24 February 2011

Headaches and your period

Many women are hit by headaches related to their menstrual cycles. Some are minor niggles, but some are major migraines.

Many women are hit by headaches related to their menstrual cycles. Some are minor niggles, but some are major migraines.

A good move for sufferers would be to monitor migraines and headaches. "If women have a better idea when they'll get a migraine during their cycle, they have a better chance of preventing or treating it," said Stephen Silberstein, MD, a neurologist and director of the Headache Centre at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

  • Keep a headache diary – this may help you identify triggers. When a migraine occurs, write down the date and time it began. Note what you ate for the preceding 24 hours, how long you slept the night before, what you were doing just before the headache, any unusual stress in your life, how long the headache lasted, and what you did to make it stop.
  • Because some migraines are caused by falling oestrogen levels it may be beneficial to elevate your hormonal levels says Dr Brian Grosberg, assistant professor of neurology and director of Inpatient Headache Program at Montefiore Headache Centre in New York City. "Boosting oestrogen levels in small doses starting five days before menses may decrease or prevent severity of the attacks."
  • Speak to your doctor about non-steroidal inflammatory medications as well as migraine-specific medications known as triptans.

  • Magnesium (200-600mg per day): People with migraines often have lower levels of magnesium compared to people who do not have migraines. Studies suggest that magnesium may reduce the frequency of migraine attacks. Some studies also suggest that magnesium may be specifically helpful for women whose migraines are triggered by their periods.
  • 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP, 400-600mg per day): Researchers think abnormal serotonin function in blood vessels is related to migraines, and some of the drugs used to treat migraines work by affecting serotonin. Several studies indicate that 5-HTP may be about as effective as some prescription migraine medications, reducing the intensity and frequency of attacks. However, more studies are needed to be sure that 5-HTP is helpful in treating migraines. If you take an antidepressant, or supplements such as St John's Wort, you should not take 5-HTP.
  • Change your lifestyle and you may change your life. Avoid cigarettes, caffeine, and alcohol. Exercise regularly, get enough sleep, eat well and try and reduce stress.
  • Once a headache or migraine hits rest in a quiet, darkened room and drink fluids to avoid dehydration (especially if you have vomited).


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