There are no two ways about it — headaches suck. They’re painful, distracting, and they always seem to strike at the most inconvenient times (like when you’re in the middle of an important work meeting and lying down in a dark room isn’t an option.)
Most of the time, it’s easy enough to pinpoint the cause of your headaches — whether it’s a few too many vinos the night before or not drinking enough water. But the most frustrating thing is when you have NFI what’s brought it on, so you don’t know what to do to avoid it in the future.
To help you get to the bottom of it, we’ve rounded up 7 surprising headache triggers you may not have considered.
1It’s something you ate
If you tucked into a cheese platter for lunch (lucky you!) it could be the reason for your throbbing headache. Certain processed meats and cheeses (including blue cheese, gouda and parmesan) contain tyramine, a natural food chemical that is known to cause headaches. Other common food ingredients that trigger migraines in some people are MSG, caffeine, alcohol, sugar and artificial sweeteners.
2You skipped lunch
On the flip side, eating nothing at all can also give you a headache. “Not eating regular meals and having fluctuating blood sugar can irritate the brain and trigger migraines, neurologist Carolyn Bernstein told Allure. For this reason, it’s a good idea to avoid skipping meals.
3It’s the weather
There’s no doubt that making inane small talk about the weather can give one a headache. But turns out, the weather itself can also make your head pound. More specifically, drastic changes in atmospheric pressure — like going from humid weather to a cold, mountainous area — can create inflammation and temporarily affect the lining of the brain. So, if you find you often get headaches on planes, that may be why.
4You got it from your mama (or papa)
Believe it or not, your parents could actually be to blame for your headaches (and not just because they keep asking when you’re going to settle down!) Research shows that if one of your parents gets migraines, you have a 50% chance of getting them yourself. If both parents do, it rises to 80%! However, it’s worth noting that only migraines can be passed down genetically — not other types of headaches.
5You’re not getting enough sleep (or you’re getting too much!)
Stayed up too late last night binge-watching season two of Stranger Things? You may be paying the price in the form of a headache. “We know that people who have problems falling asleep or staying asleep are at a far higher risk of having more frequent, or at times daily, headaches,” says Emad Estemalik, a psychiatrist at the Cleveland Clinic. Interestingly, getting a little too much slumber can also bring on headaches, due to the fact it throws off your circadian rhythm.
In today’s incredibly unfair news for women, simply being female can up your chances of getting frequent migraines. 16 to 18% of women report having migraines, compared to just 6 to 8% for men. The experts believe the disparity is due to the hormonal fluctuations during our menstrual cycles (surprise, surprise). For this reason, many women see improvements in the frequency of their migraines after menopause.
7You’re popping pain medications
We know it can be tempting to pop a painkiller every time a headache strikes. But relying on these more than once or twice per week can actually lead to what’s known as a rebound headaches from medication overuse. If you’re getting headaches several times per week, it may be worth chatting with your doc so they can rule out more serious causes.
In the meantime, why not try one of these 13 natural headache remedies instead of reaching for the painkillers?