Get More Iron In Your Diet
If you suffer from heavy periods and regularly have headaches at the end of your menstrual cycle, the iron deficiency caused by blood loss could be to blame. When you’re iron deficient, your brain doesn’t get enough oxygen, which then causes the brain’s blood vessels to swell and cause pressure and pain. To get more iron in your diet, you can take supplements or eat foods including:
Foods To Help Prevent Migraines
Although the easiest way to get more magnesium in is to simply take a 400-500 mg supplement once a day, or two 300 mg magnesium supplements one in the morning and one in the evening, you can also get the mineral in your diet with foods you eat.
Heres a list of several high magnesium foods:
Dark leafy greens kale, spinach, Swiss chard Nuts and seeds pumpkin, almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, sesame seeds, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds Broccoli
Other Factors That Contribute To Hormonal Migraines
Chronic migraines can simply be a result of genetics. When this is the case, you can suffer from the pain of a migraine at any time. However, there are some specific things that can trigger a hormonal migraine. Any one of these triggers, or a combination of several of them together, can bring on a migraine. Whether suffering from genetic migraines or hormonal migraines, you want to be aware of the triggers and avoid them whenever possible.
Many migraine triggers are related to your lifestyle and overall health. Like with any medical condition, good nutrition and adequate rest can do wonders. Too much sleep, as well as too little sleep, can trigger a migraine. Skipping meals will also contribute to these headaches. To avoid unnecessary pain, set up a routine for yourself that includes a well-balanced diet and a sleep routine that provides your body with the rest it needs.
When it comes to nutrition, there are several things you need to avoid if you suffer from hormonal migraines. Processed meats are a big trigger as well as soy products. Aged cheese can have the same effect, and artificial sweeteners found in many foods and beverages will also bring on a migraine. Make sure to be on the lookout for MSG. It is used in many food items as a preservative, but it is alsolinked to migraines.
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Bringing Light To Our Stories
We are all so very different and yet are facing a situation that is not openly or frequently discussed. Please share your experiences with the intersection between migraine and menses, pregnancy, and menopause in the comment section below so that we can connect, relate, and better understand our experiences.
Supplement For Hormone Health
If you already have your foundational basics covered like eating, drinking, moving, thinking, breathing, sunlight, sleeping, and play, then it may be time for supplements. The first place to go is providing the building blocks to our hormones and their balancing systems like B vitamins and especially methylated ones for migraines sufferers, zinc, selenium, vitamin E, magnesium, and vitamin C. You may want to work with a holistic healthcare professional to identify which supplements you most need.
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What Causes Menstrual Migraines
Changes in sex hormones are associated with worsening headaches. From the start of a person’s first period, levels of the sex hormones estrogen and progesterone start to fluctuate on a monthly basis. This opens the door for hormone-induced migraines.
“Estrogen levels rapidly decline about five days before the onset of the period. That drop in estrogen is thought to trigger a menstrual migraine,” says Jelena Pavlovic, MD, PhD, a neurologist at Montefiore Medical Center.
Moreover, the MGH Center for Women’s Mental Health reports that while boys and girls have similar rates of getting migraines, the incidence increases dramatically for girls once they get their first period. Over time, adult women will outnumber men in recurring migraines by 3 to 1.
Natural Treatments And Lifestyle Adjustments For Menstrual Migraines
Lifestyle treatments are always tricky to study, since they are hard to control and not as well-funded as pharmaceutical medicine.
Magnesium: Thereâs some evidence that magnesium can relieve migraine pain . In a small preliminary trial, participants took magnesium supplements three times per day starting from Day 15 of their cycle until the start of their next period . This treatment helped decrease the participantsâ total pain and also improved their PMS symptoms . In a randomized control trial where participants received either a placebo or a drug containing magnesium, vitamin B2, and coenzyme Q10, the severity of migraines was lower among those taking the drug, though the number of days in which migraines were experienced was not statistically different from the placebo .
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Treating Hormonally Mediated Migraines Naturally
Some women find relief by taking a hormonal contraceptive or hormone replacement therapy, but there are certain risks that come with each of these treatments. Here are some ways to treat hormonal migraines naturally:
- Botanical medicine Vitex agnus-castus, Tanacetum parthenium, Petasites, Zingiber officinalis
- Supplemental nutrients Vitamin B6, B2, B1, magnesium, CoQ10
- Homeopathy Constitutional homeopathic medicine prescribed for your specific headache symptoms
- Nutrition Avoiding high tyramine foods, MSG, food colorings, preservatives, chocolate, wine, aged cheese, nuts and processed foods
- Lifestyle Making sure to get plenty of exercise and sleep while working on stress management
- Craniosacral therapy or acupuncture Both can help with active headaches and prevent future headaches as well
- If you suffer from hormonally mediated migraines, make an appointment with a naturopathic doctor to create a plan to treat your specific symptoms.
