We know the effects of migraine headaches, and if you’re a migraine sufferer, you likely do, too. Throbbing pain, nausea, vomiting, light and sound sensitivity, and fatigue are just a few symptoms of this often disabling condition. But while the effects of migraine are apparent, the cause of migraine headaches is not always precisely known. 

While there is no single cause of migraine, we’ve compiled some of the most surprising triggers in this blog, from sensitive brain cells (who knew?) to cheese to just looking at stripes. 

Touchy Brain Cells

One theory behind the cause of migraines posits that the brains of those affected by the condition are simply more sensitive than those who do not experience migraines. This theory suggests that these over-excitable brain cells cause an electric wave throughout the brain; this wave seems to trigger the release of hormones such as prostaglandins and serotonin, which cause the blood vessels to dilate and lead to head pain. 


Research studies in the U.S. and the Netherlands have uncovered another plausible cause of migraine: stripes. These studies suggest that stripes can trigger those brain cells we just mentioned, leading to a migraine attack. Some individuals find that looking at stripes in clothing, art and even mini-blinds can cause pain for some individuals. 

Hormonal Changes 

Many migraine sufferers are women, and many researchers believe this is because of the hormonal shifts caused by menstruation, pregnancy and menopause. A 2012 study in the Journal of Headache and Pain found that nearly 50 percent of the women who suffered from migraines were likely to experience the pounding pain when menstruating. 

Flashing Lights

Many migraine sufferers — nearly 85 percent — report extreme sensitivity to light during their attacks. Still, some researchers have found that while being exposed to flashing lights can make migraines occur more frequently, there’s no concrete evidence to support causation. 

Lightning on the Brain

While flashing lights may not be a proven trigger for migraines, a 2021 study published in the journal Cephalalgia found that 28 percent of migraine sufferers experienced head pain on days when lightning struck near their homes. But, the research did not clearly say why that is. One theory is that the charge created in the atmosphere could disrupt the brain’s electrical waves. 

Not Eating Enough

Going long periods without food may make you hungry, but it also may give you a migraine. A 2005 study published in Cephalalgia showed skipping meals didn’t just make people hangry — for many migraine sufferers it also meant head pain, especially for those who suffer from migraine with aura (flashing lights, visual and auditory disturbances). 

Wine and Cheese

Who doesn’t love this classic pairing? People who struggle with migraines, that’s who. Wine, cheese and chocolate can cause head pain in many individuals. Many experts theorize that the tannins in red wine, tyramine in certain cheeses, and chocolate containing caffeine and beta-phenylethylamine can trigger headaches in some people.

Another food-based trigger? The food additive monosodium glutamate (MSG), which is often found in processed foods and your favorite Chinese food dishes. 

Beans, soy products, sausages and smoked fish can also contribute to migraines. 

Changes in Air Pressure

Lightning isn’t the only weather-related issue that can cause a migraine. Some studies have found that rapid changes in barometric pressure can change the air’s charge concentration enough to trigger the brain to fill with serotonin and cause pain. 


You may already know that stress can cause your painful migraine episodes. A 2012 study published in the Journal of Health Psychology stated that personal stress was reported as the most common cause of migraine pain.

Intense Exercise

For some people, hitting the gym too hard or any very sudden intense physical activity can cause a migraine. But that doesn’t mean you should sit on the sidelines. Read our blog about managing head pain while living an active lifestyle.  

Bite Problems

This one may surprise you. Did you know that if your bite is off, you could be at risk of developing migraines? It’s true. If your bite isn’t aligned correctly, your teeth and jaw won’t function as intended. Over time, your jaw muscles become strained and irritate the nerves of the head and face, causing pain. 

No matter the cause, the result of migraine headaches can be discomfort and disabling pain. If migraines are affecting your life, it’s time to call us for a consultation. We understand the causes of migraine headaches. 

Our staff at Bend Headache Center can help identify the cause of your migraine pain and allow you to enjoy life again. Let’s talk. Call us now to schedule your consultation and take the first step in getting your life back.