Do you suffer from migraine headaches that you know are hormonal? You are not alone! Many women have this problem.
You may get your headaches right before your period or during your period. These are called menstrual migraines. Or, you may get a headache during midcycle when you are ovulating. Migraine headaches are no fun at all, and on top of other hormonal symptoms they can be the absolute pits.
Fortunately we’ve got some great solutions for you, many of which you can do on your own at home. We’ve had great success helping women with hormonal migraines.
What is the story behind hormonal migraines?
Our best understanding is that for some women, hormone fluctuations trigger headaches. You may be more susceptible if you are already prone to headaches or migraines, have a family history of hormonal migraines, or have other signs of hormone imbalance such as PMS, fibrous or tender breasts, or period pain.
Big hormone fluctuations occur during your period, ovulation, and perimenopause (the years leading up to stopping your period, think late 30s or early-mid forties). Many women stop having hormonal migraines after menopause when hormones are more stable.
So is this a sentence until menopause?
Fortunately, no – although you may have been told there’s nothing you can do. You may have been offered the typical medications (usually over-the-counter pain meds like ibuprofen or prescription migraine medication). These can work for treatment, and sometimes prevention, but they aren’t going to fix the underlying cause of your headaches, at best they will only mask them. Meanwhile they have unwanted side effects such as liver and gut lining damage.
Our approach is to help you find the root causes of your menstrual migraines, and of course we can do that in a more specific way by working individually. Another option is our online program – many women reduce or clear their headaches during this program.
For now, here’s a list of options that you can do right now to prevent or help your hormonal headaches. We include links to our shop, which has clean and trusted brands.
8 ways to reduce or nix hormonal migraines
1. Use vitamin E for menstrual migraines, five days per month
During menstruation, you have higher levels of inflammatory prostaglandins (PGs) in your uterine lining. Women who get migraines during menstruation have even higher levels of these PGs. Vitamin E is an anti-PG agent that can effectively relieve headache pain and associated migraine symptoms. Research shows that 400 IU vitamin E for five days during menstruation can effectively reduce or prevent menstrual migraines.
Start when you’d normally feel headache signs, which may be two or three days before your period, and stop after five days. We like this brand.
2. Take the nutrients CoQ10, magnesium and vitamin B2 all month
Why these? All three have been found to be deficient in migraine sufferers. These are needed for your mitochondria (think energy production factories in every cell in your body) to work efficiently. Mitochondrial dysfunction is one of the causes of migraines, so replenishing these nutrients can make a big difference.
Vitamin B2: Take up to 400 mg daily. We like this brand.
CoQ10: Aim for 100 mg of a well-absorbed type per day. We like this brand.
3. Boost progesterone two weeks before your period
Estrogen dominance (which is high estrogen relative to progesterone) is more common these days due to the plethora of environmental chemicals that act like estrogens in your body. Perimenopausal women (anywhere from mid-thirties until early fifties) are more susceptible as progesterone naturally declines during these years. Research shows that the estrogen crash at the start of your period can trigger menstrual migraines. Boosting progesterone can balance estrogen dominance AND buffer the effect of the estrogen crash at the start of your cycle.
A safe use is 5 drops of ProAdapt drops or 1 dose of this cream, at night, from cycle day 14 to 28. For higher doses, or with irregular (or short or long) cycles please work with a practitioner and test your hormones.
4. Other ways to work with estrogen
First, lower estrogen dominance by helping detoxification.
Our favorite is DIM Detox which helps lower estrogen dominance and also makes sure estrogen is metabolizing through safe pathways.
Second, boost phytoestrogens to reduce estrogen dominance from the environment.
Eat soy and flaxseeds, drink red clover tea, or take a phytoestrogen supplement like this one.
5. Acupuncture, as needed
Yup, this is a highly effective tool to reduce or eliminate menstrual migraines. We use it and have seen it work countless times. Find an acupuncturist who specializes in women’s reproductive health.
Aim for a treatment right before you’d normally get a headache.
6. Boost serotonin all month
You make most of your serotonin in your intestinal tract, so low serotonin can be a sign of dysbiosis, in which case working with a practitioner to do some microbiome testing and treatment is a good route. Meanwhile, you can suspect low serotonin if you have carbohydrate cravings, don’t sleep well, have hot flashes, or feel anxiety or depression. You can also suspect it if taking an antidepressant (particularly an SSRI) has helped your headaches.
Build serotonin naturally with the amino acid precursors tryptophan or this 5-HTP with co-factors. We recommend 500 mg tryptophan or 100-200 mg of 5-HTP before bed. We also love using Crave Arrest for a balanced approach 1 – 2 caps twice daily on an empty stomach.
7. Investigate common migraine food triggers
Some women with menstrual migraines have food triggers. Common ones include foods that are high in histamine such as red wine and cheese. Chocolate is another common trigger. You can have individual food triggers though, so pay attention to what you ate in the 24 hours before a headache onset – it could be citrus, onions, or virtually anything. If you have other histamine symptoms such as hives, itchy skin, hay fever, or wheezing, you may want to work with a practitioner to find out if you have a small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, which is often a cause of excess histamine.
Meanwhile, you could take the natural antihistamine Activated Quercetin (three capsules on an empty stomach) as part of your migraine toolkit for prevention and treatment.
8. Herbal Remedies
Butterbur and feverfew both have good data for treating migraines.
This one combines both.
If you’d like to try more than one of the above supplement ideas, you can use one of these blended formulas. Blended formulas tend to have a synergistic effect and need less of each individual ingredient. Check out:
We welcome your comments and questions, and check out our online program for hormone balance!