The Role Hormones Play In Migraines
The Role Hormones Play In Migraines
Migraine affects more than 37 million people in the US, mostly young women who are of childbearing age, that is, 15 to 55, from puberty to menopause. As a result of these patterns, researchers have speculated that migraines might be linked to hormonal activity in women.
Most migraine sufferers are women, and many female migraine sufferers report getting migraines at certain times of the month, that is, around the time they have their period. Scientists have linked this to a decrease in the hormone estrogen during menstruation.
Some women who use birth control pills report more migraines, and more severe migraines, than those who don’t. Other women begin to take the pill to try to reduce the symptoms of their migraines. The birth control pill uses various hormones, including estrogen, to regulate a woman’s ability to conceive a child.
Some women report that the migraines change when they are pregnant, which is another point in time when women’s hormones such as estrogen can fluctuate.
Some women report more migraines during perimenopause and menopause. The prefix peri- means ‘around’. Women can be perimenopausal that is, nearing the time of menopause, as early as their 30s. Most women will experience full menopause in their early 50s.
Perimenopause is a time of decreasing hormonal activity, especially estrogen. Menopause is defined as not having any periods for 1 calendar year.
Perimenopause can cause a range of hormonal changes. Periods might become less frequent and less regular. They might become more frequent, with fewer or greater than 28 days per cycle. Women might notice a smaller amount of bleeding, or a great deal more than usual on 1 or all 5 days. These are all signs of changing hormone levels, which might increase the frequency and severity of migraines.
When a woman reaches menopause, her hormonal activity, especially estrogen, radically decreases, which can lead to more migraines. Some women choose hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in order to deal with the more troublesome symptoms of menopause, including hot flashes, night sweats and loss of sexual desire.
HRT can also relieve migraine, but like the pill, can also lead to increased risk of blood clots and stroke.
HRT was recommended extensively in the 1990s to relieve menopausal symptoms and protect heart and bone health. However, extensive research has shown that HRT is not protective at all and can increase a woman’s risk of various hormonally related cancers, such as ovarian cancer.
Soy is a plant which is high in protein and substances known as phytoestrogens, which seem to mimic estrogen women produce naturally. Phytoestrogens have been linked to fewer menopausal symptoms and therefore might be helpful or migraine.
Hormones in the food supply
The food industry is the US is drive by profit-motives, not health-related ones. Many cattle are pumped full of hormones, steroids and antibiotics in order to get as much yield out of the animal as possible. Cow milk with hormone in it is of particular concern. Some studies show girls are starting to menstruate at even younger ages than the usual lower range of 11 and some boys have experienced ‘feminization’, such as the development of breast tissues, if they tend to drink a lot of dairy milk.
Whenever possible, aim for organic foods and consider using milk substitutes such as soy and nut milks for adults.
Hormonal fluctuations are often accompanied by food cravings. Some women will crave salty foods, which can trigger migraines. Others might crave sweets, and go for sugar-free products because they are weight conscious. The artificial sweetener aspartame (NutraSweet) has been linked with migraine.
The stress and a lack of sleep many women experience around the time of their periods can also lead to migraine. Master stress management techniques and see what a difference they can make to your migraines.