- Women's Health
Natural Cures for Menstrual Migraines
Women are significantly more likely than men to experience migraine headaches - studies have found that roughly 70% of all migraine suffers are female - and 60-70% of women who experience migraines report that their migraines are related to their menstrual cycle.
The biology of menstrual migraines is complicated and they may have multiple triggers. However, one of the most common causes of menstrual migraines is changes in the levels of estrogen and progesterone associated with the menstrual cycle.
If your migraines tend to cluster in the middle of your cycle, around the time of ovulation, they are probably caused by the natural rise in estrogen levels that occurs at this time. If they occur shortly before or during you period, your menstrual migraines are probably caused by a natural drop in progesterone levels at this time, or by insufficient levels of progesterone in general.
The Role of Estrogen Dominance in Menstrual Migraines
In either case, menstrual migraines are often exacerbated by hormone imbalances, particularly a type of imbalance known as estrogen dominance.
Estrogen dominance occurs when levels of the hormone estrogen are too high in relation to levels of progesterone. Estrogen dominance can be caused either by too little progesterone in relation to a normal level of estrogen or, more commonly, too much estrogen in relation to a normal level of progesterone.
Estrogen dominance can affect both major types of menstrual migraine.
If your migraines are related to the rise in estrogen levels at the time of ovulation, estrogen dominance can cause estrogen levels to rise too high, worsening menstrual migraines associated with the change.
If your migraines are caused by lowered levels of progesterone right before and during your period, estrogen dominance can make the level of progesterone in relation to estrogen even lower, also worsening menstrual migraines during this time.
Maintaining healthy hormone balance and preventing estrogen dominance can relieve and even cure your menstrual migraines.
Natural Treatment and Prevention of Menstrual Migraines
These tips will help you maintain a healthy hormone balance and prevent or reduce menstrual migraines:
- Maintain a healthy weight. Estrogen is produced by fat cells, and estrogen dominance is more common in women who are overweight or obese.
- Exercise regularly. In addition to its important role in maintaining a healthy weight, regular, moderate exercise also improves blood circulation and releases chemicals called endorphins that reduce the sensation of pain, easing menstrual migraines.
- Drink plenty of water. Staying well hydrated helps flush excess estrogen from your body and encourages healthy kidney function.
- Eat a diet high in fiber. Dietary fiber binds to excess estrogen in the intestines and removes it from the body as waste. It also encourages a healthy digestive system
- Eat plenty of magnesium.
Magnesium is an important but often overlooked nutrient. Studies have
found that up to 80% of Americans may be magnesium deficient. Magnesium
is especially important for women who suffer from migraines because of
its use as a muscle relaxant. Studies
have found that women who experience migraines are more likely to be
magnesium deficient than those who don't, and that taking magnesium
supplements or increasing consumption of dietary magnesium relieves
migraine symptoms. Good dietary sources of magnesium include leafy
green vegetables such as spinach and kale, whole grains, beans and
legumes, nuts and seeds such as almonds and pumpkin seeds, and bananas.
To learn more about the important role magnesium plays in women's
health, and how to avoid magnesium deficiency, please read Magnesium for Menstrual Health.
- Eat plenty of omega 3 fatty acids. Heart-healthy omega 3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory abilities that have been shown to help relieve migraine symptoms in studies. Good sources of omega 3 fatty acids include coldwater fish such as salmon and halibut, oily nuts such as walnuts, leafy green vegetables such as spinach and kale, canola oil, soy products, flax seeds, and grassfed meat, eggs, and dairy products.
- Reduce exposure to xenoestrogens. Xenoestrogens are foreign,
usually man-made, substances that mimic the behavior of estrogen in the
body. Some scientist believe that they are a major contributing factor
to the rise of estrogen dominance and its related health problems in
modern society. Major sources of exposure to xenoestrogens include
cosmetics and personal hygiene products, certain types of plastics,
chemical residues in food, and more. Please read Reducing Exposure to Xenoestrogens for more information.
- Pay attention to phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens are naturally occurring substances found in some plants that, like xenoestrogens, mimic the behavior of estrogen in the body. Unlike xenoestrogens, however, phytoestrogens tend to be "weak" estrogens. The role of phytoestrogens in estrogen dominance is rather controversial. In some cases phytoestrogens seem to reduce the effects of estrogen dominance; in other cases, they seem to exacerbate it. pay attention to how foods rich in phytoestrogens, such as many soy products, affect you. If they seem to help, eat more. If they make your migraines worse, eat less. To learn more, check out The Phytoestrogen Controversy.