Combatting Menstrual Migraines Naturally
Combatting Menstrual Migraines Naturally
- How do hormone changes trigger migraines?
- What are the symptoms of migraines?
- What are the symptoms of migraines?
- Supplements to help alleviate migraine pain
- Lifestyle and environmental factors to assist in symptom reduction
- How we can help
More than 70% of menstrual migraines sufferers in Australia are women. And more than half of them get severe, debilitating headaches before or during their periods.
This is often caused by estrogen levels dropping sharply at that point in a woman’s menstrual cycle. (1)
These hormone-triggered migraines can have a profoundly negative effect on the quality of a woman’s life each month but there are ways to alleviate the symptoms of migraines naturally and avoid the synthetic medication, birth control pills or hormone therapy that are often prescribed.
How do hormone changes trigger migraines?
Hormonal changes in the menstrual cycle are one of the most common migraine triggers for women.
Studies show that a migraine is most likely to occur in the two days leading up to a period and the first three days of a period.
The two most accepted theories on the cause for menstrual migraine are:
- the withdrawal of oestrogen as part of the normal menstrual cycle and
- the normal release of prostaglandin during the first 48 hours of menstruation.
As diagnosis cannot be confirmed via testing, the only accurate way to tell if you have menstrual migraine is to keep a diary for at least three months to record your migraine and the days you menstruate.
This will also help you to identify non-hormonal triggers that you can try to avoid during the most vulnerable times of your menstrual cycle. (2)
What are the symptoms of migraines?
The main characteristic of a hormonal headache is a headache or migraine. Still, many women experience other symptoms that can help doctors diagnose them with a hormonal headache.
Menstrual migraine symptoms are similar to migraine and may or may not be preceded by an aura. It begins as a one-sided, throbbing headache accompanied by nausea, vomiting, or sensitivity to bright lights and sounds. The symptoms include headache pain accompanied by fatigue, acne, joint pain, decreased urination, constipation and lack of coordination. You may also experience an increase in appetite and a craving for chocolate, salt, or alcohol. (3)
How to reduce the symptoms of menstrual migraines naturally
At Advanced Functional Medicine, we will ensure the root cause of your migraines are understood. This will then serve as the foundation for an effective, individualized therapeutic approach. Migraine management considerations should initially focus on the foundations of health which include the lifestyle components of nutrition and sleep, along with exercise and stress modification. (4)
Supplements to help alleviate migraine pain
Magnesium is critical in numerous physiological functions, including the onset of headaches- especially migraines.
“Deficiencies in magnesium may alter nociceptive processing and neurotransmitter release, and lead to hyper aggression of platelets, which all contribute to the onset of migraines. Incorporate magnesium to your diet through foods such as avocados, nuts and legumes, or by taking a magnesium supplement in order to achieve menstrual migraine relief.” (5)
Try taking some natural progesterone two weeks before your period to balance low progesterone levels. You will need to work with a Functional Medicine health practitioner to determine the right dosing for you. There are an array of nutrients and herbs that can help modulate progesterone and balance estrogens.
Try vitamin E to help reduce high levels of inflammatory compounds made by the lining of the uterus.
There is some evidence that suggests that taurine is helpful in combatting migraine symptoms. Taurine
Caffeine may help with menstrual migraine relief by blocking the receptors of a naturally occurring and necessary brain substance called adenosine. Adenosine levels in the blood go up during migraine attacks. There can be many drawbacks to coffee also, such as anxiety and overstimulating the adrenal glands, use with caution.
Sometimes caffeine can also have the opposite effect and worsen headaches if you are not drinking enough water.
Vitamin B2, also known as riboflavin, may help with menstrual migraine relief. It can be found in certain foods like milk, yogurt, meat, eggs, nuts and leafy green vegetables. You can also get vitamin B2 from a supplement which is a simple way to achieve menstrual migraine relief. Riboflavin is a key cofactor in the methylation cycle, imbalances in the methylation cycle are often a major migraine trigger also.
