How I Ended My Hormonal Migraines Naturally
How I Ended My Hormonal Migraines Naturally
If you’re a woman and have migraines, this article may be of interest to you.
During the duration of my chronic migraines, I would say the hormonal migraines were the worst. They seemed to be the ones I couldn’t prevent – unlike dietary and lifestyle triggers. I would often find myself sick with migraines the week before onset of menstruation through day 4-5 of my cycle. I treated the migraines with a rotating regimen of Amerge, Relpax, Frova, and Ketorolac injections. A top migraine specialist, who I worked with for one year, told me to take Aleve every day, multiple times a day, for 2 weeks before my menstruation to help with the migraines – after doing this for a couple of months, the only change I experienced was severe stomach pain. I wish I had known the damage that caused to my gut before I had listened to my doctor.
Thankfully, I have discovered some helpful information about hormonal imbalances and migraines. Here is an excellent article on Migraine.com about menstrual migraines. I can say that after following through with various tests, dietary and lifestyle changes, and supplementation of natural hormones, I am no longer experiencing hormonal migraines every month. I will say that I haven’t found a “cure” for hormonal migraines – I am constantly managing my diet, lifestyle, and supplements in order to keep the migraine cycle under control – occasionally I still experience a migraine when I haven’t been able to manage my triggers as well as possible.
As the Wellness Mama explains on her website, “Hormones are your body’s chemical messengers. They travel in your bloodstream to tissues or organs. They work slowly, over time, and affect many different processes, including:
Growth and development
Metabolism – how your body gets energy from the foods you eat
Endocrine glands, which are special groups of cells, make hormones. The major endocrine glands are the pituitary, pineal, thymus, thyroid, adrenal glands and pancreas. In addition, men produce hormones in their testes and women produce them in their ovaries.
Hormones are produced using good fats and cholesterol, so lack of these important dietary factors can cause hormone problems simply because the body doesn’t have the building blocks to make them. Toxins containing chemicals that mimic these building blocks or that mimic the hormones themselves are also problematic because the body can attempt to create hormones using the wrong building blocks.”
Women (and men) are bombarded by a variety of foods and products that disrupt hormonal balance, which can lead to estrogen dominance, where estrogen levels are excessively high, especially in relation to progesterone. Read more about estrogen dominance here. Common symptoms of estrogen dominance include: weight gain, PMS, mood swings, heavy periods, headaches and migraines, decreased libido, sluggish metabolism. Factors that contribute to high estrogen levels are estrogen mimickers, or phyto and xenoestrogens, stress, low-fiber diet, obesity, and a toxic liver. I found this article on environmental estrogens to be informative.
I have been particularly interested in changing my lifestyle in order to remove excess estrogen exposure. This means choosing organic whole foods, non-toxic cleaning products, non-toxic beauty products, and minimizing use of plastics and cans containing BPAs. Check out this link for more information on this. I’ve also included an alternative list from Organic Excellence of xenoestrogens below.
Guidelines to minimize your personal exposure to xenoestrogens:
Avoid all pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides.
Choose organic, locally-grown and in-season foods.
Peel non-organic fruits and vegetables.
Buy hormone-free meats and dairy products to avoid hormones and pesticides.
Avoid soy products
Reduce the use of plastics whenever possible.
Do not microwave food in plastic containers.
Avoid the use of plastic wrap to cover food for storing or microwaving.
Use glass or ceramics whenever possible to store food.
Do not leave plastic containers, especially your drinking water, in the sun.
If a plastic water container has heated up significantly, throw it away.
Don’t refill plastic water bottles.
Avoid freezing water in plastic bottles to drink later.
Use chemical free, biodegradable laundry and household cleaning products.
Choose chlorine-free products and unbleached paper products (i.e. tampons, menstrual pads, toilet paper, paper towel, coffee filters).
Use a chlorine filter on shower heads and filter drinking water
Health and Beauty Products
Avoid creams and cosmetics that have toxic chemicals and estrogenic ingredients such as parabens and stearalkonium chloride.
Minimize your exposure to nail polish and nail polish removers.
Use naturally based fragrances, such as essential oils.
Use chemical free soaps and toothpastes.
Read the labels on condoms and diaphragm gels.
Years ago, I had no idea that excess estrogen was part of my migraine problem. I really think it is something all women should be aware of. Regarding balancing your hormones for migraine prevention, I recommend finding a naturopath who can run a hormone test on you. This is a good way to see what your levels are. The reason I suggest going through a naturopath is because they take a holistic approach to your health – and also are familiar with less invasive and more natural hormonal balancing options. Most conventional doctors will not discuss lifestyle and dietary changes with you and will usually suggest synthetic birth control or hormones to balance hormones. I had a hormone test done and discovered high estrogen and low progesterone, as well as low thyroid and adrenals, which are part of hormonal balancing as well. My ND helped me balance my hormones with natural progesterone (from wild yams) and a dessicated bovine thyroid supplement. I promptly removed foods and household products that were contributing to my hormone imbalance.
Another interesting aspect to hormone balancing is having a healthy gut. The Wellness Mama discusses that connection in her post here. I’ve mentioned in previous posts how important proper gut health is for migraine prevention and healing. It is one of the most important aspects of healing. I will discuss my journey in healing my gut in a future post.
In summary, your hormones can be balanced by using diet and nutrition, lifestyle changes such as proper sleep and stress management, routine exercise, and natural hormone supplementation. You will read on various websites that you can take specific supplements to help balance your hormones – this is true – but I urge you to refrain from self-treatment. I say this from experience, because at one point, I spent hundreds of dollars on and ended up with two drawers full of supplements I had tried for balancing my hormones, before I decided to find a doctor to help me. It is very important to discuss options with your doctor and get tested before you add supplements.
If you’re currently taking synthetic birth control or synthetic hormones to balance your hormones, please consider finding a qualified naturopath to help address the underlying issues prompting use of such medication. Stay tuned to a future post for my experience with synthetic birth control.
As explained on Natural Path Health Center, “While an extremely effective form of contraception, there are a number of side effects associated with the use of synthetic birth control. Several of the published side effects include: Increased risk of breast cancer, Increased risk of cervical cancer, Increased risk of blood clotting, Increased risk of heart attack and stroke, Migraines, Gall bladder disease, Increased blood pressure, Yeast overgrowth and infection, Weight gain, Mood changes, Nausea, Headache, Irregular bleeding or spotting, Benign liver tumors, Breast tenderness, and Lower bone mineral density.
In addition, the liver’s metabolism of birth control pills requires extra amounts of many vitamins and minerals, including the B-complex vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium and zinc. This means that long-term use of these synthetic hormones can create nutrient deficiencies and imbalances over time. Many conditions, including weight gain, fluid retention, mood changes, depression and even heart disease can all arise from these nutrient imbalances.”
There are many parts to the hormone balancing puzzle, and I have addressed a few that I’ve explored during my healing. Do you experience hormonal migraines? What have you done to address them?