Period headaches

Menstrual Migraine Relief

Dr. Jolene BrightenPublished: Last Reviewed: Menstrual Cycle Leave a Comment

Migraines go hand in hand with hormone fluctuations, which drives many women to seek menstrual migraine relief and medication. Women often experience new onset or an increase in migraines around menarche (the first time you get your period), perimenopause, and with starting or stopping birth control. These migraines can persist and show up monthly with each period we experience, hence the ongoing connection between migraines and periods.

It is much more common for women to experience migraines opposed to men once we enter puberty and some studies have stated that over 40% of women will experience at least one migraine by the time they reach their 50s.

We’re gonna dive into what causes migraines and what you can do to prevent menstrual migraines and get relief when they do strike. But first, what are common migraine symptoms?

Menstrual Migraine Symptoms

  • Throbbing pain
  • Often one side of the head
  • Flashes of light (known as an aura)
  • Sound sensitivity
  • Light sensitivity
  • Smell sensitivity
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

What Causes Menstrual Migraines?

Migraines are primarily a dysfunction of the nervous system with an inflammatory component. But in the case of migraines during periods, the hormone estrogen plays a significant role.

Can Your Period Cause a Migraine?

When our body recognizes there is no fertilized egg or implantation in the uterus, estrogen and progesterone drop to trigger the onset of menses (your period). This is a normal part of your monthly cycle.

This drop in hormones sets off a cascade that causes the uterus to release the endometrial lining that has been building in preparation for baby. No baby means it is time to clean house, which is why you have your period.

Migraines can be triggered by the drop in estrogen at the onset of your period and estrogen dominance in the premenstrual phase may be to blame in women who are the mercy of menstrual migraines.

When estrogen declines, there is also a drop in serotonin along with an increase in chemicals associated with pain. In fact, it has been observed that pain in general is perceived as worse around menstruation.

Birth Control Withdrawal

As I discuss in Beyond the Pill, that “period” with your pill, patch, or ring is really a withdrawal bleed from the medication you are taking. And with that withdrawal can come a migraine or headache. Similarly, missing a dose is also something that can trigger headaches in women.

New onset of migraines can come with starting birth control or as part of post-birth control syndrome.

Migraine with Aura and Birth Control

Migraines with aura are contraindication to using hormonal birth control due to the risk of stroke. Some studies have stated it is less common to see auras with menstrual migraines, stating it is likely due to the low estrogen state. In the case of estrogen containing hormonal birth control, it may be more common to see auras.   

From Chapter 8: Reverse Metabolic Mayhem in Beyond the Pill –

“When it comes to migraines, some women report great improvement after starting the pill, but others report an increase in frequency or duration. (Are you noticing a theme here? It’s about what is true for you.) While experiences and the data vary, one thing we do understand well is that women who experience auras with their migraines are at an increased risk of ischemic stroke.

As I explain in my book, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advise women avoid the pill if they experience migraines with auras. And truly, there is a reason you’re having migraines and that should be investigated.

What to do instead? In Beyond the Pill I give you a whole lot of root cause tools + headache solutions to help you start feeling better soon than later. I definitely recommend checking it out for the more comprehensive information. And I’m going to provide you some tips here as well.

Menstrual Migraine Relief Strategies

I want to give you a few strategies you can employ right away, along with information you can gather to take with you to your next doctor's visit.

Migraine Before Your Period? Start a Headache Journal

Migraines can often be tied to hormonal changes for women and as I explain in Beyond the Pill, it isn't uncommon for women to develop migraines when they begin hormonal birth control or as part of post-birth control syndrome. Starting a headache journal and tracking your cycle is a great way to identify if hormone imbalance is your root cause. The solutions that I share in my book have helped many of my patients get lasting relief and eliminate migraines all together.

Headache Journal Data to Track:

  • When does the headache begin
  • Where is it
  • Does it radiate
  • What’s the intensity
  • What’s the quality
  • Do you have light, sound, smell sensitivity
  • Where are you in your menstrual cycle
  • What did you eat in the last 24 hours
  • Other symptoms that accompany it

How Do I Prevent Menstrual Migraines

Magnesium for Menstrual Migraine Relief

Clinically I have found that for some women, magnesium at 600 mg with the onset of a migraine can help prevent it from progressing. Ensuring you have magnesium rich foods like you find in the Brighten Protocol™ diet will also help support your hormones, inflammation, and the billion other things magnesium does in your body. 😉

In my clinic we use Magnesium Plus because it is highly absorbable and doesn't cause gut symptoms or diarrhea like other versions can. I mean, is there anything worse than having a pounding headache and then diarrhea? No one wants any of that!

Added bonus! Magnesium can also help reduce period pain!