CoEnzyme Q10 is found in the body’s cells and is one of the main sources of energy within cells. This enzyme has strong anti-oxidative properties and can be taken by a dietary supplement or it can be found in certain foods such as chicken, broccoli, cauliflower, strawberries and oranges.
A daily dose of curcumin, the active compound of turmeric, can support a healthy inflammatory response and optimal blood pressure. It also fights oxidative stress.
In a study conducted on patients who experience migraines, it was shown that two months supplementation with 1g of omega-3 fatty acids significantly decreased the frequency of headaches and also patients reported 74% reduction in the duration of their headache. (6)
The most powerful Omega 3s for supporting the immune system and an appropriate inflammatory response are the ones found in fish oil: docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). (7)
Lifestyle and environmental factors to assist in symptom reduction
Many lifestyle and environmental factors such as the food we eat, stress, and physical activity may affect the presence and severity of menstrual migraines.
The earlier you begin treating your headache, the greater your chances of relief are. These methods can help:
Sit in a dark room
Migraines may increase sensitivity to light. The increase in light sensitivity is known as photophobia and occurs in over 85% of people who suffer from migraines. Sitting in a dimly lit or dark room may help alleviate the severity of your menstrual migraines. Turn off all the lights and diffuse an essential oil such as lavender or peppermint for ultimate relaxation and menstrual migraine relief.
Manage your stress levels
Stress can be a major trigger for migraines. If you are looking for menstrual migraine relief, evaluate the amount of stress you experience on a day to day basis. Taking simple steps each day to reduce your stress can help you achieve menstrual migraine relief. Journaling, meditation, and exercise are outlets to help alleviate stress.
Look for and eliminate other common migraine food triggers
Eating a healthy diet can help prevent migraines. It should consist of fresh foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins.
Fresh foods are less likely to have added food preservatives, such as nitrates, nitrites, monosodium glutamate (MSG) and artificial sweeteners. Preservatives can trigger migraines in some people, so avoiding foods that contain them can help.
There are a number of other migraine-triggering foods. Each individual is different so pay attention to what you ate 24 hours before the pain started.
Common migraine-triggering foods include:
- high histamine foods such as red wine, left over foods, nuts, avocados, eggs and cheese
- aged cheeses
- alcohol, particularly beer and red wine
- cured meats
- smoked fish
- yeast extract
Don’t skip meals
Skipping meals lowers your blood glucose levels, in turn, increasing the severity of migraines. Stress hormones may be released from the body during a fasting period, which then may contribute to the onset of headaches and migraines. Always make sure to eat consistently throughout the day to avoid any drastic drops in blood sugar and help prevent the onset of migraines.
Get enough sleep
Sleep can also be very therapeutic during a migraine attack and may often help stop the migraine that you are experiencing at the time.
When you are not experiencing a migraine, it’s a good idea to pay more attention to your sleeping habits generally.
Some tips include:
- establish a consistent sleep schedule – go to bed at the same time every day and wake up at the same time every day.
- practice good sleep hygiene
- ask your Functional Medicine practitioner about some natural supplements to assist with sleep is required. Often low serotonin levels can be a cause of interrupted sleep and flat moods.
Use a hot or cold compress
Applying a cold towel across your forehead or on the back of your neck may help in alleviating menstrual migraines. Putting ice on your forehead may have a numbing effect by stimulating other nerve endings. A warm compression can help relax the muscles of the neck and help alleviate menstrual migraines. (8)
Drink plenty of water to flush your system from toxins.
How we can help
Menstrual migraine relief can be a complicated and frustrating process for women but at Advanced Functional Medicine, we can support you to overcome your symptoms and stop dreading each month’s migraine arrival.
We assess your hormones, overall biochemistry and investigate other contributing factors such as your gut health, methylation pathways and potential diet and lifestyle interactions that impact your hormones.
Book an appointment with one of our practitioners for a comprehensive women’s hormone health check.
To find out more contact us via the form below.