For more information: Uptodate.com/contents/estrogen-associated-migraine
Is Your Birth Control Causing Headaches
Headaches are sometimes a side effect of hormonal birth control . In one study, taking oral contraceptives affected migraines, with 24% of people experiencing increased frequency of migraines .
Estrogen-withdrawal headaches are a type of headache that people get during their âpill-freeâ or âsugar-pill weekâ when they are taking oral contraceptives. This type of headache usually goes away within 3 days, but then will return during the estrogen-free week of the next cycle .
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What Is Menstrual Migraine
First, letâs make sure weâre all on the same page about what âmenstrual migraineâ actually means. Menstrual migraine is a type of migraine that always happens just before or at the beginning of your period. Apart from that, theyâre no different from any other migraine attacks, although they can be longer and more painful than non-menstrual attacks .
There Are Many Ways To Treat Menstrual Migraine
To make a referral, schedule an appointment or find out more about services available through the Headache and Facial Pain Program, call 513-475-8730. For more information about the UC Neuroscience Institute, call 866-941-8264.
CINCINNATIThere are many treatment options that can help to prevent or ease the discomfort of menstrual migraine, which makes life miserable for millions of American women, says an expert in headache and migraine at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and UC Health.
Menstrual migraines represent attacks of migraine that begin two days to three days after menstruation, says Vincent Martin, MD, professor of medicine in UCs division of general internal medicine and co-director of the Headache and Facial Pain Program at the UC Neuroscience Institute. They occur in about 7 percent of the female population and in more than half of women who suffer from migraine. These migraines tend to be much worse than those experienced during other times of the menstrual cycle.
Menstrual migraine is thought to occur as a result of falling estrogen levels at the time of menstruation and the possible release of chemicals called prostaglandins from a shedding uterus, explains Martin.
The key is to prevent falls in estrogen that occur when the active hormones are withdrawn, says Martin.
Non-hormonal therapies for managing menstrual migraines include daily preventive medications and mini-prophylaxis , says Martin.
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When Natural Is Not Enough
There are medications you can take to help alleviate headache pain, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, triptans, beta blockers and others. I recommend using medication only if you arent able to relieve symptoms through the methods listed above. Remember, ibuprofen can poke holes in your gut and cause many gastrointestinal issues, and nearly all prescriptions have their side effects. I find regular fish oil works better than ibuprofen.
And while the occasional headache is normal, hormonal-related headaches certainly dont have to be part of your everyday life or monthly cycle. Prevention is the best strategy, and in the long run it will cost you less than the painkillers currently taking up space in your medicine cabinet.
How do you deal with headaches? Do you have any no-fail tips? Share them with me in the comments below.
More Menstrual Migraine Prevention Tips
A few other things you can try at home to prevent menstrual migraines:
- Exercise every day. Moderate exercise, like a walk, bike ride, or swim, could help you have fewer migraine headaches and make them less intense. Be careful not to work out too hard, though. Sometimes strenuous exercise can trigger migraines.
- Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. A lack of rest can set off migraine attacks.
- Relax. Stress leads to migraine for many people. Try techniques like deep breathing, yoga, and meditation to take the pressure off.
- Watch what you eat. Avoid foods that trigger your headaches. Some foods that are common migraine triggers include: chocolate, caffeine, alcohol, aspartame and other artificial sweeteners, processed meat, and cheeses.
- Graze throughout the day. Hunger can give you headaches. Eat several small meals and snacks instead of three big ones.
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Medicines That Prevent Menstrual Migraine
If your periods don’t come on schedule or you also get migraine headaches at other times in your menstrual cycle, you can take preventive medicine every day. Drugs that prevent migraine headaches include:
- Some types of antidepressants
- Some types of antiseizure medicines
- Blood pressure medicines such as beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers
- CGRP inhibitors, these are a new class of preventive medicine
Devices which may be used for treatment or prevention include:.
- Cefaly, a small headband device that sends electrical pulses through the forehead to stimulate a nerve linked with migraines
- Spring TMS or eNeura sTM, a device for people who have an aura before migraine headaches. You hold it at the back of your head at the first sign of a headache, and it gives off a magnetic pulse that stimulates part of the brain.
- Noninvasive vagus nerve stimulator gammaCore is a hand-held portable device placed over the vagus nerve in the neck. It releases a mild electrical stimulation to the nerve’s fibers to relieve pain.
What Causes Hormonal Migraine
The question of how hormones modulate migraine is one that hasn’t been clearly answered. The prevailing hypothesis is that it is due to falling levels of estrogen that happen when estrogen peaks and then falls throughout the month, such as with the menstrual period. The drop in estrogen levels before the menstrual period is a theory for the occurrence of menstrual migraine.
The problem is that this doesn’t hold up when it comes to hormone therapies. For example, high-dose estrogen birth control or hormone replacement in postmenopausal women can itself be an exacerbator of migraine. In that case, you’re giving a high stable dose of estrogen, and still that increase is a migraine trigger.
