Two words. One common struggle. Hormonal headaches: The throbbing pain starts on one side of the head and is usually accompanied by sensitivity to light and nausea. Many of us experience hormonal headaches right before or at the start of our menstrual cycle. Maybe you’re even experiencing it now, and you’ve sought out natural and effective tips to put an end to the madness! Welcome, that’s exactly what we’re serving up today. In this article, we’re sharing what hormonal headaches are and our best remedies for dispelling them ASAP.
Hormonal Headaches Symptoms
Menstrual or hormonal headaches are, for the most part, similar to a regular migraine. A hormonal headache may or may not be preceded by an aura. It usually starts on one side of the head and involves sensitivity to light and/or vomiting and nausea. Other symptoms include:
- Cravings for salt and chocolate and fatty foods
- Loss of appetite
- Joint pain
- Decreased urination
- Lack of coordination
Let’s talk about cravings for a second. Cravings for salt and chocolate are not uncommon right before our period. In fact, high estrogen levels
What are the causes of hormonal headaches?
In a recent blog post, we talked about how progesterone levels impact mood. We learned that the largest concentration of progesterone receptors is found in the limbic brain, the center of emotions. When progesterone levels drop right before our bleed, it’s no wonder we experience emotional highs during PMS! We also have a good amount of progesterone receptors in our eyes, which brings me to another fascinating connection.
We know that hormonal headaches often come with eye sensitivity. Now, is it a coincidence that headaches and migraines with eye sensitivity are most common right before our periods? Definitely not.
When progesterone levels drop as our period begins, estrogen levels rise. Headaches and hormonal headaches have been linked to this increase in estrogen, which brings me to another common symptom of hormonal headaches: cravings for salt, chocolate, and fatty foods! This is not uncommon right before our period—thanks to heightened estrogen levels.
Research shows that high circulating levels of estrogen mimic a stressful state (ie, increased cortisol levels), increasing the body’s need for both sugar and salt, especially from fatty foods.
Stress makes us more susceptible to low blood sugar, which can result in hormonal headaches, fatigue, and more.
As we know now, hormonal headaches are related to a fluctuation in hormone levels, especially estrogen and progesterone. Here are common reasons why we experience a serious change in hormone levels beyond the menstrual cycle.
- Pregnancy: estrogen levels rise in pregnancy.
- Perimenopause and menopause: the fluctuation of hormones during these times causes women to experience hormonal migraines. This could be a result of some hormone replacement therapies.
- Contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy: birth control pills, hormonal IUDs, and HRT can cause hormone levels to fluctuate, as they contain synthetic hormones.
Other possibilities include:
- Skipping meals, not eating frequently enough
- Poor sleep
- Alcoholic beverages
- Too much caffeine, caffeine withdrawal
- Processed foods, especially meats
- Aged cheeses
- Soy products
- Artificial sweeteners
In my experience with and while working with clients, I’ve found natural and effective strategies for relieving and preventing hormonal headaches. Keep reading to discover the top 8 tips.
8 Tips for Hormonal Headaches Treatment & Prevention
Reduce Xenoestrogen Exposure
As we’ve learned, high estrogen levels are a common contributor to hormonal headaches. Xenoestrogens or estrogen-mimicking chemicals are found in most conventional products on the market. Think makeup, body care, plastic, and not organic food. These synthetic forms of estrogen mimic estrogen, increasing estrogen levels and wreaking havoc on hormone imbalance.
- Ditch conventional chemical-laden cosmetics
- Switch from plastic to glass food storage containers
- Eat organic and hormone-free foods
- Wash hands after touching paper receipts, which are coated with BPA
- Purchase BPA and BPS free plastic and cans
For other ways to reduce estrogen dominance, check out our tips here.
Vitamin B2 or Riboflavin
As a preventative measure, consider taking 400 mg/day of Vitamin B2. Many people have seen a reduction in migraines after taking riboflavin consistently for 1-3 months.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
It may seem obvious, but the truth is most of us are dehydrated, and it’s messing with our hormones. Remember to drink half of your body weight in ounces of water per day. Consider adding electrolytes and flavor to your water if you have a hard time drinking water throughout the day. No shame, I’ve been there.
Easier said than done. We know that stress increases estrogen levels, so making sure we stay calm and grounded is a great preventative measure for hormonal headaches. If you catch yourself shallow breathing, clenching your jaw, or tightening your shoulders, you are probably stressed. Try doing one thing at a time, so you don’t overwhelm yourself. Prioritizing alone time to do breathwork, meditate, exercise, or take a bath can really help.
Consume Healthy Fats During Every Meal
Incorporating healthy fats into your diets can do wonders for balancing your hormones. Consider adding healthy fats like avocado, coconut oil, nuts, seeds, and fresh fish into your diet. Beyond that, healthy fats can also reduce inflammation which can lead to stress and further hormonal imbalance.
Give Your Liver Love
Our liber is responsible for hormone breakdown and metabolism. Consuming leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, and herbs like burdock can help support a healthy liver.
Other foods for liver love:
Use Essential Oils
Essential oils are wonderful natural remedies for headaches because they can improve blood circulation and relax muscles. Here are some of my favorite oils for migraines:
- Roman chamomile
- Clary sage
Check out my favorite essential oil recipes for headaches and migraines here.
Try a Daily Raw Carrot Salad
Dr. Ray Peat used to suffer from debilitating migraine headaches. He realized that consuming a raw carrot salad once or twice daily made his migraines go away. He says this has much to do with raw carrot fiber’s ability to bind to excess estrogen and carry it out of the body gently and effectively.
“There are interesting associations between vegetable “fiber” and estrogens. Because of my own experience in finding that eating a raw carrot daily prevented my migraines, I began to suspect that the carrot fiber was having both a bowel-protective and an antiestrogen effect. Several women who suffered from premenstrual symptoms, including migraine, had their serum estrogen measured before and after the “carrot diet,” and they found that the carrot lowered their estrogen within a few days, as it relieved their symptoms.” – Dr. Peat
Here is the recipe:
- 1-2 raw carrots, shredded or ribboned
- Sea salt
- ½ tsp of white or apple cider vinegar
- ½ tbsp coconut or MCT oil
Consume daily for best results.
Other natural ways to address hormonal headaches:
- Hormone testing
Now that you’ve got the 411 on hormonal headaches and our favorite tips for treating and preventing them, what are you most excited to try? Let me know in the comments below.