Are you suffering from vicious work headaches? Have you ever considered that they may be hormone related? Or perhaps you have a headache trigger or are suffering from eye strain from too much screen time? If so read on for a simple plan to reduce your headaches or migraines:
Headaches and Migraines and Hormonal Shifts
Hormonal shifts can be a huge trigger for headaches and migraines and are why headaches and migraines are far more common in women than men.
Menstrual cycle headaches and migraines
Two types of headaches most commonly occur during our menstrual cycle, tension headaches and migraines. Tension headaches are typically felt as a pressure headache or like a pulsing in your temples or behind your eyes. Most women commonly experience them before their period starts but they might not have a uniquely hormonal cause and may be due to other headache causes such as stress of a headache trigger (more below).
In comparison, menstrual migraines have a well-established hormonal basis. Also if you are a migraine sufferer in general, you are more disposed to have a hormonally triggered migraine.
PMS Headaches and Estrogen
A fall in estogen can be a massive cause of headaches or migraines. During the first half of the menstrual cycle, your estogen levels rise. Just after ovulation if pregnancy does not occur, estrogen rapidly declines reaching its lowest level just before your period starts. This drop in estrogen during your period may cause a headache and is a proven migraine trigger. Along with this decline in estrogen there is also a decline in serotonin which relies on estrogen for its production. This drop in serotonin is also thought to be a major contributor to hormonal migraines.Estrogen also regulates pain in the body so when estrogen levels are high, the brain is more efficient at responding to pain by releasing endorphins, which dull pain signals received by the brain. But when estrogen levels are low, the brain doesn’t intercept these pain signals as effectively which is why everything hurts more before our periods including headaches and migraines. Menstrual migraines tend to be more severe, last longer, and are less responsive to usual medication therapies.
Headaches at Ovulation
For some women, even the decline in estrogen post-ovulation is enough to trigger a headache or migraine, and some women experience them both post-ovulation and premenstrually. Some women can also be producing less serotonin due to low carbohydrate diets, stress, or a genetic predisposition to menstrual migraines.
Post pregnancy, Perimenopause and Menopause Headaches
Post-Pregnancy Headaches and Migraines can also occur due to the dramatic drop in estrogen right after a pregnancy ends. Equally during our 40s and into our early 50s, our estrogen levels naturally begin to fluctuate and eventually decline which can also lead to an onset of migraines. These may persist for a few years even after your last period, showing up cyclically at the time when you would have been premenstrual.
Headaches & Migraines and Hormonal Medications
While some women experience relief from cyclic headaches if they take an estrogen-containing form of the Pill, some actually experience headaches from the Pill. This may be more common if you take an estrogen-containing oral contraceptive, with a placebo week. The placebo week leads to a drop off in estrogen that can trigger headaches or migraines. These are called estrogen-withdrawal headaches.
Coming off of Estrogen Replacement Therapy (ERT), which is used to help with menopausal symptoms can also trigger headaches or migraines. The best way to prevent this is to come off ERT gradually over about six weeks rather than stopping it suddenly.
Headaches and Migraines and Medications
Taking pain medications for headaches, including Tylenol, aspirin, caffeine, ibuprofen, or opioids, on a regular basis can lead to medication overuse headaches (MOH). When you take these medications regularly they can actually start to cause headaches, and make your headache and migraine frequency and severity worse, creating a vicious cycle where you take more and more of the meds that are making you worse. Reducing headache medication might actually lead to fewer headaches.
Then there are the non-hormone related headache triggers such as stress, too much caffeine or sugar and not getting enough sleep which are addressed in more detail below.
6 Steps for Preventing Hormonal Headaches and Migraines, Naturally
Use the steps below simultaneously for at least 3 months and pick 2 to 3 supplements and 1 or 2 herbs to support your journey to overcome headaches and migraines naturally.