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🔊Are you clenching a bottle of Midol every month during your period?😖Or maybe you call off the gym and all social activities because you know period pain is about to take you down.⠀ .⠀ Intense menstrual cramps, also known as dysmenorrhea, usually begin just before menses, although they can start a few days before, and last for about three days on average.⠀ .⠀ Painful periods can be a sign of…⠀ ⚡Infection⠀ ⚡Endometriosis⠀ ⚡Fibroids⠀ ⚡Ovarian cysts⠀ ⚡Estrogen dominance⠀ ⚡Inflammation⠀ ⚡Nutrient deficiency⠀ .⠀ From the conventional perspective, pain is incorrectly considered a normal part of menstruation and many concerned women are often dismissed.⠀ .⠀ Research has shown that the rate and duration of pill use for severe menstrual cramps during adolescence is higher in women who are later diagnosed with endometriosis. This is one more condition the pill can be masking!⠀ .⠀ If you found this information helpful, I want to encourage you to grab a copy of #BeyondthePill because everything above is from Chapter 4 – Take Back Your Period. In this chapter I outline a ton of #periodproblems and give you solutions! Plus, as a doctor, I guide you in what you should bring to your doctor and what to ask for with regards labs.⠀ .⠀ As I share in the book, I generally recommend Magnesium glycinate, like you find in Magnesium Plus (link @drjolenebrighten), to my patients with painful periods at 300 milligrams, twice daily five days before menses and for the first three days during. The rest of the month, aim for 300 milligrams nightly.⠀ .⠀ What helps you with period cramps? Have you tried any of the solutions in Beyond the Pill? Leave me a comment below! . #drjolenebrighten #periodproblems #periodpain #speakendo #functionalmedicine #pmsproblems #pms

A post shared by Dr. Jolene Brighten – Hormones (@drjolenebrighten) on

Turmeric for Anti-Inflammatory Support

While migraines during a period are often hormonal, there is also an inflammatory component. Turmeric specifically affects the NFkB pathway that is responsible for inflammation associated with migraines. Try adding turmeric to your food, sipping a turmeric tea or leveraging a highly absorbable supplement.

In my clinic we use Turmeric Boost because it is a form of turmeric that has been show to be easily absorbed and highly effective!

Orgasms for Headache Relief

Many of my patients are surprised to learn that research has shown orgasms can help reduce the pain of a migraine and that regular orgasms may also prevent migraines. Some research has shown that an orgasm can provide complete relief in about 47% of people.

Got migraines? Aim to orgasm at least once a week—doctors orders.

Keep in mind though, a very small percentage of the population can have an increase in pain so be sure to evaluate if orgasms help you!

Want to learn more about the health benefits of orgasms? Check out this with 10 Health Benefits of Orgasms.

Yoga for Migraines

As I shared in a recent Bulletproof interview “Yoga increases circulation, supports a healthy nervous system and reduces stress,” says Dr. Jolene Brighten, a nutritional biochemist, naturopathic physician, and author of “Beyond the Pill”. “Adding a regular yoga practice as part of your migraine prevention protocol may help prevent migraines.”

Avoid Foods That Make Migraines Worse

In one study it was found that approximately 27% of migraines were triggered by food and another 38% were triggered by alcohol. Aged cheese, red wine, gluten, food additives, and preserved foods are common triggers.

Avoiding food triggers and eating anti-inflammatory foods rich in magnesium like nuts, seeds, avocado, and fatty fish can help. Consuming turmeric regularly may be beneficial in modulating the Nf-KB pathway, which is involved in the inflammation that accompanies a migraine.

Topical Lavender or Peppermint Essential Oils

Essential oils can be a great topical remedy to help with easing migraines. In true migraines, they aren't often enough to get full relief, but are a good adjunct remedy to have on hand while you work on the root cause.

Looking to Create Hormone Balance & Say Buh-Bye to Migraines?

Grab a copy of Beyond the Pill + over $250 in gratitude gifts today! This book gives you the root cause solution to common symptoms of hormone imbalance, guides you in staying safe on birth control and is the first book ever to address the exact steps a woman needs to take when she comes off of any form of hormonal birth control!

Get in on the hormone solutions that have already helped thousands of women change their life and eliminate unwanted symptoms!

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About The Author

Dr. Jolene Brighten

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Dr. Jolene Brighten, NMD, is a women’s hormone expert and prominent leader in women’s medicine. As a licensed naturopathic physician who is board certified in naturopathic endocrinology, she takes an integrative approach in her clinical practice. A fierce patient advocate and completely dedicated to uncovering the root cause of hormonal imbalances, Dr. Brighten empowers women worldwide to take control of their health and their hormones. She is the best selling author of Beyond the Pill and Healing Your Body Naturally After Childbirth. Dr. Brighten is an international speaker, clinical educator, medical advisor within the tech community, and considered a leading authority on women’s health. She is a member of the MindBodyGreen Collective and a faculty member for the American Academy of Anti Aging Medicine. Her work has been featured in the New York Post, Forbes, Cosmopolitan, Huffington Post, Bustle, The Guardian, Sports Illustrated, Elle, and ABC News. Read more about me here.