Natural Home Remedies For Menstrual Migraine Relief
If youre experiencing menstrual migraines, chances are youre also looking for instant relief. While its important to have tools to reduce pain at the onset of menstrual migraines, I also think its just as crucial you have remedies that address the root cause
Below youll find a combination of natural remedies for menstrual migraine relief, including both immediate pain-reducing tips as well as long-term root cause approaches.
How Hormones Affect Migraines
Menstrual migraines are more common with high, fluctuating estrogen and relatively low progesterone, such as during perimenopause. Thats why menstrual migraines are more common between the ages of 40 and 55.
High, fluctuating estrogen promotes migraines by 1) stimulating immune cells to produce more prostaglandins and histamine, and 2) leading to steep estrogen withdrawal, which disrupts the neurotransmitters serotonin and glutamate.
By reducing glutamate and calming the brain, progesterone may help to prevent menstrual migraines.
How The Menstrual Cycle Can Cause Migraine
Women who experience menstrual migraine may be sensitive to hormonal fluctuations experienced just prior to the onset of menstruation. Just before menstruation there is a natural drop in progesterone levels.
The two important females hormones involved are progesterone and estrogen.
Progesterone is a natural steroid hormone involved in the female menstrual cycle that stimulates the uterus to prepare for pregnancy. It is a naturally occurring hormone in the female body that helps a healthy female function normally.
Estrogens or oestrogens , are a group of compounds that are important in the menstrual and reproductive cycles. They are also naturally occurring steroid hormones in women that promote the development and maintenance of female features of the body.
It is important to note that estrogens are used as part of some oral contraceptives and in estrogen replacement therapy for some postmenopausal women.
Throughout the natural menstrual cycle the levels of these hormones fluctuate. During the cycle, the levels of progesterone and estrogens also change in relation to each other. See the image below for how these levels change throughout the cycle.
These fluctuations are normal and part of being a healthy and fertile woman.
Several research studies confirm that migraine is significantly more likely to occur in association with falling estrogen in the late luteal/early follicular phase of the menstrual cycle.
Is estrogen withdrawal the sole trigger for menstrual migraine?
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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.
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Eat Nourishing Meals Consistently
Skipping meals and not eating enough nutrients contribute to blood sugar imbalances and nutrient deficiencies, as well as put your body into stress/survival mode .
Thus eating nourishing meals throughout the day ensures your hormones are getting what they need to stay balanced and keep menstrual migraines at bay. Aim for lots of cruciferous veggies, beets and high quality fats and proteins, which support your liver in detoxing excess estrogen. For more tips on what to eat the week before and during your period check out this post.
Daily Magnesium Has A Preventive Effect
I really like magnesium as a natural supplement to take every day to help prevent menstrual migraine, says Hindiyeh. There is evidence to support using magnesium, though the mechanism of action, or the why behind how it improves migraine, is not totally understood, she says. It could be stabilizing cells or decreasing hyperexcitability or neuronal firing, but thats all theoretical at this point, she adds.
You can learn more about the various types of magnesium supplements on the website Migraine Again, and remember that its always a good idea to talk with your doctor about any supplements you are taking or are interested in taking.
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Which Treatment Option Is Best For You
Keeping a diary of your headaches, including when they occur in relation to your menstrual cycle, as well as their severity and response to treatment, will help your doctor determine the presence of menstrual migraine. There are not any blood tests or any type of imaging that can be done to diagnose this, says Dr. David. Its purely done based on the history.
A headache and menstrual diary can also help you and your doctor identify the best treatment for you. Women with menstrual migraine who have painful cramps may benefit more from a NSAID strategy with a triptan for rescue. Those who have predictable cycles and migraine attacks may benefit from a mini-prevention strategy. Those who dont have regular cycles can try other options.
It is also important to discuss with your doctor any personal risk factors you may have for taking oral contraception, such as an increased risk of stroke, heart disease or blood clots, as hormonal birth control can affect women with migraine differently. Please let your provider know if you have migraine with aura when discussing hormonal options.
The American Migraine Foundation is committed to improving the lives of those living with this debilitating disease. For more of the latest news and information on migraine, visit the AMF Resource Library. For help finding a healthcare provider, check out our Find a Doctor tool. Together, we are as relentless as migraine.
