But there is light at the end of the tunnel. For many women headaches are connected to fluctuating hormone levels but after menopause they often become less intense and may even ease off significantly.
Why Are Headaches Connected to Menopause?
Headaches often occur during the time of approaching menopause, which is usually between the ages of 45 and 51 years. This time is known as perimenopause, but everyone is unique and there is no set pattern. Many women experience menopause much earlier, and for women who have had hysterectomy, they have all the same menopausal effects to cope with regardless of their age.
At the time of perimenopause there are fluctuations of oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone and hormone levels begin to fall. Although this may be a haphazard process, these fluctuations can often trigger headaches. The types of headache caused by hormonal change will also vary considerably:
- Stress Headaches
- Anxiety, stress and tension is often something which arises during the menopause. The change of life is just that. A change in how your body behaves. Apart from the knowledge that you are no longer fertile, diminishing hormones herald a new phase of life where you are forced to address the fact that you are no longer in the first flush of youth. Emotions run high and coming to terms with this new biological ticking clock is sometimes daunting.
- Menopause can often trigger anxiety and stress because not everyone takes well to change. It can feel scary, but in spite of other side effects such as hot flushes, night sweats, headaches and aching joints, it is all still simply part of being a woman. We know that menopause is not a disease, but the fact it, it does sometimes feel like one.
- Neck Pain
- This arises from unconsciously holding tension in the neck and shoulders. Menopause is a time when seemingly random pain can present itself, but the stress you may be feeling can all too easily cause the tendons and muscles of the shoulders and neck to knot up. After a while this can result not only in neck pain but also headache.
- Food Allergies
- Some people have allergies or sensitivities to certain foods and eating these foods can result in various forms of discomfort, including joint pain, fatigue, rashes, dizziness, brain fog, and yes, headaches. Gluten sensitivity is a problem for many. Cheese, chocolate, alcohol and caffeine are also high on the list of food triggers.
- Food Intolerance
- The most usual cause of food intolerance is when your digestive system is unable to metabolise certain foods. This is often due to an enzyme deficiency and an example of this is lactose intolerance. Lactose is the sugar which naturally occurs in milk and needs an enzyme called lactase to break it down. This causes gastrointestinal symptoms such as abdominal pain and headaches can result from this. Once again, stress is a major trigger for food sensitivities and this is due to hormonal imbalances and histamine intolerance. There is a connection between histamine and oestrogen/progesterone, and this can cause problems when the sex hormones are out of balance.
- It is very common for women to have a hormone imbalance known as oestrogen dominance where there is an excess of oestrogen in relation to progesterone. In this instance far more headaches will arise during times when oestrogen levels peak.
One of the most disabling of headache disorders is migraine. It is triggered by various factors, but there is clinical evidence which shows that hormonal fluctuations are one of the most prevalent triggers. This is particularly true during the perimenopausal phase and is caused by major fluctuations in oestradiol levels.
For some women, migraines are experienced during their reproductive years, and particularly in conjunction with taking hormonal birth control medication. The migraine headache often presents as a throbbing pain on one side of the head but there are various types of migraine:
- With aura (flashing lights)
- Sensory disturbances including blind spots or tingling of the hands and face
- Without aura – known as ‘common migraine’
- Sickness – both feeling sick and actually vomiting
- Sensitivity to light and/or sound
- Aura without headache, known as silent migraine. Other migraine side effects can also be experienced but without the headache
According to NHS UK, migraine is thought to be the result of temporary changes in the chemicals, nerves and blood vessels in the brain. NHS report that around half of all migraine sufferers also have a close relative with the condition, suggesting that genetics play a part. Migraine can, in certain cases, predispose sufferers to stroke, and this raises questions on the advisability of menopausal hormone medication. It has been found that hormone replacement therapy delivered via a patch on the skin rather than orally, gives a more stable level of oestrogens. A low transdermal dose is also safer in terms of vascular health.
If you are prone to migraine headaches or if they are a new problem associated with perimenopause, you may wish to discuss the risks of HRT with your GP should you be offered this course of treatment.
