Reviewed by

Uwe Porters – Mid-wife/Pregnancy & Postpartum Expert


Hormonal Migraines: your guide to relief

Reviewed by

Uwe Porters – Mid-wife/Pregnancy & Postpartum Expert

Migraines affect millions of people, but for many women, hormonal changes can be a significant trigger, leading to menstrual migraines. In this article, we'll take a look at the science behind hormonal migraines and explore some natural remedies. We know migraines can be intense but we hope that this article can give you some insight and practical tips to help you get some relief.

Understanding hormonal migraines

A hormonal migraine is a type of headache that is closely associated with hormonal changes in the body, particularly those related to your menstrual cycle. These migraines are often triggered by changes in estrogen and progesterone levels, which occur during different phases of your cycle.

Estrogen withdrawal, prostaglandins, and histamine release are potential triggers for

menstrual migraines. While there's potential for effective treatments targeting these causes, the evidence isn't strong. Considering how common and disruptive menstrual migraines are, there's a need for more research funding to better understand the causes and develop more successful treatment approaches.

Fluctuating estrogen and low progesterone, common during perimenopause, can contribute to menstrual migraines in women aged 40 to 55.

High, fluctuating estrogen levels stimulate immune cells to produce more prostaglandins and histamine, leading to migraines. Additionally, estrogen withdrawal disrupts neurotransmitters like serotonin and glutamate. Recent research suggests that "plumes" of a key neurotransmitter called glutamate surging in the brain may contribute to migraines.

Vitamins and minerals to relieve a hormonal migraine

  • Magnesium: Serotonin appears to play an important role in migraine. Magnesium is a mineral that plays a role in serotonin production. Magnesium-rich foods and supplements may help prevent and alleviate menstrual migraines.
  • Riboflavin (Vitamin B2): Known to normalize serotonin production, riboflavin can be effective in preventing migraines. Riboflavin allows the body to make use of Vitmain B6, which is an important nutrient for the creation of serotonin. As we already mentioned, hormonal imbalances can be a cause of hormonal migraines so ensuring an adequate intake of riboflavin may offer relief if you regularly struggle with migraines.
  • Omega-3: research shows that if you take in more omega 3 fatty acids, migraines can be reduced. although there are no official health claims for omega 3 fatty acids, they are known for their anti-inflammatory effects, which may be the reason for reducing their intensity and frequency.
  • Vitamin B6: Vitamine B6 is involved in the synthesis of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine. Serotonin, in particular, plays a role in regulating mood and has been associated with the onset of migraines. Some studies suggest that B6 supplementation may influence serotonin levels, potentially impacting migraine frequency and intensity.
  • Iron: Iron can be beneficial for post-menstrual migraines caused by temporary iron-deficiency anemia which is the result of blood loss from your period. Iron contributes to the normal formation of red blood cells and normal oxygen transport in the body. .

Hormonal birth control and migraines

All types of hormonal birth control can make migraines worse. That’s because hormones are the body’s chemical messengers. When hormone levels change, the messages change or they may be received differently in your body. When this happens, it can cause various side effects.

Not everyone will experience side effects and sometimes, they get better on their own with time or lifestyle changes, like your diet. The most common side effects of hormonal birth control are bleeding between periods, sore breasts, and nausea. It's important to be aware of the potential side effects of birth control and to consult with a healthcare professional if severe headaches occur.

Migraines and perimenopause

Changes in estrogen and progesterone levels, common during perimenopause, can increase the frequency of menstrual migraines in women aged 40 to 55.

Estrogen plays a significant role in migraine development. During perimenopause, estrogen levels fluctuate irregularly and eventually decline. These fluctuations can trigger migraines in some women.

Want to know more about perimenopause? Check out our article here.

Managing migraines during perimenopause often involves a combination of lifestyle changes, hormonal therapies, and, in some cases, medication. We would recommend speaking to your doctor or gynaecologist who can provide more personalized options.

Diet and migraines

Diet can have a major impact on migraines for some women. Certain foods and dietary patterns have been shown as potential triggers, while others may offer relief. Here's a rundown on how gluten, alcohol, refined sugars, and coffee may influence migraines:

  1. Gluten:
    • Gluten sensitivity: Some individuals may be sensitive to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. Gluten sensitivity can trigger inflammatory responses, potentially contributing to migraines.
    • Immune reaction: In some people with gluten sensitivity, the immune system reacts to gluten, releasing inflammatory substances that might affect the nervous system and trigger migraines.
    • Gut-Brain connection: There's a growing understanding of the gut-brain connection, and disruptions in the gut, including gluten-related issues, might impact neurological processes and potentially contribute to migraines.
  2. Alcohol:
    • Vasodilation: Alcohol consumption can lead to vasodilation (widening of blood vessels) and changes in blood flow, which may contribute to migraines in some individuals.
    • Dehydration: Alcohol is dehydrating, and dehydration is a known trigger for migraines. Maintaining adequate hydration is essential for migraine prevention.
    • Tyramine content: Certain alcoholic beverages, particularly red wine, contain tyramine, a compound associated with migraines in some individuals.
  3. Refined Sugars:
    • Blood sugar fluctuations: Rapid spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels, often associated with the consumption of refined sugars and carbohydrates, can trigger migraines in susceptible individuals.
    • Inflammation: Diets high in refined sugars are linked to chronic inflammation, which may contribute to migraines or make migraines worse.
  4. Coffee:
    • Caffeine withdrawal: Regular coffee drinkers may experience caffeine withdrawal, leading to headaches or migraines if they miss their usual dose. Gradual reduction or consistent caffeine intake is recommended.
    • Vasodilation and constriction: While caffeine is a vasoconstrictor (narrows blood vessels), sudden withdrawal can lead to rebound vasodilation, potentially triggering migraines.

It's important to note that migraine triggers are different for everyone. Try keeping a food diary or migraine diary. Just like tracking your cycle, a migraine diary can help you identify trends. If things are really bad, we would recommend talking to a healthcare professional, such as a registered dietitian or a neurologist specializing in headaches. They can be helpful, especially if migraines are impacting your day-to-day life or preventing you from doing things you enjoy.

If you want to talk about your migraines, get in touch with our support team. We’re here to listen and provide guidance. You don’t have to live in pain and we’re confident that with some lifestyle changes, and the right supplements, you can reduce or eliminate your migraines.