9 common triggers of headaches

If you notice a throbbing headache coming on, it could be for several reasons. They may seem to just suddenly appear but often there is a trigger that starts the pounding and it could be anything from food to environmental factors making you want to curl up in a ball in a darkened room.  Identifying triggers of headaches can free you from the pain and suffering that goes along with them. 

Here are 9 possible triggers that may be setting them off:

1.      Strong scents

For many headache sufferers overpowering scents in the environment can be trigger headaches or migraines.  It is not clear exactly why this happens but the most common offenders are paint, perfume, cigarette smoke, and certain types of flowers.

2.      Hair accessories

Anytime you use a hair accessory to tie or hold back your locks, a headache may occur.  Wearing a too-tight ponytail can strain the connective tissue in the scalp.  Headbands, braids, and tight-fitting hats are other culprits leading to a bad headache.

3.      Cheese

Some people may notice after eating cheese a headache develops.  The most common cheese offenders are aged cheeses such as blue, cheddar, parmesan and Swiss.  The problem appears to be a substance called tyramine – the longer the food is aged, the more tyramine it has.

4.      Skipping meals

It’s never a good idea to make a regular habit of skipping meals. Going for many hours (more than 4-5) without eating causes your blood sugar to drop bringing on a headache.  But don’t cure it by grabbing a candy bar or downing a sugary beverage.  Sweets cause blood sugar to spike and then come crashing down which could lead to a rebound headache.

5.      Alcohol

If you notice a pounding in your head after having a couple of drinks it’s probably caused by alcohol-induced dehydration.  Alcohol is a diuretic meaning it stimulates the kidneys causing you to go to the bathroom more frequently resulting in a loss of electrolytes and dehydration.  Blood sugar levels are affected also as alcohol reduces the level which results in feeling fatigued contributing to a headache.  Another reason for a headache after drinking is alcohol widens or dilates blood vessels leading to that familiar throb.  Never drink on an empty stomach and be sure to be drinking plenty of water.

6.      Hormones

Women often notice more frequent headaches around the time of their menstrual cycle.  This is due to a drop in the hormone estrogen days before menstruation occurs. 

7.      Poor posture

Slouching all day puts a lot of strain on the head and neck contributing to the building up of a throbbing headache.  Check your posture frequently throughout the day, particularly when driving or doing computer work.  Get up, move and stretch to relieve the strain of the head and neck area.

8.      Caffeine

For some people, caffeine can bring pain relief while for others it can cause headaches.  Caffeine narrows blood vessels surrounding the brain so when you stop using it the blood vessels expand again causing pain.  Our body also gets used to caffeine so if you don’t have it in your system, it may cause withdrawal. Pay attention to how caffeine affects you.  If you suspect drinking coffee is causing headaches, cut down on the amount or avoid it completely but do it gradually. 

9.      Anxiety

Feeling stressed out or anxious can bring on a headache.  Headaches can be a symptom of anxiety disorders or depression.  A doctor can prescribe an antianxiety medication or certain types of antidepressants to relieve anxiety as well as the pain of a headache.  Headache frequency may also be reduced with cognitive behavioral therapy eliminating the need for medication.