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by Health By Principle

Beyond Pumpkin Spice: A Deep Dive into Fall's Impact on Migraines


By Rachel Welch 


As the vibrant hues of autumn paint the world, individuals prone to migraines may find themselves navigating unique challenges in managing their condition during this season. The fall, with its fluctuating weather patterns, can pose particular triggers for migraine episodes. The interplay of temperature shifts, changing daylight hours, and variations in atmospheric pressure can act as catalysts for those susceptible to migraines. 


Fall's arrival often heralds shifts in lifestyle, such as altered sleep patterns and dietary changes, which can impact migraine frequency and intensity. The cozy appeal of autumn, with its pumpkin-spiced treats and holiday gatherings, might introduce dietary triggers for some individuals. Moreover, the seasonal transition could prompt shifts in physical activity, stress levels, and sleep hygiene, all of which are integral factors in migraine management. So, let’s get the scary fall factors out of the way first, and then move into strategies to fight back. 



Daylight savings or daylight stealing? 


One of the most controversial and arguably antiquated factors that autumn brings is the adjustment to daylight savings time. When we “fall back” an hour, somehow we also fall into early darkness, confused circadian rhythms, and visitation of mental health challenges like the aptly-named SAD (seasonal affective disorder). In addition to these responses, autumn’s time change also tends to increase the population’s health risks for things like heart attack, strokes, and mood disturbances. 


Every year, like clockwork (pun intended), we see similar trends: an increase in hospitalizations, elevated inflammatory markers, and even an increase in car accidents. But how does this alter the experience of a migraineur? The various disruptions to an otherwise normal schedule have the potential to throw off anyone, including those who suffer from migraines. When your sleep schedule becomes irregular, you may find yourself more susceptible to migraine triggers. With the change in our daily sunlight exposure, it can also be possible to fall back into a vitamin D-deficient state. Now, you are not only dealing with fatigue from your sleep schedule being thrown off but also vitamin deficiencies and the overwhelming knowledge that society is more prone to accidents and health issues now than before (sorry about that). The stress of it all is too much, and unfortunately, stress can also contribute to the occurrence of migraines.  



Weather and why it matters 


The arrival of autumn brings about a symphony of weather changes, marked by fluctuations in temperature, shifts in atmospheric pressure, and variations in daylight hours. While many revel in the beauty of falling leaves and cooler temperatures, these seasonal alterations carry a potential dark side. They can contribute to an increased vulnerabilty to sickness and a higher likelihood of migraines for some individuals. 


Research has shown that weather changes, particularly drops in temperature and alterations in atmospheric pressure, may prompt the onset of migraine symptoms. Some studies suggest that temperature changes are significantly associated with an increased risk of migraines in individuals prone to these headaches. Furthermore, fluctuations in barometric pressure, a common occurrence during the fall, have been identified as a possible trigger for migraine episodes. The theory is that changes in pressure can affect the balance of chemicals in the brain and may contribute to the dilation of blood vessels, both of which are associated with migraines. 



Barometric pressure and migraines 


Barometric pressure, often referred to as atmospheric pressure, is the force exerted by the atmosphere at a given point. It plays a significant role in influencing weather patterns, and its fluctuations can impact the human body. In the fall, changes in barometric pressure become particularly noticeable and can have distinct effects on individuals. 


As autumn unfolds, the atmosphere undergoes temperature and humidity shifts, leading to barometric pressure variations. These changes are often more pronounced compared to other seasons, contributing to the unique atmospheric conditions of fall. Barometric pressure, as it is a change in air pressure, may affect the balance of fluids within the body, including those in the inner ear. For some individuals, sensitivity to barometric pressure changes is manifested through symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, and migraines. As the pressure drops, it can lead to the expansion of blood vessels in the brain, potentially triggering migraines in vulernable individuals. The relationship between falling barometric pressure and migraines, in particular, continues to be studied. At the moment, researchers have been unable to establish any broad conclusion regarding weather and migraines but have observed certain groups of migraineurs who are more sensitive than others to these atmospheric effects.  


Some individuals report feeling a sense of heaviness in their heads or changes in their ears, akin to the sensation experienced during changes in altitude. Understanding these nuances in barometric pressure during the fall can empower individuals to take proactive steps in managing their well-being. This may include staying hydrated, practicing relaxation techniques, and being mindful of potential triggers for conditions like migraines. By recognizing and adapting to the atmospheric shifts unique to autumn, individuals can navigate the season with a heightened awareness of their body's response to these environmental changes. 


