Do you tend to get headaches around your period? These types of headaches may be hormone related. Learn the 7 common causes and 10 must-try home remedies.
Do you tend to get headaches before, during, or after your period? These types of headaches may be hormone related.
As it turns out, estrogen and progesterone not only regulate a woman’s menstrual cycles, but also affect headache-related chemicals in the brain.
When estrogen levels drop before, during, or right after menstruation, headaches can be triggered. And since estrogen levels also change drastically during ovulation, pregnancy and menopause, hormone headaches are also common during these times.
What Do Hormonal Headaches Feel Like
Even though there are many ways to describe a headache, there are generally two major types: tension headaches and migraines.
About 90% of all headaches are classified as muscle contraction, or more commonly, tension headaches.
The pain is typically not localized, but spread out all over the head. You may feel like you have a band wrapped around your head, with a dull ache, a sense of tightness, or a feeling of not being clearheaded.
Tension headaches are often triggered by stress. They tend to follow a stressful event, e.g., financial worry, work-related pressure, or emotional arguments.
Migraines, on the other hand, are likely to be localized. Most migraines manifest as severe, one-sided throbbing pain. In 25% of cases, however, the pain occurs on both sides.
Nausea and vomiting, and perhaps tremors and dizziness, often accompany these headaches. Some people may also experience warning signs beforehand, such as blurred vision, floating visual images, or numbness in an arm or leg.
An estimated 28 million Americans experience migraines. 70% of them are women. These migraines could be triggered by hormonal fluctuations if they often occur before, during, or after periods, around ovulation, during pregnancy, postpartum, or around menopause.
Women who take birth control pills may also experience hormone headaches during the last week of their menstrual cycles when the pills do not contain hormones.
What Causes Headaches During Period
To find effective cures, it’s important to identify the triggers – those things that tend to cause your headaches to flare up. Below are 7 common causes of headache during menstruation:
1. Hormone Changes
As discussed earlier, hormonal fluctuations, especially those of estrogen, are a common trigger of headaches among women. So pay attention to the timing of your headaches:
- Do they usually occur before, during, or after your period, around ovulation, or on the last week of pills?
- Are you going through any significant hormonal event, e.g., pregnancy, postpartum or menopause?
Some people are more headache prone than others due to genetics or family history. It’s estimated that more than 45 million Americans have recurring headaches. If you’re one of them you need to be more vigilant to guard against potential headache triggers.
Stress not only triggers tension headaches, but also can make any kind of headache worse. The thing is, each of us reacts to stress differently. Things that stress me out may not be a big deal for you, and vice versa. And some people can handle a lot of stress, while others can’t.
So it’s important to identify your own stressors – what gets you tensed up, clenching your teeth, tightening your shoulders.
Watch these factors carefully. When you catch yourself feeling stressed out, take a few deep breaths, go for a walk, or lie down to rest a little. Do something to calm yourself down. It’ll prevent stress from building up, causing headaches.
Slouching can cause the muscles in your neck to contract and trigger headaches. Pay attention to your posture. Do you often lean or push your head in one direction? Do you create undue pressure in certain parts of your body?
Keeping your spine tall and straight can help prevent headaches, make you look younger, and uplift your spirits.
Sleeping in an awkward position, or even on your stomach, can cause the muscles in your neck to contract and trigger a headache. So can too much or too little sleep. Have you ever woken up with a headache when sleeping in on a weekend or having had a restless night?
Pay attention to your sleep patterns. Try to find the optimal position and amount of sleep you need to stay headache-free.
Certain foods can trigger headaches – or make them worse. These foods may include caffeine, alcohol, chewing gum, salt, dairy products such as milk, cheese and ice cream, hot dogs and cured meats that contain nitrates, MSG, chocolate, soy products, artificial sweeteners, or other foods that contain xenoestrogens.
Dehydration can also contribute and worsen menstrual headaches. So can blood sugar fluctuations, either from eating too much or too little, or skipping meals.
Because food factors are very individual, you need to pay some attention and establish the connection between your headaches and the types of foods that trigger it. Once done, you should try and avoid these foods as much as possible.
Environmental factors can also trigger headaches. For some people, it may be loud noises. For some, it could be bright light from the sun, fluorescent lighting, television, or a computer screen. For others, certain smells or sudden weather changes can turn on the switch.
So pay attention to those environmental factors that trigger your headaches and avoid them if you can.
