.

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