While we don’t yet have definitive research to confirm the relationship between weather and migraines completely, that does not diminish the various experiences of migraineurs. Many individuals who suffer from migraines have tracked their symptoms and potential triggers and have found that weather and migraine likelihood are correlated.  Research continues in this area, substantiated by the many claims of migraineurs worldwide. 




Migraine management: Changes with the seasons 


As the seasons change, so must the approach to migraine prevention and management. Lifestyle factors, including diet, nutrition, hydration, supplementation, and exercise, play crucial roles in mitigating the frequency and severity of migraine episodes. Also, migraines can impact individuals of all ages, including your children. For a specialized approach to supporting your younger family members, check out our recent blog post. As the fall season ushers in its unique challenges, individuals can tailor their approach to incorporate autumn-specific strategies for optimal migraine management. 


Diet and Nutrition 
Dietary choices can significantly impact migraine susceptibility. Some individuals find relief by identifying and avoiding specific electrolyte imbalance triggering foods. In the fall, the abundance of seasonal delights may introduce treats and triggers. For example, pumpkin seeds and certain nuts rich in magnesium can potentially help prevent migraines, whereas the consumption of processed or aged cheeses—common ingredients in fall recipes—may act as the cause for an electrolyte imbalance for some individuals. Maintaining a balanced diet that includes an adequate intake of magnesium, riboflavin, and omega-3 fatty acids can be beneficial. 
Embracing the fall harvest can be an opportunity to incorporate migraine-friendly foods. Dark, leafy greens, commonly available in the fall, are rich in magnesium and can contribute to migraine prevention. Additionally, staying hydrated by consuming water-rich fruits like apples and pears supports overall health and aids in headache prevention. 
Dehydration is a common prompt for migraine symptoms. The cooler temperatures of fall might make individuals less mindful of their fluid intake. However, maintaining hydration remains crucial. Incorporating warm beverages like herbal teas or infusions can be a comforting way to stay hydrated in the fall, while also avoiding excessive consumption of caffeinated or sugary drinks, which will cause an electrolyte imbalance that can prompt the onset of migraine symptoms. Sorry, pumpkin spice and peppermint mocha lattes. 
Certain supplements can complement migraine management efforts. In the fall, as exposure to sunlight decreases, individuals might experience lower levels of vitamin D. This deficiency has been linked to increased migraine frequency. Therefore, considering vitamin D supplementation, under the guidance of a healthcare professional, can be beneficial. Additionally, incorporating riboflavin (vitamin B2) supplements, which have shown promise in reducing migraines, can be a part of a preventative strategy. Additional supplements that may help prevent migraines include magnesium and electrolytes, which you can find here! 
Regular physical activity is a cornerstone of overall well-being and can contribute to migraine prevention. Engaging in fall-specific exercises, such as brisk walks amidst the crisp air or outdoor activities like hiking, not only promotes cardiovascular health but can also alleviate stress—a common migraine trigger. However, individuals should be mindful of their personal thresholds and choose exercises that suit their fitness levels to prevent exercise-induced migraines. 


Stress Management 
Fall often brings a busy schedule with the start of a new school year or seasonal work commitments. Stress is a well-established trigger for migraines, and implementing stress management techniques becomes crucial. Mindfulness practices like meditation and deep-breathing exercises can be particularly effective in navigating the heightened demands of the fall season. With the emerging and continually supported research in favor of meditation, you can find plenty of resources to get started with a meditation technique that will work for you. 


Effective migraine management involves a holistic lifestyle approach that considers the interplay of diet, hydration, supplementation, and exercise. Embracing the unique aspects of the fall season, individuals can tailor their strategies to optimize their well-being. By being mindful of seasonal situations and incorporating autumn-specific adjustments into their routine, individuals can empower themselves to enjoy the beauty of fall while minimizing the impact of migraines on their daily lives. It is essential, however, for individuals to consult with healthcare professionals for personalized advice and guidance in developing a comprehensive migraine management plan. 


Navigating this season demands a comprehensive approach to migraine management. Beyond understanding and mitigating environmental triggers, individuals may find it beneficial to maintain a consistent routine, prioritize sufficient sleep, and manage stress through relaxation techniques. Fall also offers an opportunity to explore preventive measures, including seasonal adjustments to medication and adopting mindfulness practices. 


In this delicate dance between the beauty of fall and the intricacies of migraine management, individuals can empower themselves with knowledge and strategies to embrace the season while minimizing the impact on their well-being. As the leaves change, so too can one's approach to self-care, ensuring a harmonious coexistence with the vibrant and dynamic autumnal landscape.


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