How to beat hormonal headaches
It’s estimated that around 5 million women experience period-related headaches and in particular migraines.
Dr Guy Leschziner, Consultant Neurologist at The Lister Hospital, London says that although the cause of most migraines is genetic, there are a variety of factors that might trigger an attack.
“Some people link attacks with foodstuffs such as cheese, red wine or citrus fruit, hormonal changes, sleep (either too much or too little) or stress,” he says.
Hormone-related headaches are more than likely due to a drop in oestrogen levels, which happens just before and during a period. Steady oestrogen levels have been found to improve headaches, while lower levels can cause them or make them worse.
If you believe your periods are causing your headaches, the first step is to keep a diary. This will then help you see whether your headaches are linked to your menstrual cycle and also help you prepare for them.
How to beat hormonal headaches
- Get the right amount of sleep
Too little and too much sleep can make headaches worse so try and get your sleeping habits into a regular pattern, especially prior to your period starting.
- Try herbal remedies
The daisy-like plant Feverfew has been found to improve headaches for many sufferers. It works by widening the blood vessels, which encourages a better flow of blood and relieves pain and tension. It’s quite a bitter herb though so we don’t recommend making a tea from it. Instead pop some capsules, which can be found in Boots and other health stores.
- Up your fluid intake
While your hormones can make your headache worse, not drinking enough could also trigger them. Make sure you drink the recommended 8 glasses of water a day to ensure that dehydration is not the reason behind your pain.
- Try acupuncture
NICE – or the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence – recommends a ten week course in acupuncture for those who suffer from headaches. Acupuncture helps to increase blood flow and endorphins, both of which help relieve the symptoms of menstrual headaches. To find a reputable therapist near you, visit the British Acupuncture Council website.
- Take a yoga class
Stress makes headaches worse so try meditating or join a yoga class when you know a headache is on its way. Yoga helps release tension and improves circulation around the body, which can help with pain. A good yoga teacher will know the positions that help relieve headaches, but the Cat pose, Child’s pose and a seated twist are all positions known to help relieve tension and reduce headaches.
- Have sex
While you might want to utter those infamous words, ‘not tonight darling, I’ve got a headache’, it seems sex could be just what you need! A study by the University of Munster in Germany discovered that more than half of migraine sufferers who had sex during a headache saw their symptoms improve. This could be because sex triggers the happy hormone – endorphin – which acts as a natural pain reliever.
- Take the contraceptive pill
Some women find their headaches stop once they start taking the combined pill, however, others report bad headaches during the pill-free week, when oestrogen levels drop.
- See your doctor
If the above tips don’t give you any relief, it’s time to book an appointment with your GP. They can prescribe stronger painkillers or even oestrogen supplements to help keep levels steady and prevent hormone-related headaches.