Finding your triggers (or not!)

Ok, here’s the deal. I know certain things will trigger my symptoms, like heavy exercise, or heavy drinking (2nd day after). but i can’t figure out what else is triggering them, when i eliminate these (and the other well-known triggers such as diet/stress etc). i can’t find rhyme or reason despite 6 months of daily diet/exercise/activity/travel etc diaries and tracking symptoms every day. i seem to have some clear days or some ‘middling’ days and then get a really bad week, and i have no idea why.

do other people get this or have you had success in identifying triggers?

it would also be great if you could list any triggers you have found, in case i am missing something obvious!


I get this too. I usually attribute it to barometric changes. It’s one of my biggest triggers. When a storm is coming through I can’t walk straight and wear sunglasses when it’s cloudy. These atmospheric changes can happen when it’s still nice out too. I try to watch the weather report to know what to expect.


I downloaded WeatherUnderground and watch the barometer pressure now. It went up .50 today pretty quickly and messed me up. Had a strange high inner ear fullness and it made me really dizzy… Went for a good 2 hour drive or so as my ear finally readjusted.

I assume you meant the app, and how often do you check it? Is the idea if you see it going up, your prepare for a dizzy episode by taking it easy? I live in Oakland CA and it seems the pressure always stays around 30.1-30.2

Personally, I check it every so often. I love the Weather Channel and always have. I’ll check it to see the pressure in the morning and the radar. then I’ll check it again later on around noon or so, then by evening… See how much it has fluxed, and if I get any weird blips, like last night I felt like I was being lifted off the ground while sitting, so I checked it and it was a heavy rain cloud passing by the town I’m in.
I’m wondering as well if relative humidity has anything to do with it too though. My sinuses have been acting up and my RH in my place has been sitting around 38 which is dry. It should be around 45+ less than 55 or so. Average 50.
I wish I knew more of the science behind all this so I could be of more help and to understand it more myself.
My lapse tho on Sunday which created overfull pressure in my left ear created this week to kind of suck. I think the bad lapse from 3 weeks ago from the antibiotic didnt fully heal up so to speak so it was prone to the weather / pressure / sinuses and it kicked it up on Sunday creating another lapse. My ear keeps pitching up with pressure then going down after some time (havent estimated timeframe, but it’s maybe an hour? It just lingers). I’m not feeling the leaking a lot, just the inner ear fullness, which means it’s (the ear/brain/whatever) trying to get a handle on it.
Strange enough on Sunday (3/25/2018) my right ear was also half way full of pressure like I went up in an airplane. That rarely ever happens to me. Luckily, a couple minutes later it went right back to normal like my brain / ear has a control on the right ear. I think that only happened once before last year, but it hadn’t happened since, so I’m hoping my right ear isn’t injured now, because when I lay on my right side (good side), I wake up with inner ear fullness in my right ear now since the last Sunday occurrence. sigh
I recall you had some issues with your good ear sometimes, did you ever have a raise in inner ear fullness from it-- I also felt like I could breathe through my right ear this morning too.

I’ve occasionally had those things (like the feeling of breathing through an ear) and I don’t think they’re anything to worry about. I always assumed it was related more to the Eustachian tube and general sinus pressure from who knows what.

I guess it’s too early for you up there, but down here we’re in the middle of pollen season. The oak trees have been dropping pollen for the past couple of weeks and we haven’t had any rain to wash it away.

A few months ago I downloaded an app called “MigraineX” onto my phone. It supposedly alerts you when the barometric pressure in your area is predicted to change by a certain amount. The thing has never sent me one alert. I don’t know whether that’s because it’s not working properly, or whether our barometric pressure just never changes enough to trigger an alert.

Yeah … my good ear started to get a lot of pressure for a few months and at night i’d get tinnitus in that ear … it ended up behaving a little like a much milder version of my bad ear - i started to get a little bit of fluid sensation and it … sorry to be so frank … bubbled/farted on occasion (is the nearest analogy I can grasp at this moment). It’s since calmed down, all tinnitus pressure and bubbling has gone (in the good ear) … in the bad ear it’s still work in progress but showing real signs of improvement (not least that I have virtually zero dizziness/imbalance now)

My feeling is there is something central going on to regulate inner ear fluids and if one ear is messed up it can over compensate and start to mess up the other ear …

I have the same issue. I usually find it is due to the weather or food.
Like a hidden stock cube somewhere , a slice of ham, some white wines.
I avoid anything savoury with " natural flavourings " and always ask if anything is marinated in sauces ,or uses pre made stock that may contain artificial stock cubes or flavourings.
That is the thing that hits me the worst even if I think I have been careful.
Oh, and I have to drink water all the time, otherwise I start feeling dizzy right away.
Good luck, so very tedious for us all.


