Migraines are headaches that have certain associated characteristics, such as nausea, vomiting, visual changes, and sensitivity to light, noise and smells. Many women who suffer from migraines notice a correlation with their menstrual cycle. Some women have migraines that start just before their cycle begins and others have migraines that occur during their cycle. Other women start to have regular migraines when they enter the perimenopausal period of life. And some women who experience migraines find the symptoms fade when they become pregnant.
Here is an introduction to the influence of hormones on migraines, along with ways to treat hormonally mediated migraines naturally.
The hormonal influence
The biggest influence comes from estrogen. Shortly before a woman menstruates and when she approaches menopause, the hormone estrogen decreases, causing a ripple effect on other hormones and compounds:
- Serotonin – As estrogen lowers, so does serotonin, which can cause vasodilation, or widening, of blood levels. That leads to an increase in blood flow to the brain, causing a migraine.
- Nitric oxide, magnesium, prostaglandins – Each of these are affected by the decrease in estrogen affecting neurotransmission in the brain, causing a migraine
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 (ND) to create a plan to treat your specific symptoms.
For more information: Uptodate.com/contents/estrogen-associated-migraine
— By Emily Lesnak, naturopathic doctor and resident at Bastyr Center for Natural Health.