The Bathtub Theory: Why constantly tracking headache triggers will never solve the real causes of migraine headaches.

Do you ever feel confused why some days, eating a late lunch is the fast track to a bad migraine and other days it isn’t that big of a deal?

You are trying to figure out your headache causes, trying to watch for patterns…but you feel like the reasons are not consistent! You may not even have a confident answer when someone asks you what triggers headaches for you.

It’s enough to make you want to pull your hair out!

No wonder there is an underlying (and unfair) belief in the medical community that people with frequent headaches are just anxious or are just complainers who want attention.

If I remember back to the days when I had headaches 4-5x days a week, I would rarely even share that I was suffering. When you don’t have a clear reason for your headaches, even your closest friends and family will struggle to empathize again and again and will try to help with well-intentioned but useless suggestions to “drink more water” or “just relax”.

So most of the time, I smiled, put on a brave face, and carried on, just like you probably do nearly every day. So no, we are not complainers and we are not crazy.

We have real pain and there are real causes. Sometimes they just aren’t that obvious.

In fact, conventional medicine will tell you that because the mechanisms involved in migraines aren’t fully understood yet, you can only reduce the symptoms. In the functional and integrative medicine community, we understand that migraines are a symptom of an underlying dysfunction and that there is always a cause.

(If this sounds complicated and you are looking for someone to guide you to find the root causes of your migraine pain, be sure to read my tips for finding an effective migraine specialist!)

Having multiple sources of stress and multiple dysfunctions going on in your body will eventually trigger disease, pain or symptoms wherever your genetic weak link happens to be. If you are reading this page, then one of your genetic weak links is likely migraines.

There is a compounding stress-effect for headache triggers. As in, the more stressors (triggers) that you have going on at one time… the more likely you are to activate a headache. The only way to build resilience to the everyday things you can’t always control is to look for the deeper stressors and heal from those hidden imbalances (which is exactly why I created a four step Functional Migraine Consulting program to help you get to the bottom of these hidden causes!)

To help clients visualize this concept of compounding stress, I describe a bathtub where you can picture some of the reasons for your migraine headaches:

mild headache

With just a few triggers in the tub, you probably still feel ok.

moderate headache

A few more triggers and a moderate headache appears.



severe headache

When you have hidden stressors like hormonal imbalances or food sensitivities, those everyday stressors can put you over the edge: overfilling the “bathtub” and giving you a more severe headache. 

What do you think? Does this match your experience? Does it make you feel less crazy?? Visit the private Migraine Recovery Journey page on Facebook to share your thoughts with fellow migraineurs!

The next step is to start tackling those underlying “HIDDEN” stressors and start to build what we like to call “Trigger Tolerance“… an inherent resilience to the things we can’t control like traffic jams or thunderstorms. It is pretty awesome to look back and realize you aren’t as sensitive to triggers and can move through life with a new found freedom!

Get clear on which hidden stressor is holding you back

Answer the 5 questions I ask new clients to see which area we should investigate right away: hormones, digestion, detoxification or immune system.