Step 1. Identify Your Triggers with a Headache Journal
A headache journal will help you to identify headache and migraine triggers. Pay attention to when the headaches/migraines occur, what you were doing in the 24 hours prior, notice food, environmental or stress triggers and also look for the other triggers described below
You are likely to notice triggers such as the time of the month or a food or beverage trigger, too much caffeine, not drinking enough water, having one glass of wine too many the night before, a stiff neck, stress, or not getting enough sleep. Known migraine triggers, which may be other than or concurrent with hormonal changes, include:
- red wine
- aged cheese
- nitrites found in hot dogs and deli meats
- food additives like msg
- low blood sugar
- neck and shoulder tension
- certain medications (including some headache medications!)
- perfume and other strong odors,
- bright lights
As you identify headache or migraine triggers, remove them and track during your next cycle, or for a month to six weeks if you’re not cycling, to see if the change made a difference or not in migraines or headaches.
Step 2: Balance Estrogen Levels
While our estrogen levels naturally fluctuate throughout our monthly and life cycles, many women experience estrogen extremes – either too low or too high.
Low estrogen is most commonly caused by being undernourished or underweight. This is very common for high intensity athletes, including dancers, avid yoga practitioners, and women on restrictive (which can sometimes be misinterpreted as extremely healthy) diets. At the extreme, you might not be ovulating or having cycles at all, but if you are, and are experiencing headaches or migraines, reducing your exercise intensity or increasing your food intake, is really important.
If you experience high estrogen levels, sometimes called estrogen dominance, you may also experience heavy periods, cyclic breast tenderness, mood swings, bloating or other estrogen related symptoms. High estrogen levels can be due to hormones that you might be inadvertently getting through your diet for example, in meat and dairy, from hormones given to the animals, or naturally occurring in animal milk. Plastic food packaging, plastic water bottles, chemicals that are found in cosmetics and other common products all also act as endocrine disruptors – mimicking and falsely elevating estrogen. Removing these triggers from your pantry, home, and bathroom can reduce these exposures.
Step 3: De-Stress
Stress, anxiety, and depression obviously make us more susceptible to headaches and migraines premenstrually and at other times in our lives. Reducing or getting help with any stressors you can, and reducing modifiable stress is an important step in reducing your headaches.
Additionally, coping and relaxing strategies, from meditation and yoga to relaxation therapies and techniques and more sleep can all help. They can also help to balance your hormones, which can be disrupted by stress.
Neck tension has become especially common due to chronic sitting at computers and laptops. When you’re sitting at the computer, be mindful of your posture to minimize the stress you’re putting on your neck and shoulders. Take regular breaks to stretch, get up and move about, do some gentle yoga at some stage throughout the day to alleviate tension in these areas. Regular massage may also help if you have a history of headaches or migraines.
Lavender and peppermint essential oil aromatherapy. Simply breathing in the scent of lavender essential oil for about 15 minutes can help ease a migraine. A warm bath with five to seven drops of lavender essential oil or a few drops of lavender essential oil on your pillow at might can be very soothing. You can also dilute a 1-2 drops of lavender or peppermint essential oil in a teaspoon of a carrier oil such as almond oil and apply it to your temples for headache relief. For more guidance read this post:
Step 4: Use Food as Medicine
There are several ways that making some tweaks to your eating habits could help.
Switch to an anti-inflammatory diet. A Mediterranean-style diet that emphasizes legumes, 8 servings of fruits and veggies daily, fiber, and plenty of leafy greens, while also supporting healthy daily bowel elimination and gut flora, is one of the best ways to optimize your estrogen levels throughout your cycle. By adopting a Mediterranean diet you will also be reducing the pro-inflammatory foods you are consuming, particularly sugar, red meat and poultry, and processed foods, while adding antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables and good quality oils that can reduce your headache frequency.
Fiber plays a direct role because it not only helps get things moving, it helps to regulate estrogen levels. Aim to get about 35 grams of fiber a day by adding more fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, and whole grains to your diet. Two tablespoons of flax seeds daily can help balance estrogen and also relieve constipation. And leafy greens like kale and broccoli also provide important fiber and help regulate your hormones.
Be careful about being overly restrictive with carbohydrates Keeping your serotonin levels steadier, can in help prevent hormonal headaches and migraines. Carbohydrate restriction can mean you’re not producing the serotonin which is key for headache and migraine prevention, so make sure to not overly restrict your carb intake particularly at times you know you are prone to headaches or migraines. The key is to increase your intake of complex carbohydrates like oats, brown rice, beans, especially before your period if you experience premenstrual headaches or migraines.
