Dr Clare Morrison

Article by Dr Clare Morrison

Seven Strange Migraine Causes

Migraines can be triggered by the strangest things. We’ve written before about how to avoid migraines during the Christmas season. Here are a few more bizarre causes of migraines that you’re probably not aware of…


As crazy as it seems, your favourite perfume could be the cause of your migraines. Studies have shown that many sufferers say perfumes and other strong odours reliably trigger attacks. Fragrances found in synthetic perfumes, shampoos, lotions and detergents permeate the atmosphere, triggering headaches, nausea and even slurred speech. So, you may want to rethink buying that Chanel No.5!


Did you know that patterns of parallel lines could cause headaches?  The link between flashing lights and epilepsy is well-known, but scientists have found that there’s a rise in a type of brain activity seen when such images are viewed, which indicates a possible cause of headaches. So, you may want to avoid looking down at that zebra crossing…oh, and move your Breton tops to the back of the wardrobe…


They say that lightning doesn’t strike twice, but for migraine sufferers it could seem that way. A study published in 2012 discovered that patients were 28 percent more likely to suffer migraines on days when lightning struck near their homes. It’s possible that the changes in the charge of the air could disrupt the brain’s electrical waves.


It’s long been claimed that food such as wine, cheese, chocolate and beverages such as red wine and coffee can spark migraines. But bananas? Yes, believe it or not, they could trigger a migraine for those who are sensitive to tyramine, the same substance found in aged cheese. If you suffer from migraines it could be a wise idea to avoid bananas…

Not eating enough

Research shows that hunger could actually cause migraines – especially migraines with aura, or flashing lights. On the other hand, the study showed that going without food didn’t necessarily cause the everyday tension headaches that many people have occasionally.

Chewing gum

Studies have shown that recurring headaches can be triggered when sufferers chew gum daily. This makes sense – previous research has found a link between temporomandibular disorders (known as TMD), close to the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and headaches.  Chewing gum can place a heavy burden on the TMJ, potentially causing headaches.


Who would have thought it? Any type of intense physical activity can potentially trigger migraines – and sex is no exception.  Ever heard of ‘sex headaches’?

It’s important to remember that everyone’s different. It’s hard to tell what triggers one person’s migraine in comparison to another’s. One of the best ways to determine if there is a link between your migraine and periods is to keep a diary for three months.  Take note of how long your migraine lasts, its severity, symptoms, possible triggers, what medication you took and whether or not it helped. Migraine diaries can be downloaded at migraine.org.uk.

Dr Clare Morrison
Dr Clare Morrison
Experienced General Practitioner in Hampshire since 1995, with particular interest in Nutrition, Obesity and Smoking Cessation.
Originally published June 08 2017, updated July 08 2019