Yeah, it’s strange (breathing through ear).
I haven’t seen any pollen yet-- but EVERYONE is having sinus issues. My friend who never had a migraine had one a couple days ago for the first time. She said, “this is miserable, how do you live?”
My brother said he felt dizzy a day ago too. He said, “I don’t envy you”.

I LOL’d at the app that never sent a notification.

Mmmm… I think I’ve had tinnitus in my good ear like a couple times, nothing too crazy tho.
Bah, that’s awful! I’m glad I haven’t endured all that. I’ve just gotten the ear pressure Sunday, then if I lay on it now it gets full for a short period of time.

Sounds like you’re continuing to progress every day… every week. So good to hear!


Agreed about the migraine diet and that god awful weather smash.
I’ve been trying cheeses, but since my lapse, I haven’t … I noticed store bought ricottas do me no good, so I wanted to make one to see if that’ll be better. I get a slight cluster headache after about 10 mins or so, it’s noticeable but I’d rather it be nothing.

AGREED with the water hydration. I have 8 48 oz Nalgene bottles that I fill up. I drink at least 2 a day, usually working on my 3rd by night time.

I’m going to do an update on my diary thread instead of clogging up this thread!

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Hello. New here. I’ve had vertigo for several years comprised of nausea, loss of balance, nystagmus, migraine, sweating. It became so frequent that I had to try & discover triggers in order to cope. After eliminating 1 maintenance drug and 1 food additive the vertigo comes calling much less frequently and in a totally different form. I was taking Lyrica for fibromyalgia and advanced degenerative arthritis. We visited a son 700 mi. From our home and I forgot to put the lyrica in my bag. 2 wk visit without the medication increased my discomfort but I realized there was no vertigo during our visit. Once home and back on the regimen vertigo returned. Also, I liked a certain brand of yogurt. During a diet elimination test of various foods I found less vertigo the 2 wk period without yogurt which contained aspartame. Now without lyrica or aspartame vertigo comes in a much different manner and much less frequently. The first symptom used to be loss of balance quickly followed by spinning room, nystagmus and intense nausea, vomiting, sweating, migraine. Once the nausea and miserable dry heaves of bile passed the headache settled in with an aversion to light and intense sweating remained for hours or days with ice packs & cold compresses the only yet welcome relief as any medication only prolonged the nausea and promptly came back up.

Perhaps I should add that I have no hearing in R ear, 30 % remaining in L ear and a hearing aid in L. I’ve had tinnitus always even as a child. Mom would say things had to be completely quiet sometimes and I recall wondering how when all these different noises, shrill, staccato, varying tones were forever going strong in both ears.
Also, the only medication I have been given by my ear dr. is meclizine which seems pointless as it doesn’t stay down long enough to help. He said taking it daily would likely initiate vertigo. I’ve been prescribed nothing else. Once when I fell suddenly and violently as if shot, cutting my scalp open on a store fixture while shopping and having an ambulance called to take me to ER, I was given Ativan. I asked for pain meds for headache but was not given any. I seldom take acetaminophen even but for whatever reason was not helped with the headache. Kept overnight, MRI and bloodwork, released after 36 hrs.

Hiya, when I first saw a consultant and then later the neurologist, they both told me to take out all known dietary triggers. Caffeine, chocolate, chinese food, citrus fruit, bananas, dairy, eggs and processed meat. Whilst i initially didnt think any of this made a difference, when i got really bad again after introducing the chocolate, dairy and lemon drizzle cake, i did restrict it again. People may say it was a coincidence but my symptoms did increase considerable after i gave into a slice of my favourite lemon drizzle cake. When I asked my neurologist how i can have chinese food on 2 different days and not have any issues and the the 3rd time i was really bad, he explained how VM can be related to like a jug and the combination of triggers fill that jug until it over spills and that’s when you’re at your worst. My last bad bought, i related to asulphame and aspartame when i was drinking a load of flavoured water a day. These are also in lots of fruit drinks. Also, i was chewing alot of gum cos of my meds making my mouth dry, which i also found asulphame in so now get it from the health shop. I researched it and these are known migraine triggers. I know everyones different and probably everyone has different triggers that affect them differently. I hope this helps somebody x