The Link Between Birth Control And Menstrual Migraines
While hormonal birth control is often prescribed to women with symptomatic periods as a way to mitigate side effects, in many cases birth control has been shown to actually make menstrual migraines worse.
This is often attributed to the withdrawal bleed, which is not an actual period, rather an effect of your placebo week accompanied by a drop in hormones. This drop in hormones can trigger menstrual migraines.
Other women report menstrual migraines as a symptom of coming off of birth control .
Either way, its important to pay attention to how YOU feel and know that there are alternatives that dont come with harmful side effects.
**The CDC advises women on hormonal birth control that experience migraines with auras to discontinue use immediately, as they are at increased risk of blood clotting and strokes.
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Why Most Menstrual Migraines Happen Before Or During Your Period
During your menstrual cycle, estrogen drops right before your period, signaling to your uterus to shed the uterine lining its been building in preparation for a potential pregnancy.
In a typical, healthy menstrual cycle, this drop in estrogen signals your period to begin, with very minimal to no symptoms. However if you have a hormonal imbalance related to excess estrogen or high estrogen in relation to low progesterone, this hormonal shift can cause a myriad of side effects, including menstrual migraines.
Thus, its not actually your period causing your menstrual migraines, but rather an underlying hormonal imbalance of estrogen dominance or high estrogen to low progesterone ratio that is triggered during the onset of your period.
Menstrual Migraine To Chronic Daily Migraine
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Triptans Can Play A Preventive Role
But there are certain types of triptans that are longer acting, which can make them useful in helping to prevent a migraine attack or make it less severe, says Hindiyeh.
Your shorter-acting triptans such as Imitrex and Maxalt typically have a half-life of about four hours, she explains. The half-life of a drug is the length of time required for the concentration of that drug to decrease to half its starting dose in the body, according to StatPearls.
There are also triptans that have a longer half-life. For example, Frova has a half-life of 26 hours, and Amerge has a half-life of 6 to 8 hours. These longer-acting ones can often be used as a mini-prophylaxis right around your period, she says.
If you know your period is a big trigger for a migraine attack, you can start taking one of those longer-acting triptans a couple days before your period on a schedule, either every day or twice a day for a few days in row, depending on the medication. This can help prevent the migraine attack from getting so bad, says Hindiyeh.
Preventative Menstrual Migraine Treatments
Triptans: This medication can also be taken to prevent future migraines from happening. In one study, using triptans for a few days before the start of the period helped reduce both severity and frequency of menstrual migraine headaches .
Hormone stabilization techniques: Preventative treatment using hormone therapy may help to decrease the frequency of severe menstrual migraines. In one study, researchers looked at how two treatments with hormonal contraception affected migraines. The majority of participants were prescribed combined oral contraceptives and additionally took estrogen during the week of their withdrawal bleed , which helped to make the drop in estrogen less severe. Fewer participants used the estrogen patch during their normal menstrual period to prevent the drop in hormones. Among all participants, eight out of 10 people reported a decrease in their menstrual migraines and were able to reduce their pain-medication use by half .
Continuous birth control: Using a form of continuous/extended-use birth control may be an option to decrease menstrually related migraine attacks or headaches. People who took extended use combined oral contraceptives had fewer headache symptoms, and were more productive . Talk to your healthcare provider about extended use hormonal birth control, though this may not be the right therapy for everyone, especially those with migraine with auraâsee the section below on hormonal birth control for more info.
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Everything You Need To Know About Menstrual Migraines
Everyone experiences different symptoms during their time of the month. If you already deal with period symptoms like cramps, gas, bloating and acne and have to manage the high cost of menstrual products, migraines are the last things you want to add to the list.
If you experience menstrual migraines, youre not alone. For almost two of every three women with migraines, menstruation is a trigger. At CEFALY, we believe your bodys natural processes shouldnt make you suffer. Follow along to learn why women experience menstrual migraines and how you can treat them!
