Menopausal changes can be a headache… literally. Many women find that their headaches worsen or that they suffer from headaches for the first time during the years leading up to menopause. No surprise there — it's those pesky hormonal fluctuations that are the culprit!
The good news is that headaches often dissipate — partially or completely — once the transition through menopause is over. However, hormone replacement therapy may aggravate headaches in some women. While 50 percent reported improvement in their headache symptoms, the other half saw theirs worsen. Pay attention to your headache patterns if you're taking hormones, and discuss symptoms with your doctor if your headaches are heightened after menopause.
In the meantime, you can avoid headache triggers. Certain foods, as well as alcohol, changing weather, and daily stresses all could be culprits. Eating right, sleeping well, and getting regular exercise are important practices for a less painful menopause. If symptoms still don't improve, you can try going herbal. Feverfew, an herbal remedy, holds promise for fending off migraines. Though not confirmed, several placebo-controlled clinical studies have suggested that it may help ease migraine pain significantly when ingested as either a capsule or in its leaf form. Here are some other tips for curbing migraine pain:
Avoid strong scents.
Many people find that strong scents, such as perfume or cleaning supplies, can trigger a migraine or make an existing migraine worse. Opt out of heavily scented fragrances and instead use fragrance-free products, even when it comes to your shampoo, deodorant, and body lotion. When using cleaning supplies, make sure to use “green” products, which tend to have a lighter scent, and open the windows or turn on a fan to keep the room ventilated.
Lose the hair accessories… and the gum!
Anything that puts excess pressure on your head (such as a tight headband or a restrictive ponytail holder) can exacerbate migraine symptoms. Use loose-fitting cloth hair-holders when necessary, and don’t make the style too tight or constrictive. Gum chewing also can be a migraine trigger, especially if you tend to bite down really hard as you chew. Just try mints instead!
Hold the cheese, please!
Cheese is a big migraine trigger because it contains tyramine (which has been associated with migraines). Instead of cheese, reach for a creamy snack like hummus or all-natural peanut butter. Wine has also been associated with migraines because of its tyramine content, so swap your glass of red for fresh lemonade or a glass of ice water.
Don’t get carried away with coffee.
A cup or two of coffee isn’t necessarily a bad thing when it comes to headaches. In fact, a little dose of caffeine can actually be beneficial in treating headaches. However, too much caffeine can trigger a migraine, so it’s best to limit yourself to a small serving of caffeine each day.
Exercise in moderation.
Excessive exercise can have the same impact as excessive caffeine when it comes to triggering migraines. However, as with caffeine, moderate exercise can help to prevent migraines. Exercise gets the blood flowing and keeps the muscles strong and fit. Choose moderate exercise activities like walking, yoga, or Pilates.
Finally, make sure to eat regularly throughout the day and don’t skip meals. Healthy, whole foods and plenty of hydration (and sleep!) are key to a life without migraines.