Top 6 Causes of Migraine Headaches

Comments: 2 | March 16th, 2018

Top 6 Causes of Migraine Headaches

In the United States, more than 37 million people suffer from migraines.

Almost 5 million in the U.S. experience at least one migraine attack per month, while more than 11 million people blame migraines for causing moderate to severe disability.

  • Migraine is the 3rd most prevalent illness in the world.
  • Migraine affects about 28 million women in the U.S.
  • 85% of chronic migraine sufferers are women.
  • Amazingly, 12% of the population – including children – suffers from migraine.
  • 18% of American women, 6% of men, and 10% of children experience migraines.
  • Migraine is most common between the ages of 25 and 55.
  • About 90% of migraine sufferers have a family history of migraine.
  • 91 percent miss work or can’t function normally during a migraine attack
  • 69 percent have consulted a physician at some time seeking treatment for migraine pain
  • 59 percent missed family or social events
  • 53 percent have severe disability requiring reducing activities or bed rest
  • 51 percent said migraines cut in half their work or school productivity


Not another migraine!

Oh no, you feel another migraine coming on and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.  It’s time to lie down in a dark room, cover your eyes and wait it out.  You miss a couple of days of work, can’t take your kids to their soccer game and or go to your friend’s birthday party.  You desperately want these to go away and never come back. Migraines can be debilitating and they stop your life in its tracks. As you can see from the statistics, migraines are a big problem. You need to know about some very common causes of migraine headaches so that you can prevent and end them once and for all.

What is a Migraine?

A migraine is more than just a bad headache. A migraine can cause severe throbbing pain that is  usually on just one side of the head, but in some cases, both sides are affected.

Migraines are often accompanied by one or more of the following symptoms:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • upset stomach
  • abdominal pain
  • dizziness
  • extreme sensitivity to light, sound, touch and smell
  • tingling or numbness in the extremities or face
  • auras, a visual disturbance such as flashes of light and blinding spots, with or before a migraine
  • moderate to severe pain (pounding, throbbing pain) that can affect the whole head, or can shift from one side of the head to the other
  • sensitivity to light, noise or odors
  • blurred vision
  • loss of appetite
  • sensations of being very warm or cold
  • Paleness
  • Fatigue
  • Fever (rare)

A migraine can last anywhere between 4 to 72 hours. The can cause such severe pain that they can be disabling.

Identify the Underlying Cause of Your Migraine

You may have tried prescription drugs such as Imitrex or Zomig, but these only mask the symptoms by providing temporary relief, and they don’t stop the migraines from coming back.  If you really want to get rid of migraines for good, then you need to identify and correct the underlying cause of the migraine.

Here are the Top 6 Causes of Migraine Headaches:

1. Low Progesterone/Estrogen Dominance

Hormonal changes can cause migraines. If your migraine occurs before your period every month, then you know it is hormone related. Progesterone relieves headaches and migraines. Migraine headache is more severe, disabling, and frequent during the menstrual intervals of the female reproductive cycle. Progesterone may play a role in modulating migraine headaches during luteal intervals of the menstrual cycle. (1) A high percentage of migraines in women is closely related to the menstrual cycle either at the time of ovulation or in the perimenstrual period. It can be assumed that rapid serum fluctuations due to the decline of estrogens and or progesterone trigger this type of headache. Hormonal treatment seems to be useful in order to avoid migraines. (2)

2. Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism causes your metabolism to slow down, which slows your circulation and causes your body to retain water and mucin. The blood vessels and tissues in the brain swell and cause a migraine.  Fatigue, which accompanies hypothyroidism, is often associated with migraines and can play an important role in initiating migraine attacks. Research suggests that patients with hypothyroidism have a higher risk of lifetime migraine than controls. (3) Research demonstrated that after levothyroxine treatment, 78% reported a decrease in headache frequency. Hypothyroid patients reported a similar alleviation of their headaches.(4)

3. Chemical Food Additives
Food colorings, flavors, preservatives and additives can cause migraines.  Aspartame (found in diet sodas) and MSG (monosodium glutamate) are common causes of migraines. Research showed a significant increase in reports of headache and pericranial muscle tenderness after taking MSG. Systolic blood pressure was elevated in those with high MSG intake. These findings add new information to the concept of MSG headache and craniofacial pain sensitivity.(7) Patients with migraine were significantly more likely to report aspartame as a precipitant three times more often than those having other types of headache. Research concludes that aspartame may be an important dietary trigger of headache in some people. (8) Research provides evidence that some people are particularly susceptible to headaches caused by aspartame and may want to limit their consumption. (9)

4. Magnesium Deficiency

Estrogen dominance leads to depletion of the mineral magnesium, which is crucial to normal blood vessel tone. Magnesium deficiency can cause spasms of arteries in the brain.  Magnesium deficiency is very common and often overlooked as a culprit of migraines but is also easily corrected.

