Monday, March 28, 2016

Migraines May Worsen as Menopause Approaches

“Changes in female hormones such as estrogen and progesterone that occur during perimenopause might trigger increased headaches during this time,” said study co-author Dr. Richard Lipton. He is director of the Montefiore Headache Center and vice chair of neurology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City.

The new research included more than 3,600 women who suffered migraines before and during menopause. The risk of high-frequency migraines (10 or more a month) rose 60% during the transitional time into menopause marked by irregular menstrual cycles (perimenopause).

The risk of migraine was highest during the later stage of perimenopause, when women have low levels of estrogen, the study found.

“Women have been telling doctors that their migraine headaches worsen around menopause, and now we have proof they were right,” study author Dr. Vincent Martin, co-director of the Headache and Facial Pain Program at the University of Cincinnati Neuroscience Institute, said in a news release.

There is help for women who have migraines and are approaching menopause, said study co-author Dr. Jelena Pavlovic, an attending physician in neurology at the Montefiore Headache Center and an assistant professor in the neurology department at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

“Physicians can prescribe hormonal therapies that level out these changes that occur during the perimenopause and menopause time periods. If the patient is in early perimenopause, you can give birth control pills that level things out. If they are in late perimenopause and they start skipping periods, they can be put on estrogen patches,” Pavlovic said.

But hormones may not always be the culprit. Although the number of migraines rose 76% during menopause, some headaches may be the result of medication overuse, which is common in this age group, according to Martin.

“Women, as they get older, develop lots of aches and pains, joints and back pain, and it is possible their overuse of pain medications for headache and other conditions might actually drive an increase in headaches for the menopause group,” he said.

About 12% of Americans get migraines, and women get them three times more often than men, the researchers said. The study was published online Jan. 21 in Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain.

My Take:
There are two salient points here related to the stimulation of migraine headaches in women. The first is the hormonal connection. However, I recommend nutritional support of the endocrine system, the glands that make and monitor these hormone is lieu of HRT (hormone replacement therapy). The connection between HRT and reproductive organ cancers is well established. Would you trade a migraine headache for breast cancer?

The second connection is inflammation. Both the musculoskeletal pain, headaches and the medications to (ineffectively) treat the pain alter the prostaglandin inflammatory pathway. This blocks the normal conversion of omega 6 fatty acids into hormone precursors and stimulates even more inflammation. Again, this is readily treated with nutrition, specifically sesame seed oil.

The Bottom Line:
These connections have been well established clinically for some time. Please consider herbal support for migraine headaches, especially through perimenopause and early menopause. Wild yam, Black cohosh, Ashwaganda, Licorice, and Tribulus are all very effective in treating hormonal imbalances. Treatment of inflammation should begin much sooner with omega 3 fatty acids, sesame seed oil and possibly omega 6 fatty acids if needed.

Source: January 22, 2016 National Institutes of Health

1 comment:

  1. Great article. Migraines were found to also be the result of emotional abuse in life (a Harvard Medical study in 80's). I believe that the change in hormones activates physiology that then illuminates that which lies within the person. That being said, for those who are experiencing the migraines rather than other symptoms, do they have a history of emotional/verbal abuse and if so are we once again suggesting ways to mask the true cause? Once supplementation eliminates the physical expression of the emotional pain, does it re-manifest elsewhere?


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