In establishing the incidence of migraine headache amongst menopausal women, a questionnaire survey was carried out on 1000 women consecutively attending a menopause clinic at Leicester Royal Infirmary. Weight, blood pressure and smoking status were taken into account. The results were recorded from 850 participants where 240 women reported a history of migraine. Most women had headaches more frequently than once monthly and 520 women had had at least one headache in the preceding week. Stress was found to be the most common trigger factor and a significant group of women reported headaches which became worse at menopause and showed variable response to HRT.
The study reported that headache symptoms improved with age and increasing diastolic blood pressure. It was concluded that headache is a substantial problem during menopause and also amongst HRT users. It was found to be difficult to predict which women will develop worse headaches at menopause and with HRT but a history of migraine and reduced coping with stress were significant factors.
Will My Headaches Disappear After Menopause?
Some women report hardly ever having suffered with headaches until they reached perimenopause, whilst others, who have suffered for most of their lives, found that after menopause their headaches mysteriously ceased. It is quite possible that if you have suffered with headaches, and even migraines during your fertile years, but mainly at times of menstruation, that they will diminish following menopause. It is also very likely that if your headaches began during perimenopause that they will disappear after menopause itself has taken place. This is almost certainly due to the fact that your hormone levels will have settled at a constant low.
Tips for Easing Headache
There are a number of things you can do which will give some degree of relief from the misery of headache:
- Ginger – A new discovery has been made following a study into the benefits of taking ginger in your diet. It was discovered that for migraine sufferers, ginger helps to ease pain almost as well as prescription migraine medication. It can be taken as a supplement or by brewing some ginger tea.
- Stay Hydrated – Dehydration can, not only cause headache, but will certainly make an existing headache worse. Remember that taking in water does not only have to mean the stuff which comes from the tap. Fruit is full of water, soup (particularly the broth kind) is largely water, tea and herbal tea is a great way to keep hydrated. Starting your day with a mug of hot water with a slice of lemon provides your body with a much-needed cleanse and hydration-boost after a long night’s sleep.
- Relax – You can learn how to chill out so that when you are struggling with the pain of headache your chosen technique will help ease the pain. There are various choices of relaxation including stretches, breathing exercises, meditation or yoga.
- Massage – You can even learn to do it yourself if necessary. Spend a few minutes massaging your forehead, neck and temples with a gentle, circular motion. Try using some aromatherapy oil such as lavender.
- Avoid the Light – Flickering lights are particularly bad for headache sufferers but any bright light should be avoided. Lying down in a darkened room helps, and also wearing sunglasses if you have to be out in the sunlight.
- Caffeine – Strangely, a small amount of caffeine could ease your headache. It also gives over-the-counter pain relief medication a helping hand, making it more effective. You don’t need too much though, just a cup of tea or coffee is fine.
Natural Relief for Menopausal Headaches
The essence of alleviating many of the undesirable side effects of menopause is to achieve a stabilisation in the fluctuation in hormone levels. To this end, we offer a range of natural products known to support and help relieve the symptoms of menopause.
To make life easier for you, we have created two products by blending the active ingredients of widely acclaimed and effective herbs to support you through the trials of menopause. These are carefully formulated and unique combinations of the best and most effective natural herbal extracts and vitamins and are available in capsule form. They are called simply Menopause Support Day and Menopause Support Night. These capsules will help balance hormones and ease the negative effects of menopause at those times when they are most needed. If the balance of hormonal fluctuation is
Stabilised, the onset of symptoms such as headache are likely to be reduced or alleviated.
Many women appreciate the fact that natural health provides an alternative to taking the pharmaceutical route to help alleviate the problems associated with menopause and give support which doesn’t carry the risks of taking HRT.
Extra Professional Support
The British Menopause Society (BMS) has a wealth of information, advice and support on hand. The service provides a guide for healthcare professionals but also to anyone in need of advice. There are various ways of tapping into the support given by the BMS such as phone calls with specialist nurses, information sheets, newsletters, meetings, seminars and workshops on all the aspects of menopause. Many of their guides are available as free downloads but some of their services have to be paid for. BMI also have a facility which can help put you in touch with a recommended and verified menopause specialist local to you.
The team at Supplement Place will be pleased to offer information and advice on natural supplements to support you through the menopause. Call us on 01297 553932 (Monday to Friday from 9.00 am to 4.00 pm) or email: [email protected]