so if i live on a diet of pure rainbows i should be ok :rofl:

my issue with finding triggers is that i always seem to have some symptoms, so it’s really hard to say what triggered my symptoms because there’s not really a before and after. it’s more like always there, but some days worse than others, or sometimes just worse for a couple of hours then back to base level.
also i have been avoiding all the common triggers for a long time, and it hasn’t stopped the MAV, so it’s hard to know if they have any effect.
and if triggers can have an effect straight away, or days later, how on earth can you tell what might have been a trigger?

i guess one way to do it is to binge on chocolate, red wine and coffee, and see if there is any appreciable effect. other than being happy for a while. :sunglasses:


This is what Buchholz says in his “Heal Your Headache” book, too. He says that the triggers are additive. A small amount of one may not bother you, but add up small amounts of a bunch of triggers and the sum total may be enough to exceed your personal “threshold.”

Maybe I can tolerate a small amount of MSG, for example. Or maybe I can tolerate a small amount of cheese. Or red wine. But ingest all three of them on the same day and that might exceed my “threshold.”

In my mind, that’s what makes it so difficult to figure out. I’ve struggled with the concept of how to figure out whether I have triggers, and the following paragraphs are why I’m struggling.

And if you go on an elimination diet, isn’t there a chance that you might never figure out that it’s the combination of several triggers? For example, let’s pretend that I go on the elimination diet and eliminate all of the potential triggers. Then let’s pretend that I add the first one, MSG, back into my diet. I add in a small amount and I do OK. I do that for a week, and I do OK. So I assume that MSG is not a trigger for me and I continue to eat it.

Then let’s assume that I add cheese back into my diet. Remember, I’m still consuming the MSG because I assumed that it wasn’t a trigger. Maybe the cheese+MSG combination is still below my threshold, so it doesn’t cause a problem. So I assume that cheese is not a trigger for me, just like I assumed the MSG wasn’t a trigger.

Now let’s assume that I add red wine back into my diet. I’m still consuming MSG and cheese because I’ve assumed that they aren’t triggers for me. But maybe the combination of MSG+cheese+red wine is enough to exceed my threshold, and I begin to have MAV symptoms. I’m going to assume that it’s the red wine that is the trigger, because I had the symptoms when I added the red wine back in.

But maybe all three are really triggers for me, but I just hadn’t consumed enough MSG or cheese (or the combination of the two) to exceed my threshold. So most likely I wouldn’t know that MSG and cheese really are triggers for me, too, because I didn’t have a problem until I drank red wine and therefore I assumed that red wine was the trigger.

Am I over-thinking this? :slight_smile:

Sometimes I don’t really believe the jug theory. When I was feeling really good, with verrrry little glitches in the day, I was trying certain foods to see if I was symptomatic and I noticed when they were a trigger it’d be within 10~ mins that I’d notice.(not on any meds to reduce the shock from a trigger). I’d get a cluster headache with some foods (ricotta cheese store brands), and a really bad fallout with white Chocolate.

Your message was well written and I too am relating to the jug theory.
I only started to understand the triggers after Dr S explained it to me and I’ve experienced it with both Chinese food and seperately with chocolate. Fortunately (if you can say that) for me after 2 chinese takeaways and feeling ok, my 3rd brought on my symptoms and again, after 5 days of 2 small chocolates, my symptoms came on. Coincidence maybe, but I believe it’s down to the overspilling jug

Ear pressure can be a symptom of vestibular migraine and not fluid. I waa misdiagnosed with ear fluid/eustachian tube dysfunction but it was really vestibular migraine all along.

About triggers: after 7 years of this i still have no idea what triggers my constant symptoms all day every day. Tried diet, lifestyle and environment changes and none of it had any effect at all. I feel totally helpless, it’s out of my control. I suspect something internal such as hormones, vitamin deficiencies, thyroid or autoimmune problems because i am certain none of the common migraine triggers apply to me. I’ve avoided everything you are supposed to avoid, and done everything they tell you to do and none of it has helped me in the slightest. Even preventative meds made my VM worse, not better. If you haven’t had blood tests for thyroid, deficiencies or autoimmune problems, ask your neuro or doctor for them. It might provide some answers.