Magnesium is essential in many intracellular processes and appears to play an important role in migraine pathogenesis. Lack of magnesium may promote hyperaggregation of platelets, affect serotonin receptor function, and influence synthesis and release of a variety of neurotransmitters. Migraine sufferers may develop magnesium deficiency due to genetic inability to absorb magnesium, inherited renal magnesium wasting, excretion of excessive amounts of magnesium due to stress, low nutritional intake, and several other reasons.(10)

There is strong evidence that magnesium deficiency is much more prevalent in migraine sufferers. Both oral and intravenous magnesium are widely available, extremely safe, very inexpensive and for patients who are magnesium deficient can be highly effective. Considering these features of magnesium, the fact that magnesium deficiency may be present in up to half of migraine patients, treatment with at least oral magnesium is warranted in all migraine sufferers.(10)

5. Food Allergies and Intolerances
Allergies and intolerances to certain foods can cause migraine headaches. It is important to identify which foods trigger your migraines so that you can eliminate them from your diet. Research shows that the most common foods causing reactions were wheat (78%), orange (65%), eggs (45%), tea and coffee (40% each), chocolate and milk (37% each), beef (35%), and corn, cane sugar, and yeast (33% each). When an average of ten common foods were avoided there was a dramatic fall in the number of headaches per month, 85% of patients becoming headache-free. Both immunological and non-immunological mechanisms may play a part in the pathogenesis of migraine caused by food intolerance.(11)  Research demonstrates that tests for IgE-specific food allergy appear helpful in selecting patients likely to benefit from diet therapy. (12) Research confirms that a food-allergic reaction is a cause of migraine.(13)

Other Common Food Triggers Include:

  • Cheese, particularly aged cheese
  • Alcohol, particularly red wine and beer
  • Cured meats (ham, hot dogs…)
  • Dairy products
  • Nuts

6. Stress
Stress takes a toll on your body and is a common cause of migraine headaches.  Take good care of yourself and eat a healthy diet, get sound sleep, exercise, and make time to relax. Psychosocial stress preceding the onset of migraines by several days was suggested to play an important role in the occurrence of migraines.(14)


Conventional Treatment 

Conventional doctors will typically prescribe medications such as Imitrex, Zomig, Maxalt, Relpax, Topamax, Inderal or Lopressor. These medications do not come without side effects, and they don’t solve the cause of your migraines, either, with means that your migraine can reoccur. Side effects include:

  • mild headache (not a migraine)
  • pain or chest tightness
  • pressure or heavy feeling in any part of your body
  • weakness
  • feeling hot or cold
  • dizziness
  • spinning sensation
  • drowsiness
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • drooling
  • burning/numbness/pain/irritation in your nose or throat after using nasal spray
  • flushing (warmth, redness, or tingling under the skin)

There are also over-the-counter medications that are used to treat migraines which include analgesics, NSAIDS, and caffeine, including: aspirin, naproxen, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen. Again, these are not solving the underlying cause of your migraines.

Watch as Dr. Hotze explains the common underlying causes of migraines:

Is Hormone Decline Causing Your Migraines?

Do you think hormonal imbalance could be the cause of your migraines?  Take our symptom checker quiz to find out. Don’t wait, it’s time to conquer your migraines and get your life back!

1. Defining the Relationship Between Ovarian Hormones and Migraine Headache
2. Treatment of Menstrual Cycle Associated Migraine
3. Prevalence of Migraine in Subclinical Hypothyroidism: A Case-Control Study
4. Headache in Recent Onset Hypothyroidism: Prevalence, Characteristics and Outcome After Treatment with Levothyroxine
5. Frequency of Subclinical Hypothyroidism In 5- To 15-Year-Old Children With Migraine Headache
6. Efficacy of Levothyroxine in Migraine Headaches in Children with Subclinical Hypothyroidism
7. Effect of Systemic Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) on Headache and Pericranial Muscle Sensitivity
8. Aspartame as a Dietary Trigger of Headache
9. Aspartame Ingestion and Headaches
10. Why all Migraine Patients Should be Treated with Magnesium
11. Food Allergies and Migraine
12. Food Allergy and Adult Migraine: Double-Bblind and Mediator Confirmation of an Allergic Etiology
13. Migraine is a Food-Allergic Disease
14. Stress and Psychological Factors before a Migraine Attack: A Time-Based Analysis


Written By: STEVEN F. HOTZE, M.D.

Steven F. Hotze, M.D., is the founder and CEO of the Hotze Health & Wellness Center, Hotze Vitamins and Physicians Preference Pharmacy International, LLC.


2 thoughts on “Top 6 Causes of Migraine Headaches

  1. Melissa Gos

    First off, I love your posts. I have Hotze bookmarked on my internet. I was a little shocked not to see “light” in this post though. I have suffered from migraines for 7+ years. They started when I switched to a new job which had me in the office for 9+ hrs a day in fluorescent lighting and looking at a computer screen. They got to the point where they were so bad that I almost started vomiting. Being stubborn about taking pharmaceuticals, I researched into some more natural remedies and found these guys and bought a pair of tinted glasses. These have been my saving grace…my migraines are literally non-existent now when I wear them. (Yes, I am out of an office now but I still work on a computer for 9+ hrs a day). Also, avoiding caffeine really helped me too.


    • Hotze Team

      Thank you for your comment and for sharing the website for tinted glasses. That is a wonderful solution for light induced migraines. We are so glad they helped you and that you found a natural solution. You are correct that both light and caffeine can trigger migraines, as well. Here’s to staying migraine-free!


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