Step 5: Migraine-Relieving Nutritional Supplements
Riboflavin (vitamin B2): Riboflavin has been shown to safely prevent recurrent migraines however it may take about a month to notice results. If you are on a beta-blocker for migraine prevention, riboflavin has been shown to enhance the benefits so it may allow you to lower your dose or get better results from the dose you are taking. This can be taken during pregnancy and in fact is considered a migraine prevention of choice during this time. Dose: 400 mg/day.
Magnesium: This supplement can help prevent migraines generally and may be especially helpful in preventing migraines associated with your period. It’s also been shown to reduce migraine severity. 600mg daily may prevent migraines, although it may take as long as three months to see results.
Calcium: in addition to the benefits of calcium on our bone density, 500 mg daily of calcium can prevent and reduce PMS symptoms including headaches, cramping, moodiness, and food cravings by half.
B-Vitamin Combo: A combination of vitamin B6 (25 mg), vitamin B12 (400 mcg) and methylfolate (2 mg) has been shown to reduce migraine-related impairment in 50 percent of migraine sufferers after six months of daily use. If you’re pregnant, don’t exceed 1 mg of methylfolate daily.
Step 6: Herbal Therapies for Migraines and Headaches
Several herbal medicines have been found to play a powerful role in hormone regulation, as well as headache and migraine pain reduction including:
Ginger: Traditionally used to treat pain and inflammation, this herb can also help with migraine pain. Dose of up to 2 g/day. Safe for use during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Curcumin: Several small studies suggest curcumin, an active ingredient in the herb turmeric, may reduce migraine frequency, pain severity, and duration. Curcumin is valued for its anti-inflammatory effects and may also have some anxiety-relieving effects; it’s also quite safe and is one of the herbs I rely on for pain relief in my practice. A typical dose is 500 mg twice daily, but this may vary depending on the preparation, so follow the dose on the package. Avoid during pregnancy; safe for use during breastfeeding.
Vitex: Not just valuable as a PMS remedy, vitex can lead to overall steadier estrogen levels and prevent menstrual migraines. Dose: 180 to 220 mg daily in capsule, once or twice daily, or 5 mL (about 1 measured tsp.) daily of liquid extract. Avoid during pregnancy; safe for use during breastfeeding.
Feverfew: Feverfew is a natural anti-inflammatory. It both prevents migraines and reduces migraine severity. Avoid if you are on blood thinners or pregnant. Dose: 25 mg daily. Safe for use during breastfeeding.
Step 7: Reduce Screen Time / Eye Strain
If you are now working mostly/entirely remotely there is a strong possibility that your headaches may be either caused or triggered by screen / eye strain headaches. Try to limit your time in from of a computer screen as much as possible, switch from kindle to paper books, use audible or other forms of audio books, switch from zoom to good old fashioned telephone conferences, print down whatever documents you are working on, take regular breaks from your computer and if they work for you, use a blue screen protector.
Also check out the article referred to above:
- An easy 2 Step Plan focusing on (1) simple lifestyle changes to bring you back into balance and (2) the specific natural herbal based protocol that you need to support and nourish you through this process.
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- Sleep Journal and Habit Tracker.
- ADDED BONUS: A 6 Day Getting Out of Corporate Challenge to support you if you feel that you need a complete lifestyle change.
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Our Bespoke Aromatherapy Service
And don’t forget, if you eed a quick fix to take the edge off a tough day of work stress, why not treat yourself to our NEW Bespoke Aromatherapy Service?
This Bespoke Aromatherapy Service is specifically tailored towards the needs of women in business. Each session consists of a one hour online consultation where we determine and tailor an aromatherapy product which is then created to meet your individual needs. Both the online consultation and the aromatherapy product are included in the fee.
Examples include bespoke tailored blends made especially for you to deal with work stress, anxiety, insomnia, fatigue a lack of focus and concentration or PMS relief. Have you ever wished for a sensuous, safe, natural and entirely discrete solution that you can use both at home and in the office? Then this Bespoke Aromatherapy Service is for you. The service is being offered at a special introductory price for a limited time.