For ovulating, perimenopausal and menopausal women, a hormonal headache typically occurs before their period starts or when their ovaries start reducing production of estrogen and progesterone. Researchers investigating the link between hormones and headaches are studying the effects of “estrogen withdrawal” and how it impacts neurotransmitter levels in the brain.
Estrogen withdrawal is implicated in lower blood serotonin combined with up-regulation (increased gene expression) of specific serotonin receptors attached to brain cells.
In addition, estrogen withdrawal migraines and headaches may not go away for years following menopause. Treating hormonal headache symptoms with bioidentical hormone replacement therapy has been proven to help women (and men) suffering from chronic headaches due to hormone imbalances.1
More About Hormones and Headaches
Neurological and endocrine studies have shown that estrogen seems to modulate the severity and frequency of migraines. In addition, the effects of estrogen are also influenced by how much an estrogen steroid hormone called serum estradiol (E2) is in the bloodstream.
Estrogen decline before menstruation and during menopause can cause migraines but only if serum estradiol levels drop below a certain amount.
However, serum estradiol remaining at moderate to high levels in the bloodstream (something that occurs during pregnancy and BHRT), seems to reduce or eliminate headache or migraine attacks.2
What mechanistic role does estrogen have on causing migraines? Evidence suggests that estrogen may affect vasculature (blood vessels) by provoking release of nitric oxide (NO) and activation of the L-arginine/nitric oxide pathway. One study found that nitric oxide is produced within blood platelets during a migraine which alters normal blood flow in the brain. This also hyper-arouses fibers conveying pain signals to bundles of nerve cells (ganglions) in the brain. At the same time, the lack of estrogen and excess NO in the bloodstream causes central nervous system (neurogenic) inflammation. 3, 4
Migraines and Headaches Caused by an Imbalance of Progesterone and Estrogen
Another theory about hormones and headaches involves metabolic and neurohormonal imbalances affecting abnormal hormone feedback within the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal-gonadal axis.
Over 10 years ago, Sergey and Konstantine Dzugan developed the hypothesis that migraines arise from the loss of metabolic and neurohormonal integrity. Through research, they discovered migraines occurred due to a lack of hormones like estrogen and progesterone, mineral imbalances and possibly intestinal health implicating “gut” bacteria.5
Why You Shouldn’t Take Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen for a Hormonal Headache
Ibuprofen is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) that works to relieve pain by impacting hormone levels instead of numbing pain receptors. By influencing enzymes necessary for creating certain prostaglandins that alleviate pain and inflammation, ibuprofen actually interferes with hormonal balances in the bloodstream. In addition, ibuprofen may cause side effects such as heartburn, diarrhea, nausea and constipation.
Acetaminophen is an analgesic that reduces pain by increasing a person’s pain threshold. When taken to reduce fever, acetaminophen affects brain areas involved in regulating body temperature. Doctors think acetaminophen, like ibuprofen, also influences prostaglandin products but do not consider it a true NSAID. Side effects of taking acetaminophen include nausea/vomiting, stomach pain, constipation, diarrhea and heartburn.
Over the counter pain relievers may reduce migraine and headache pain due to lack of estrogen and/or hormone imbalance but does nothing to treat the underlying cause of recurring head pain.
BHRT for Treating Migraines and Headaches Due to Loss of Hormones
Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) is tailored to address individual hormone imbalances by restoring healthy levels of estrogen and progesterone in both pre- and post-menopausal women. In fact, a large number of clinical research studies strongly support the efficacy of managing migraines with levels of all primary hormones–estrogen, testosterone, progesterone, DHEA and pregnenolone–are optimized with pellet-based BHRT. 6
Insertion of very small, BHRT pellets under the skin release pre-determined amounts of hormones your body needs to restore endocrine health and reduce or even eliminate headaches or migraines.
Call us today to learn more about the many benefits of bioidentical hormone replacement therapy.