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Managing Migraine In Women Often Means Managing Hormones
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Prevalence of migraine among women is about three times that of men, and fluctuations in female sex hormones often play a role in the onset of the condition. Women are particularly vulnerable to migraine during the childbearing years, which are also generally the most active and demanding years of a womans life.
The evolution of migraine in women is related to big hormonal times of change. It picks up at menarche and rapidly increases in incidence and prevalence during the teens, 20s and going into the 30s and 40s,Jelena Pavlovic, MD, PhD, of the Montefiore Medical Center at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, told Endocrine Today. In terms of burden, it culminates in the reproductive years, when women need to be the most productive, with young children and jobs.
Pavlovic talked to Endocrine Today about the mechanisms of hormonal migraine, how the condition is diagnosed, and the different treatments that may benefit patients with these debilitating headaches.
What types of hormonal changes are most likely to cause migraine?
How exactly do hormones affect migraine? Which hormones are involved?
This suggests that we need another trigger to come along and tip an already sensitive system over into migraine.
How should hormone-related migraine be treated during the different phases of a womans reproductive life?
For more information:
Hormonal Headaches & Migraines: A Women’s Health Issue
Headaches and migraines. Most of us have experienced one or the other as some point and know just how miserable they can be. Its likely, too, that youve noticed a connection between headache or migraine symptoms and hormone shifts and youd be exactly right.
Hormonal shifts can be a huge trigger and explain why headaches are far more common in women, with migraines three times as common in women than men. It also explains why for many women they first show up when they first start getting their period or in their late teens/early 20s and drop by 50 percent or even disappear completely after menopause.
Women are too often told by doctors that our hormone-related symptoms are not significant that theyre just normal, or that they are over-reacting in other words, that its all in their heads. But hormonal headaches and migraines are not just all in your head. Migraines are actually described in the medical literature as one of the most common, disabling gynecologic conditions, and menstruation as one of the most potent migraine triggers.
Further, even if you are given a prescription for your headaches or migraines, they dont always work, as youll learn soon many may actually become a headache trigger, and they carry side-effects that can be anything from unpleasant to serious.
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What Causes Menstrual Migraine
There is a link between migraine and falling levels of the hormone oestrogen. The natural drop in oestrogen levels before your period starts is linked to menstrual migraine. Women who have heavy and painful periods have higher levels of prostaglandin , which has also been identified as playing a role in a menstrual migraine.
Can Estrogen Levels Cause Headaches
Estrogen dominance is the most common cause of hormonal headaches. This can occur when there is an excess amount of estrogen in your system either because you are making too much, not eliminating it effectively, or are being over exposed to xenoestrogens.
It can also happen if you’re not ovulating or not making sufficient progesterone.
Estrogen dominance is referred to as estrogen excess in medicine and is a diagnosable condition. Sometimes doctors will say they do not believe in estrogen dominance, but this is often because they are not testing correctly or familiar with the diagnosis .
Working with a hormone expert can help you identify the source of your headaches and support you in relieving them for good.
Finding your root cause is important to understand if something bigger is at play.
Ok, so finding the root cause is important and sure Ibuprofen and Tylenol are bad, but when theres pain, whats a girl to do?
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Hormones You Win Again
Being female, youre on a hormonal roller-coaster ride most of your life. The ups can be thrilling, , but the downs can cause imbalance to the chemicals and systems of the brain, resulting in headache.
The estrogen/progesterone balance plays a pivotal role in whether you regularly experience hormonal-related headaches. Many women are prone to getting headaches just before they start their periods a time when estrogen levels take a dive. And if youre one of thousands of women who experience menstrual migraines severely painful headaches that occur usually before or during menstruation you probably dont need me to reiterate just how disruptive and excruciating they are.
What do you normally do when a headache strikes?
The conventional remedy is usually a strong dose of acetaminophen, ibuprofen or aspirin, the ingredients found in over-the-counter painkillers. And while theres nothing harmful about these pills , there are natural ways to rebalance your hormones to avoid needing headache medicine in the first place.
Whats The Outlook For Menopause Migraines
Perimenopause migraines are triggered by alterations in hormone levels. Once these hormone changes have settled after the menopause, most people find their migraines go away. This can, however, take many months or even a few years. Effective treatments are available to manage the symptoms and reduce the number of attacks you experience. If your migraines are caused by something other than your changing hormones, its possible that symptoms will continue after the menopause and require ongoing treatment.
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What Questions Should I Ask My Healthcare Provider About Menstrual Migraines
- Am I experiencing a menstrual migraine or another type of migraine?
- Should I change any of the medications Im taking?
- What treatment do you recommend?
- What medications should I take?
A note from Cleveland Clinic
A migraine is more than a bad headache. Not only can menstrual migraines get severe, but women have reported that they can be even worse than a migraine that occurs when theyre not on their period. Talk to your healthcare provider about your symptoms. There are preventative measures and treatment options. A menstrual migraine might not be something you just have to live with every month.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/03/2021.