What are Hormonal Headaches?
Hormonal headaches are headaches that occur due to variations in the levels of hormones, in particular, estrogen. Headaches in both men and women can be caused by many factors, including genetic factors, dietary triggers, and age.
However, in women, severe headaches and migraine can be triggered by fluctuating hormonal levels, especially dip in estrogen levels during various times of the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, menopause and being on the contraceptive pill.
What are the Causes of Hormonal Headaches?
A drop in estrogen levels can occur during the following periods leading to headaches:
- Menstrual Cycle: Levels ofthe hormones estrogen and progesterone vary throughout the 28 day menstrual cycle and drop to their lowest levels just prior to menstruation. Many women (more than 50%) experience headaches just prior to their periods that are especially severe than headaches occurring at other times and are aptly termed menstrual migraines
- Pregnancy: Many women report improvement or disappearance of headaches in pregnancy but some women report headaches in the first few weeks of pregnancy that improve in the last six months. These headaches do not harm the fetus. Once again, following delivery, estrogen levels drop rapidly
- Perimenopause and Menopause: For many women there is an increase in headaches as they approach menopause (perimenopausal years) since the hormone levels are very erratic during this time. Once they reach menopause the headaches improve but tension headaches may get worse. Hormone replacement therapy during this period may reduce the headaches, make them worse or have no effect as the individual case may be
- Combined Oral Contraceptive Pill: Generally, hormonal headaches in women improve while they are on the pill, but many women report severe headaches during the last week of the cycle when the pills do not contain hormones, causing fall in estrogen levels
Contributory Factors for Headaches in Women
The following factors may aggravate hormonal headaches. Try to avoid these triggers to reduce the severity of hormonal headaches:
- Missing meals
- Lack of sleep
- Alcohol and caffeine excess
- Soy containing foods
- Aged cheese and fermented foods
- Artificial sweeteners
- Processed foods, smoked fish and hard sausages