10 Must-try Period Headache Home Remedies
Headaches and migraines can be crippling, especially when they occur at the vulnerable times such as before, during, or after your period. So how can you find relief from those unpleasant headaches and prevent them from coming back month after month?
Here are 10 period headache remedies based on my research and experience:
1. Keep a headache diary
Based on the above discussions, you can see it’s important to observe the patterns around your menstrual headaches.
- When do they tend to flare up? Before, during, or after your period, around ovulation, or during the last week of birth control pills?
- What are the likely triggers? Stress, certain foods, blood sugar fluctuations, sleep patterns, posture, or environmental factors?
Once you identify your own unique headache triggers, avoid them. This will help prevent headaches and lessen the pain. Consider using a Daily Food and Exercise Journal.
2. Try to relax and ease the pain
When a headache strikes, it helps to make yourself relax and get comfortable. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Lie down in a dark, quiet room. Place an ice bag or cold cloth on your face or head Breathe deeply (from your belly) and massage the area where you feel pain.
Because headaches are usually caused by muscle contractions, relaxing your mind and body can help ease headaches.
3. Take B complex
B complex are a group of vitamins that are essential for energy production and healthy menstrual cycles. For example, vitamin B6 can be very effective for alleviating menstrual cramps, swelling, water retention, and pressure headaches. Vitamin B2, also known as riboflavin, has wonderful pain-relieving qualities as well.
Dr. Mao Shingni, the author of Second Spring, recommends taking 400mg of riboflavin and 400mg of vitamin B6 together as a natural painkiller for menstrual headaches. Alternatively, you can take a B complex supplement.
4. Use magnesium
Significant research has shown that people with migraines often have lower levels of magnesium than those without them. One study found that regular intake of magnesium reduced the frequency of migraine attacks by 41.6%.
Other research has shown that taking daily magnesium supplements can be effective at preventing menstrual-related migraines. The general recommended dosage is about 400 to 500 milligrams a day.
5. Try 5HTP
Serotonin is a happy hormone that plays an important role in how you feel about yourself, what you want to eat (and how often), and how much you sleep – a few things that affect your mood and sense of wellbeing in profound ways.
When estrogen levels drop before, during, or after your period, so does your serotonin level. This is a possible explanation as to why women tend to feel depressed (and have headaches) around menstruation.
5HTP is useful if you need a little help boosting your serotonin levels. Learn more about 5HTP and see if it helps with your moods, insomnia, PMS, and menstrual headaches.
6. Add CoQ10
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is key to the functioning of the mitochondria, the powerhouse inside cells that produces the energy the cells need. It also has antioxidant properties and can reduce damage to cells caused by the environment and other factors.
Some studies have shown evidence that CoQ10 supplements may help prevent migraines.
7. Keep your estrogen levels stable
Having steady estrogen levels may improve headaches, while wild fluctuations can make headaches worse. Though it’s natural for estrogens to ebb and flow throughout the menstrual cycle, you can use these methods to give your estrogen level a boost when it dips before, during, and right after your period.
8. Practice meditation
Meditation is a wonderful way to combat daily stressors and maintain a more balanced outlook towards life’s challenges. Many researches have documented the beneficial effects of meditation on the mind and the body.
I’ve been meditating daily for 14 years and consider it one of the best gifts I’ve ever received – and the most effective in my toolbox for life.
If you don’t have a practice yet, start one. It doesn’t have to be long. A few minutes a day can do wonders.
9. Use over-the-counter painkillers cautiously
When you’re in pain, it’s natural to want to stop it immediately. Aspirin or many other over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs may work well for this purpose. Many of us think so. That’s why we spend more than $4 billion a year on these medications.
But overuse of these drugs, more than 2 days a week on a regular basis, can make headaches worse. And when you develop a resistance to painkillers over time, it may require more pills to achieve the same result. So use them if you must, but do so cautiously.
Alternatively, you can explore acupuncture and biofeedback. Both are proven treatments for headaches and other health concerns.
10. Call a doctor
Even though common headaches are not dangerous, there are times when they could be warning signs for a serious disease.
So don’t wait to call your doctor if your headaches get worse, happen more frequently, change locations, or begin to disrupt your life.
Also, be concerned if your headaches don’t seem to fit a recognizable pattern, or you can’t find triggers for them, or if they’re accompanied by neurological symptoms such as numbness, dizziness, blurred vision, or memory loss.
I hope you found this post helpful. Try these remedies and let me know if they help. And as always, please share your experiences and tips with other women who also suffer from menstrual headaches. Thank you!