What Foods Are Good For Period Headaches
__% of women suffer from period headaches, which are usually located around the forehead. Food is a factor that affects the intensity of your period headaches. It is suggested to avoid or minimize the consumption of high-fat foods and sugar during menstruation. If the cause of your period headaches is caffeine withdrawal, you can try to reduce your caffeine intake, but be careful as you may also suffer from headaches. Other foods that are good for period headaches are tomatoes and peppers. You should eat them raw or only slightly cooked. So instead of grabbing a pain killer whenever you have a headache, try to evaluate the dietary intake of your body..
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Other Causes Of Migraine Attacks
Certain risk factors, such as age and family history, can play a role in whether you get migraine or menstrual migraine. Simply being a woman puts you at increased risk.
Of course, you cant control your sex, age, or family tree, but it may help to keep a migraine diary. This can help you identify and avoid triggers.
Signs Youre Having A Period Migraine
Migraines can happen predictably, especially if youre prone to having them before, during, or after your period. You may get a migraine a day or two before you start to bleed. You may also get a migraine during the duration of your period. Or you might get one right after or during ovulation.
Certain signs make it easier to tell whether your migraine is happening in connection with your cycle. Heres what to look for:
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Breaking Down Three Main Treatment Strategies For Menstrual Migraine And How To Pick The Best Option For You
For nearly two out of three women with migraine, attacks occur around the same time as their period. By definition, if you have migraine attacks that start between the two days before your period and the third day of flow, you likely have menstrual migraine. These attacks are often more severe, longer, and cause greater light sensitivity than attacks occurring other times of the month.
Menstrual migraine is caused by the rapid drop in estrogen levels that occurs just prior to your period. I have patients that tell me, Arent headaches a part of having a menstrual cycle? says Dr. Paru David, an internist who works in the division of womens health internal medicine at Mayo Clinic in Arizona. I educate them that not all women have headaches during their menstrual cycles.
Migraine attacks occurring just before and during a womans period can be the most challenging kind to treat. They do not always respond to the same medicines that work on migraine attacks happening at other times. The reason medications dont work the same is not entirely clear. But its likely related to estrogens effects on other chemicals.
Hormones And Head Pain: Whats The Deal
As with most things period related, hormones are to blame. Before your period, estrogen and progesterone levels rise. Then, those levels come crashing down as a signal to your uterus to let that lining go.
This fall in estrogen can trigger headaches. Since birth control regulates this hormonal roller coaster, for some people it can decrease period headaches. For many, birth control makes period headaches worse.
If you have a NuvaRing, headaches during periods are even more common.
Pro tip: If youre already prone to migraines, you should not use the NuvaRing, as it increases your chances of blood clots and continued headaches.
If youre on a hormonal pill based birth control, sometimes skipping the placebo week can get rid of period headaches .
If you noticed your headaches got much worse after starting hormonal birth control, talk to your doctor. You may need to switch pills or your method of birth control to keep headaches at bay.
Though hormones are a background cause of all period headaches, there are four types of menstrual brain pain that are all slightly different.
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Protect Your Sleep Stress And Hydration
There is always a stress factor at play when we see migraines and menses interacting. Lower the total perceived and experienced stress your body is experiencing by going through different areas of stress in your life and cutting your load. Get adequate rest so your body has time to repair. Hydration to ensure all the necessary minerals are absorbed into your tissues. With stress reduction, sleep, and hydration your body will begin to regulate itself and heal.
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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Hormonal Contraception For People With Migraine
People with migraine with aura are not recommended to use combined hormonal contraceptives . Having migraines with aura is a risk factor for experiencing a stroke , plus taking combined hormonal contraceptives up to doubles that risk . The combination of these risk factors is associated with a 3x increased risk of stroke, compared to people with migraine who donât use combined hormonal contraceptives .
The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says people with chronic migraine are safe to use certain forms of contraception:
any form of emergency contraception
Most people who experience migraine without aura can use combined hormonal contraceptives, too, as the risk of increased stroke is outweighed by the benefits that the pill offers however, people with other risk factors for stroke, such as older age and cigarette smoking, may be advised not to use combined hormonal birth control .
People with non-migraine headaches do not have any restrictions on hormonal birth control .
Some birth control options may be safer than others, depending on your age and other risk factors . Speak to your healthcare provider to figure out what is the best contraceptive method for you.
to track your headaches and see how they appear in relation to your cycle.