Hormones and Migraine Headache
By Dr. Tim Fargo, Chiropractor
Let me begin by stating the obvious; I am not a woman and therefore cannot fully appreciate the impact of ebbing and flowing hormones. It has been my observation over the years that many women, especially those who are prone to migraine in the first place, experience more migraines at the time of their period. The normal hormone level pattern looks something like what is pictured below.
What you will notice is that during the last week of the cycle, both estrogen and progesterone drop significantly and this then results in a woman shedding her uterine lining. This is what creates the menstrual flow. If this is a natural process, then why would declining estrogen and progesterone trigger headaches in some women? The answer may lie in the fact that the regulation of estrogen and progesterone levels is dependent on many things. Some women simply make more of the hormones. Some are exposed to estrogen and estrogen-like compounds in the environment. For example, plastics can impart estrogen-like compounds into your food and water. Similarly, there are foods that contain estrogenic compounds. Soy is an example of a food that contains plant-based estrogens (phytoestrogens). We are sometimes exposed to estrogenic compounds in the water we drink. All of this adds up to the fact that many women have higher than normal estrogen levels.
When you combine these higher estrogen levels with the fact that the liver must process and excrete estrogen, and sometimes the liver does not do so efficiently, then you have a recipe for symptoms associated with hormone imbalance. The liver requires particular nutrients in order to efficiently process and excrete estrogen. If the liver lacks these nutrients, then it will not do its job well, and therefore estrogen levels will remain artificially high. Sometimes, the liver is so busy doing other work because it is overloaded with alcohol, drugs, and foods to which the person is sensitive, that it is not able to do its other jobs as effectively.
The net result of higher than normal estrogen and inefficient liver processing of estrogen is that the starting point for the estrogen peak at the end of the cycle is much higher than normal, and, therefore, when it does drop at the end of the cycle, it does so much more precipitously than it would otherwise. This phenomenon can serve as a migraine trigger.
The solution to this scenario is to simultaneously reduce external sources of estrogenic compounds while unloading the liver and providing it with the nutrients it needs to efficiently process estrogen. By the way, when a woman has chronically high estrogen levels and the body is not doing a good job of excreting and regulating these levels, estrogen will store in fat tissue, especially in the breast. This can be a problem if the woman has a susceptibility to estrogen sensitive cancers.
Here are some things that you can do to alleviate the hormonal triggers for migraine at the end of the menstrual cycle.
- Identify and eliminate foods to which you are sensitive. Chronic consumption of food allergens and foods to which you are sensitive will put excess stress on the liver and compromise its ability to process and excrete estrogen. The doctors at Chiropractic Health and Wellness can easily and quickly do food sensitivity testing and help you eliminate this one source of stress.
- Minimize consumption of alcohol and other drugs that place additional demands on your liver.
- Avoid plant-based estrogens and environmental estrogenic compounds. For example, do not microwave in plastic, and switch over to glass containers for food storage.
- Start taking nutritional supplements that facilitate the liver’s ability to process and excrete estrogen. There is a nutritional supplement blend called Estrobalance™ which we have available, and which provides all the essential nutrients to support estrogen excretion and processing.
- Work to improve your body composition so that you have a lower fat percentage and higher lean mass. As previously mentioned, estrogen is stored in fat and, the less you have of it, the less it can influence your hormone levels.
If you take some of the simple steps above, you can regulate the timing and distribution of your hormones during the menstrual cycle, and eliminate one of the significant triggers for migraine. Let the doctors at Chiropractic Health and Wellness know if you, or someone you know, suffers with hormone-related migraines. We are here to help.