Migraine is a well-known cause of headaches. It is also a common cause of vertigo and dizziness. Vertigo due to migraine can occur without headaches. Migraine headache is often treated with over-the-counter and prescription-only medications.

Identifying, avoiding and/or controlling the common triggers can be used along with medications to control or reduce the frequency of the condition.

The triggers are not the same for everyone, but keeping a migraine diary (www.migraine.org.uk/information/factsheets/migraine-diary) may help sufferers to identify the factors that specifically trigger an attack. This could be several hours beforehand. If vertigo is the predominant symptom, substitute ‘headache’ with ‘vertigo’ in the diary.

This information sheet provides a summary of migraine triggers and lifestyle modifications but does not offer any advice on drug treatment. The list is not necessarily complete: you may discover triggers specific to your individual situation that are not on the list below.


Chocolate: All forms including flavourings and drinking chocolate
Advice: Avoid

Dairy products: ripened, strong cheeses (cheddar, stilton, blue, brie)
Advice: Cottage and cream cheeses are allowed

Alcohol: (especially oaked/aged), red wine, port, whisky, brandy
Advice: Limit alcohol to beer or unoaked white wine or, preferably, avoid altogether

Meat/fish: canned, aged or processed meat or fish: ham and bacon, game, fermented sausage, salami, pepperoni, Frankfurter and hot dog sausages, smoked meat, pickled herring and dried fish. Also, occasionally chicken liver and shellfish
Advice: Use fresh or frozen meat and fish without preservatives or additives

Yeast extract: Marmite, stock cubes, gravy mixes etc
Advice: Make gravy from pan juices

Caffeine: coffee and tea, cola
Advice: Avoid cola. Take decaffeinated tea/coffee

Fruits: red plums, avocado, passion fruit, citrus (orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit) fruits, strawberries, ripe bananas

Vegetables: beans, peas, tomatoes

Others: foods containing MSG (monosodium glutamate), canned soups, non-white vinegars, fermented, pickled or marinated products and aspartame (artificial sweeteners)
Advice: Avoid diet drinks and sweeteners as may contain aspartame



Emotional stress: strong emotions (anger, worry, tension), depression and anxiety
Advice: Relaxation and stress management, Anticipate and manage lifestyle changes properly

Physical stress: exertion, tiredness, poor sleep pattern including jet lag, dehydration, disruption of lifestyle, travelling
Advice: Take moderate routine exercise (eg 3 to 5 times a week

Irregular eating: skipping meals or bingeing
Advice: Eat regular meals and drink enough water



Hormonal changes: puberty, menstrual cycle (especially the pre-menstrual period), oral contraceptive pill, pregnancy (migraines may cease during pregnancy and may return after), menopause and HRT
Advice: Advice from GP may be required to avoid oestrogen-only oral contraceptive pills


Bright lights eg supermarket, car headlamps, Flickering or flashing lights (from televisions and, computers), fluorescent lights, Loud sounds
Advice: Wear dark glasses to reduce glare from bright light, Dim the background light on the computer

Strong odours eg: perfume, petrol, paint, cigarette smoke, some food
Advice: Avoid exposure to strong smells

Weather changes: rapid changes in atmospheric pressure, rising temperature and humidity, Stuffy environments, Smoking
Advice: Stop smoking


  • http://www.migraine.org.uk/information/triggers
  • Diamond S: Dietary factors in vascular headache. Neurology Forum 1991; 2:2 
  • Tusa R. Migraine, Meniere's disease and Motion Sensitivity. In Vestibular Rehabilitation, 3rd edition pp195-6 Editor, Herdman SJ. 

The following links provide further patient-focussed information:

  1. http://www.migraine.org.uk
  2. https://www.migrainetrust.org/living-with-migraine
  3. https://www.migrainetrust.org/living-with-migraine/coping-managing/exercise
  4. https://www.migrainetrust.org/living-with-migraine/coping-managing/sleep

Compiled by Dr Victor Osei-Lah on behalf of BAAP/2017


  • Dr Veronica Kennedy, Dr Chung Chan,
  • Dr Louisa Murdin, Dr Peter West and Dr Dolores Umapathy