Prevention comes before Cure

Migraine sufferers miss out on many things due to the pain and discomfort caused by having a migraine. In a previous blog, we talked about ways to treat migraines after the pain has already begun. 

In this post, we want to share ways to avoid migraine triggers – after all, if a migraine never happens, you won’t miss out on anything! 

Being able to identify and avoid migraine triggers can make a huge difference in your ability to enjoy life. Here are three things you can look out for. 

1. Caffeine... Really

It’s true that some migraine medications are caffeine-based and may stop a migraine attack. However, regular high caffeine intake (1) has been somewhat linked to chronic migraines. 

Long term use of caffeine can cause an increase in adenosine which signals increased blood flow (vasodilation) in some areas of the brain. This increased blood flow is also present during migraines. If the blood vessels are already dilated due to caffeine consumption, then taking medications like Imitrex, Zomig, or Axert, could be less effective (2).  Scientist believe the prolonged effects of caffeine may work against this group of migraine medications known as Triptans.

Avoiding caffeine won’t prevent migraines completely, but cutting caffeine out entirely, will make your migraine treatments work faster and you’ll feel better sooner.  

Caffeine Withdrawal

If you choose to come off caffeine completely, be prepared for ‘rebound’ headaches, especially around 2-5 days after you stop caffeine.  It takes 2 weeks to be completely free of caffeine’s effects, but the worst of the withdrawal effects pass after 6-7 days.  

Should you still stop caffeine even if you don’t take Triptan medications?  

If avoiding caffeine reduces vasodilation then stopping caffeine seems like a good idea. 

2. Staying Up Too Late

In the time of Netflix and binge-watching, it’s difficult to maintain the body’s natural circadian rhythm. One more episode becomes two, then three and the next thing we know it’s 2:00 AM! 

Research (3) shows that going to sleep too late and ignoring natural sleep signals such as the sun going down can lead to more frequent or severe migraine episodes. 

Practice Good Sleep Hygiene

You don’t have to go to bed at the same time you did in elementary school, but maintaining good sleep habits such as falling asleep and waking up around the same time each day and ensuring you get 7 – 8 hours of sleep per night. 

For help falling asleep, avoid electronic devices and their artificial light for about an hour before you plan to sleep (yes, this means no scrolling in bed).  A cool shower can also help you fall asleep faster. Keep the room you sleep in as dark and quiet as possible. A white noise machine is a great way to achieve this! 

Woman Stretching and Looking Out the Window

After your good nights’ sleep get out of bed and open the curtains and take a few minutes to stretch and get your blood flowing – after all, you won’t be drinking coffee with breakfast, right? 

Good sleep habits will benefit everyone, not just migraine sufferers! 

3. Skipping Meals

It’s never wise to skip a meal.  Just as prolonged, regular use of caffeine can have a negative impact on your migraines, letting your body go hungry can also bring them on. 

Skipping meals causes your blood sugar to swing up and down, this can lead to mood changes and feeling ‘hangry’. Eating three meals a day, along with small snacks is the best way to keep your body well fuelled throughout the day. Also, consider limiting the carbohydrate part of your meal or snack to a maximum of 25%. The rest of your meal should consist of vegetables, good fats and proteins.  Eating just carbs will give a sudden spike to your blood sugar – combining a protein with a carb will steady your blood sugar. 

The most researched diet for migraines is the Ketogenic Diet (4), which consists of mainly healthy proteins and fats.  This is helpful due to the low glycemic load it puts on the body. In one study, patients who followed a ketogenic diet for a month saw significant improvement in how often they had migraines and how long migraines lasted.

There you have it, 3 common habits you could kick to help reduce your migraines. 

Need Help with Migraines?  We Can Help!

There many other factors related to migraines such as different foods, anxiety and even hormones.  Did you know there are natural supplements that can reduce migraines?  Food sensitivity testing could help identify which foods you should avoid.    For more information on how  Naturopathic Medicine, could help with migraines, contact our Naturopathic Doctor.  

Written by: Dr. Kevin Ho, DC & Dr. Gayamali Karunaratna, ND

Date: Jun 19, 2020


(1) Scher AI, Stewart WF, Lipton RB (2004) Caffeine as a risk factor for chronic daily headache: a population-based study. Neurology 63(11):2022–2027.  DOI: 10.1212/01.wnl.0000145760.37852.ed

(2) Lee, M.J., Choi, H.A., Choi, H. et al. Caffeine discontinuation improves acute migraine treatment: a prospective clinic-based study. J Headache Pain 17, 71 (2016).

(3) Ong JC, Taylor HL, Park M, Burgess HJ, Fox RS, Snyder S, Rains JC, Espie CA, Wyatt JK.  Can Circadian Dysregulation Exacerbate Migraines? .Headache. 2018 Jul;58(7):1040-1051.

(4) Di Lorenzo, C., Coppola, G., Bracaglia, M. et al. Cortical functional correlates of responsiveness to short-lasting preventive intervention with ketogenic diet in migraine: a multimodal evoked potentials study. J Headache Pain 17, 58 (2016).