Whether it’s a debilitating migraine or the dull throbbing from a stressful day, headaches have the ability to zap your energy, ruin your focus and turn your otherwise centered self into a crabby mess.
As one of the most common – and vague – health conditions, headaches are generally accepted as just part of being human, whether brought on by fatigue, dehydration, stress or lack of sleep. Headaches can indeed be caused by all of these things, but for women, there’s often a hormonal imbalance at the root of those menstrual migraines or the constant tension between your eyes.
Hormones, You Win Again
Being female, you’re on a hormonal roller-coaster ride most of your life. The ups can be thrilling, (like when you get a spike of mood-improving estrogen), but the downs (when it dips the other way) can cause imbalance to the chemicals and systems of the brain, resulting in headache.
The estrogen/progesterone balance plays a pivotal role in whether you regularly experience hormonal-related headaches. Many women are prone to getting headaches just before they start their periods – a time when estrogen levels take a dive. And if you’re one of thousands of women who experience menstrual migraines – severely painful headaches that occur usually before or during menstruation – you probably don’t need me to reiterate just how disruptive and excruciating they are.
What do you normally do when a headache strikes?
The conventional remedy is usually a strong dose of acetaminophen, ibuprofen or aspirin, the ingredients found in over-the-counter painkillers. And while there’s nothing harmful about these pills (as long as you don’t have liver problems or take them excessively), there are natural ways to rebalance your hormones to avoid needing headache medicine in the first place.
5 Ways to Heal Headaches Naturally
1. Talk to your doctor.
Have your physician take a closer look at your estrogen/progesterone balance, as well as your thyroid levels. Based on the results of these tests, the two of you can decide what treatment options may be best for you. If you suffer from severe menstrual migraines, applying progesterone cream to the skin may be helpful, but should be considered under the guidance of your doctor.
I recommend a lifestyle “reset” by eliminating gluten, reducing sugar intake and cutting out red wine from your diet. Avoid tyramine, too, which is a migraine-triggering compound found in aged and fermented foods like old cheeses, smoked fish or cured meats. Enact these changes for at least 30 days and you will probably notice an improvement in hormonal-related headache symptoms.
Once you have a better understanding of your hormonal profile, you can also use supplements to support nutritional deficiencies that might be contributing to headaches. Magnesium, CoQ10 and 5-HTP are all recommended for these purposes. Talk to your doctor about proper dosage.
Remember that stress can directly influence your hormonal balance. Find ways to cope with PMS-related mood fluctuations and eliminate stress during those difficult times in your cycle. Yoga, meditation, exercise, and a good belly laugh are all great techniques to keep you calm and centered, which may reduce hormonal headaches.
Aim to drink about three liters of water every day to prevent dehydration and cut down on hormonal headaches.
When Natural Is Not Enough
There are medications you can take to help alleviate headache pain, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, triptans, beta blockers and others. I recommend using medication only if you aren’t able to relieve symptoms through the methods listed above. Remember, ibuprofen can poke holes in your gut and cause many gastrointestinal issues, and nearly all prescriptions have their side effects. I find regular fish oil works better than ibuprofen.
And while the occasional headache is normal, hormonal-related headaches certainly don’t have to be part of your everyday life or monthly cycle. Prevention is the best strategy, and in the long run it will cost you less than the painkillers currently taking up space in your medicine cabinet.
How do you deal with headaches? Do you have any no-fail tips? Share them with me in the comments below.