Migraine Diagnosis

Keep things steady. Make changes slowly. Pay attention.

Everyone has different triggers. For many people, triggers include specific foods and drinks. Figuring out which foods trigger your episodes can help you avoid painful migraines.  

So how do you go about pinpointing those triggers? Tracking what and when you eat can help you identify if your eating patterns are triggering migraine episodes or if specific foods are causing the problem. Or maybe it’s both?

Track Your Eating Patterns: Where do you fall on the spectrum for the ‘skipping meals’ or ‘fasting’ migraine trigger?

TIP: By keeping your eating and drinking on a regular pattern, it can be easier to identify which ways of eating work better for you.

For most people, it’s incredibly important to eat regularly to avoid triggering episodes. For others, skipping meals causes no symptoms. It can be hard to tell where you fall in the range.

Knowing if fasting is, or isn’t, a trigger is important. Nobody wants to worry about things that don’t actually help them prevent migraines. How do you rule out or verify how long going without food is a trigger for you?

A lot of Migraine Insight users track skipped meals to see if that’s likely causing their headaches. If you’re not sure that skipping meals contributes to your episodes, then make a tracker called ‘skipped meal’ and track it! Migraine Insight can help you look for patterns and see if skipped meals or fasting is a trigger for you. 

Since you can set anything as a trigger, you can experiment with setting trackers for different time spans of fasting as well. You could set up a tracker for ‘4 hours without food’ and ‘6 hours without food’ and so on. As you track these, you can see over time what correlates to your symptoms.

Track your top food suspects (but not too many!)

TIP: Keep things steady. Make changes slowly. Pay attention.

We find that tracking more than 10 triggers at a time can make it hard to keep up. Migraine Insight’s tracker lets you track anything you want. You decide.

For patients with chronic migraines — that’s 15 or more migraines per month — tracking more than 10 triggers a month works better according to the data we’ve collected. 

So which foods should you track?

Here’s a list of top food triggers from the American Migraine Foundation. And, Healthline also keeps a good list of migraine triggers that includes foods. If you have a family history of headaches, it could be worth asking your family members if they know their triggers and use those to get started. Other Migraine Insight users can also help you start identifying your food triggers.  

Over 50,000 people have collected their triggers and searched for migraine patterns in the Migraine Insight app. Here are the top foods our users track that have shown a high correlation to migraines:

Migraine Insight – Food Triggers (All Users)
(to see this data by age, gender or other variables – download the app)

Food TriggerTracked by #Percent with high correlation
Decaf Coffee32%71%

Download the app to learn more about top triggers for people with your diagnosis and profile. 

Track your water intake

TIP: Keep hydration steady.

Water is a tricky trigger. Too much can cause migraines. Too little can cause a headache for anyone. And, any headache can cause migraines.

One of the best ways to see if hydration is a trigger for you is to track your urine output. If you make a tracker for ‘dark urine’ or for ‘low hydration’ when you notice dark urine, then track that. That will help you decide if low hydration is a trigger for you.

You can also make a ‘high hydration’ tracker and use that when you know you’ve had lots of water. 

Our data suggests that hydration levels could cause head pain more often in people with retinal migraines. Retinal migraines are sometimes called ocular, visual, ophthalmic or monocular migraines. Keep in mind this is not clinical data, but an interesting finding from a sample of users in the Migraine Insight app with this type of headache. We are keeping our eye on this data closely right now.

Track your coffee intake

TIP:  Remember, tea and chocolate are also high in caffeine.

When tracking coffee, be sure to think about other sources of caffeine. While coffee has several components that could trigger migraines, caffeine is the most commonly found trigger. 

Trying to keep other caffeine steady can help you get better results when tracking coffee. You may want to cut out tea or chocolate for a while. 

Decaf coffee should be tracked as a separate tracker. And, beware: it has its own components that can cause migraines. Many users who have tracked coffee and decaf separately find that decaf increases their migraines and caffeinated coffee does not. 

We suspect (idle speculation – to be clear we found no clinical trials on this!) that a chemical specific to the decaf process may be a trigger for some people. It’s definitely something to consider when trying to find the cause of your migraine attacks. 

Track your ‘gut-related’ episodes

TIP: A healthy diet helps maintain a healthy gut

Clinical studies show that gut health may be linked to migraines. Also, constipation is a trigger for some people who get migraines. Tracking the symptoms of your gut — irritable bowel, acid reflux, and vomiting, for example — might help you find clues to what helps you have fewer episodes.

Does identifying triggers lead to better migraine outcomes?

Many studies show that reducing exposure to triggers improves outcomes for people living with migraines. The more you know about what’s triggering your migraines, the more you can avoid those triggers. And, this means you may need fewer migraine treatments. No matter the type of headache, having less head pain is a wonderful thing.

Identifying triggers is recommended in standard medical practice. For example, the American Academy of Neurology’s Headache Quality Measurement Standing Work Group recommends the practice:

“The ultimate outcome when treating headache and migraine is to reduce the frequency of headache. Working with the patient to identify potential migraine triggers and counseling them on lifestyle factors they can change can help reduce the severity and number of migraines. Reduction of headaches is associated with improved health-related quality of life.”

By identifying triggers, people can choose, with the oversight of their headache specialists, to avoid those triggers.

How Migraine Insight helps you track your dietary triggers

Migraine Insight’s pattern finder looks for different patterns depending on which type of migraine you get. If you have migraines with aura, for example, our pattern finder includes that information as it helps you determine which patterns and triggers are more likely associated with your headaches. 

Diagnosing this condition can be difficult. Some people don’t have a diagnosis when they use Migraine Insight. Diagnosing migraines often relies on collecting accurate information. The app accounts for this as well. We’re happy to see that Mayo Clinic is working hard on making the science of migraine diagnosis more exact.

Migraine Insight app gives you your life back

Our award-winning mobile app is backed by science and helps you find triggers and best med combos, and work better with your care team. 

Our team: We are here to help

It’s hard to find your triggers. It’s hard to find the right medication combination that really helps you get better. Our app helps you better understand your triggers. 

We want to help.  We are a small, dedicated app development team. Reach out any time with questions or feedback about our app — we love questions! [email protected].

Get the Migraine Insight Tracker – iOS App Store