WHY DO WE GET MENSTRUAL MIGRAINES?
Do you ever get a migraine just before or during your period? It can be so debilitating, you just can't get out of bed (or the bathroom) and it feels like no one understands. Unfortunately, there are a number of causes so it isn't always easy to pinpoint what the cause is, all of them are great ways of ensuring optimal hormonal and reproductive health.
I know from experience, that I tried plenty of remedies when I got migraines, but I now know that dealing with the root cause is more important in eliminating them completely.
Here are some of the causes (and some fixes) that I have seen and recommended to my clients:
1. Retroverted or Retroflexed Uterus
This is when the uterus is tipped further back or sometimes even retroflexed which is when it is also bent over backwards. This can put pressure on the rectum and spine, which most of the time isn't an issue, however, in some women, when their wombs' are the most full and the area is most congested with lymphatic fluid, particularly just before and during the first few days of menstruation, this extra pressure on the spine with result in a migraine.
The top diagram below is a uterus in its normal position, the too below pictures are where the uterus is tilted backwards, it can press against the rectum and place pressure on the rectum and spinal cord.
Copyright Rachel Eyre 2016. All Rights Reserved.
Fix: Get more movement in to your pelvic such as walking regularly, especially if you have a desk job. Swimming, yoga and pilates are also great ways to get more movement into your pelvic and abdominal area.
Get a Fertility Massage which is designed specifically to help the womb and reproductive system, especially womb alignment (plus it feels amazing having someone massage your belly). Castor oil packs and womb steams can also help with womb alignment. Get free instructions here for both castor oil packs and womb steams.
2. Magnesium Deficiency
This is considered to be a common cause for many migraines as well as menstrual migraines, but magnesium deficiency can also be a cause of menstrual cramps, so it is an important mineral for us menstruators anyway.
Fix: Magnesium intake in whole foods such as cacao, leafy vegetables, beans and nuts are a great way to increase magnesium.
The studies on magnesium supplementation with migraine done by the migraine trust show the magnesium in whole food form does not have any adverse effects. In some cases supplements can help, (although some can cause stomach issues, so I prefer magnesium glycinate in this case), but some people find that it can make it worse, so if you are one of those people, stick to whole food forms of magnesium. I also really like to bathe in Epsom salts (or even use a spray or foot soak) which is another way to top up magnesium levels.
Inflammation has several different effects on period pain, from increasing prostaglandins (chemicals that cause uterine cramps that can cause period pain), to increasing other pain responses, which in some women can trigger migraines.
A number of things that can cause inflammatory responses include red meat and processed meats (which are shown to increase arachidonic acid, which is found in higher amounts in women with period pain and menstrual migraines). High intake of omega 6 fats skewing the omega 3:6 ratio will also raise inflammation. Stress and blood sugar imbalances are known to trigger inflammatory responses and so are not to be ignored.
Fix: There are a number of things you can do to decrease inflammation both throughout the month and in the lead up to your period:
Reduce or offset your stress. Stress off setting is where you can't reduce stressful activities, but instead add in nourishing activities and practices such as deep slow breathing, meditation, walking in nature, arts and crafts, yoga or anything else that you find resets your day.
Increase your Omega 3 fat intake with oily fish such as wild salmon and sardines, flaxseeds, chia seeds and walnuts.
4. Progesterone & Oestrogen Levels
There are many issues with these levels leading up to your period, such as oestrogen dominance and the drop in hormone levels which is normal. However, just trying to boost your oestrogen or progesterone doesn't always help and can often make the migraines worse.
Fix: If you want to go down this route, it is important to work with a functional medicine doctor to figure out the right levels for you. However you can also work on balancing your hormone levels by reducing your stress, balancing blood sugar levels, eating more vegetables such as more leafy green vegetables in your diet. You can read out more about this in this blog post.
Find Out More
Read more about Oestrogen Dominance
Read more about How Stress Affects Your Periods
Read more about Luteal Phase Defect
Read more about Why Period Pain Isn't Normal & What You Can Do About It