June 27, 2019

What Can I Do To Avoid Headache and Migraine Triggers?

The short answer from a headache specialist

Woman with migraine headache on airplane

Q: I get frequent migraines. Is there anything I can do, besides taking medicine, to try to prevent them?

A: We know there are certain lifestyle changes patients can make to reduce headache frequency. They include:


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

  1. Diet. There are certain triggers in food, and the two big things we tell patients to stay away from are monosodium glutamate (MSG) and nitric oxide. So that’s aged cheeses, red wine, ramen noodles, chocolate and the list goes on. But you don’t have to stop everything – it’s more about moderation.
  2. Caffeine. Too much caffeine is bad for people with headaches, especially people who have migraines. But a good amount, which is usually anywhere between a 100 mg to 150 mg a day, can actually be protective. We hear a lot from people that their morning cup of coffee can actually help their migraines.
  3. Supplements. There are three over-the-counter products that, based on studies, we know can help. Magnesium is one of them – anywhere from 400 mg to 500 mg. Vitamin B2 can also be protective. The third one is coenzyme Q10.
  4. Sleep. Sleep is an incredibly important element when it comes to headaches. And if there’s an underlying or unrecognized sleep disorder, it can have a tremendous effect on the amount of headaches or the frequency of headaches patients get.
  5. Noise and light. A big trigger for some people who get migraines is noise and light. If somebody’s predisposed to migraines and they’re sitting in front of a screen with bright lights and loud sounds, it could trigger a headache.
  6. OTC medicines. If somebody has a history of migraines, they may actually have more headaches if they use too much over-the-counter painkillers. I’ll hear from patients that they’ve been taking Excedrin Migraine® or another OTC pain medicine three or four times a week and say that over time they start having more headaches. Usually our rule is no more than twice a week.

Another important element that we can’t control is the barometric pressure and weather. A sudden drop or rise in temperature can really affect people.

Headache specialist Emad Estemalik, MD

Related Articles

Notes taped to window of possible new year's resolutions with hand in foreground holding marker.
December 1, 2023
How To Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions

Pick specific, measurable goals, but also be open to changing them if need be

bowl of soy-based cubes with hand
November 30, 2023
Can Soy Cause Breast Cancer?

Research consistently shows that soy-based foods do not increase cancer risk

person scratching neck that has eczema
November 29, 2023
How Lifestyle Changes and Self-Care Can Improve Your Atopic Dermatitis

Changing your wardrobe or environment won’t eliminate eczema, but it can help reduce flares

person stressing, with clock and books
November 29, 2023
6 Ways To Feel Less Anxious in the Mornings

Breathwork, sleep mediatation and avoiding screens can help fight back morning anxiety

covid toe
November 28, 2023
Are COVID Toes and Rashes Common Symptoms of the Coronavirus?

Chilblain-like skin lesions and rashes probably aren’t COVID related

magnesium pills out of container spelling out MG
November 28, 2023
Magnesium for Anxiety: Does It Help?

This supplement may help with regulating cortisol levels, which may help with stress

woman in her forties, using an inhaler
November 28, 2023
Why Sex Hormones Can Help (or Hurt) Your Asthma

Developmental changes like puberty and menopause can impact symptom severity

Top view of person sitting in bathtub with cold water and lots of ice.
November 27, 2023
Brrr! What To Know About Cold Plunges

An ice bath can ease sore muscles and decrease inflammation after a workout

Trending Topics

group of hands holding different beverages
November 14, 2023
10 Myths About Drinking Alcohol You Should Stop Repeating

Coffee won’t cure a hangover and you definitely shouldn’t mix your cocktail with an energy drink

Person applies moisturizer as part of their skin care routine after a shower.
November 10, 2023
Korean Skin Care Routines: What You Need To Know

Focus on the philosophy — replenishing and respecting your skin — not necessarily the steps

glass of cherry juice with cherries on table
November 8, 2023
Sleepy Girl Mocktail: What’s in It and Does It Really Make You Sleep Better?

This social media sleep hack with tart cherry juice and magnesium could be worth a try