Migraine headaches can be triggered by foods, food additives, drinks, stress, hormonal changes, sensory stimuli, changes in sleeping patterns and various physical factors, according to Mayo Clinic. Medical science knows a lot about migraine triggers, but little is understood about their physical causes. It is widely thought that an imbalance in brain chemicals, such as serotonin, which is a chemical that regulates pain, may come into play.
A common trigger of migraine headaches in women are hormonal changes. Fluctuating estrogen can bring on a migraine, and many women report migraines during or right before their menstrual cycles when estrogen levels plummet. Pregnancy, another time in life when a woman's hormone levels are in flux, is also prime time for an increase in migraine headaches.
Aged cheeses, processed foods and salty foods can trigger migraine headaches. Food additives like monosodium glutamate or MSG as well as the artificial sweetener aspartame can bring on a migraine. Wine and other alcoholic drinks and beverages with high levels of caffeine can also be culprits.
Intense physical exertion, stress at home or work, visual stimulation from bright lights and the sun and even sexual activity can trigger a migraine. Getting too much sleep or missing sleep can also be to blame.