An Introduction To Headaches And Menopause
Some women entering the menopause experience headache for the first time in their life. This can be disturbing and sometimes debilitating. However, menopausal headaches are most common among women who have suffered from headaches before, particularly around their menstrual period, or among those who are taking hormonal contraceptives.
There are several types of headaches that the menopause can trigger:
- Migraines these are the most intense type of headache. The pain grows generally on one side of the head or behind the eyes and begins to pulsate or throb. This is sometimes accompanied by aura, or flashing lights and nausea
- Tension headaches these may be associated with stress and tend to be less severe than migraines. They are characterised by a feeling of tightness or moderate pain across the forehead and back of the head and neck
- Sinus headaches the sinuses are small air-filled cavities behind the forehead and cheekbones. If the lining of these sinuses becomes inflamed, you may feel congested and experience facial pain.
How Does Menopause Affect Bone Health
The older a person is, the greater their risk of osteoporosis. A persons risk becomes even greater when they go through menopause. When your estrogen level decreases during menopause, you lose more bone than your body can replace. This makes your bones weaker and more likely to break. To keep your bones strong, its important to get enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet. These help your body absorb calcium. Your doctor can suggest ways to get more calcium through food, drink, and, possibly, a calcium supplement. They may also suggest that you take a vitamin D supplement to help your body process calcium. Ask your doctor what amount of daily calcium and vitamin D is right for you.
What Does Nausea Have To Do With Perimenopause
There isnt a ton of research on nausea and perimenopause specifically, but experts know it does happen to some women and theyve got some well-formed ideas as to why.
Hormones such as estrogen and progesterone rise and fall in our transition periods such as pregnancy and perimenopause,but for our purposes today lets focus on estrogen.
Most of us know that estrogen plays an important role in a womens reproductive system but what you may not know is that it is involved in many other areas of our health .
Estrogen plays a role in our bone health, immune system, vascular health as well as our gut.
When our estrogen levels fluctuate, our bodies mostly adjust to this change but the gut, and how it functions, is affected .
These hormonal changes, particularly with estrogen, can cause digestive complaints, including the nausea youre experiencing. This is also why we can also experience diarrhoea and bloating during certain times in our menstrual cycle and pregnancy .
This is also why if you are taking estrogen as HRT , nausea can be a side effect.
If your nausea becomes unmanageable, do discuss with your doctor/GP about changing the route reducing the dose or type of your HRT .
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Estrogen is the hormone most linked to headaches, which is why its common to hear a friend say she has a killer headache right before that time of the month. The likelihood of headaches increases during the time when estrogen levels fluctuate the most. A drop can contribute to headaches, which is why menstrual migraines are most common in women before their periods, when estrogen levels are low or fluctuating, and why pregnant women often feel a reprieve from headaches as their estrogen levels rise. On the flip side, migraine with aura is usually related to high estrogen levels.
Perimenopause and menopause can also change estrogen levels including when hormone replacement therapy or oral contraceptives are involved. Thats why women in these stages are more likely to complain of increased headaches.
Hormones arent the only factors that affect headaches, of course. Other contributors can include general stress levels and anxiety, fatigue, genetics, diet and even the weather. Anyone whos been down with a migraine has probably experienced these triggers.
Some of the most beloved foods can also send people under the covers, including chocolate, caffeine, peanut butter, red wine and alcohol, cheese, MSG, artificial sweeteners and processed meats.
So what can be done to combat these literal pains in the heads? These are some ways to help:
- Avoid alcohol
What Causes Low Estrogen
Several different factors can affect your estrogen levels. The most significant is age. In menopausal women, its normal for the amount of estrogen thats produced by the body to decline.
In premenopausal women, the body should produce approximately 30 picograms to 400 picograms of estradiol per milliliter of blood .
And for postmenopausal women, its normal to have a blood estradiol level of 30 pg per mL or less.
Several other issues may also cause low estrogen:
Being underweight or having very little body fat. Research
has found that estrogen production is usually lower in women with very little body fat than in women with normal levels of fat.
Being overweight or obese
. Similarly, research has also found that women with very high levels of body fat are also more likely to have decreased estrogen levels.
Exercising excessively. While a moderate amount of exercise is great for your health, large amounts of high-intensity exercise
may affect your hormone production and result in lower estrogen levels.
Being under significant stress. Research
shows that psychological stress may make the natural falls in estrogen that occur during your menstrual cycle more extreme, cranking up the hormonal imbalance and the issues that come with it.
Polycystic ovary syndrome . This is a common hormonal disorder that tends to affect women in their 20s and 30s. It can cause a range of symptoms, including changes to your menstrual cycle and PCOS-related hair loss
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What Is Hormone Replacement Therapy
Hormone replacement therapy is a treatment for menopause symptoms. It involves taking synthetic hormones . HRT can involve taking estrogen alone or estrogen combined with another hormone, progestin. Some people have found that HRT can relieve menopause symptoms. These symptoms include hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and some urinary problems. However, HRT is not for everyone. Recent studies suggest that for most people, the risks of using HRT may outweigh the benefits. Talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of HRT.
The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends against the use of combined estrogen and progestin for the prevention of chronic conditions in postmenopausal women. The AAFP also recommends against the use of estrogen for the prevention of chronic conditions in postmenopausal women who have had a hysterectomy.
According to the AAFP, This recommendation applies to postmenopausal women who are considering hormone replacement therapy for the primary prevention of chronic medical conditions. It does not apply to women who are considering hormone therapy for the management of menopausal symptoms, or to women who have had premature menopause , or surgical menopause.
Headaches And Women: What Do Hormones Have To Do With It
A bad headache can ruin your workday, strain your relationship with family members and affect your ability to exercise. In the U.S., headaches cause 112 million sick days each year. While one-third of the population gets headaches, women suffer more than men do.
Changes in hormones could be among the reasons women have more headaches than men do.
These hormone-related headache triggers include:
What Causes Menopause Symptoms
Menopause symptoms are caused by an interruption in the balance of the female sex hormones, estrogen and progesterone. These hormones regulate the menstrual cycle and fertility, but at a certain point, production gets ready to decrease. Unfortunately, this decrease does not happen uniformly hormone secretion will go up and down erratically and this is what causes the symptoms, including dizziness and headaches.
Tmj Headaches And Symptoms
TMJ headaches are related to the temporomandibular joint, the joint responsible for opening and closing the jaw. If your headache is TMJ-related, you might notice a painful clicking-sound each time you open your mouth. Sometimes, the way your teeth line up when biting causes stress on this joint, leading to a headache. Other times, stress is a factor, especially if it causes you to clench your jaw. The use of a bite plane or nightguard can help both treat and prevent TMJ-related headaches. You can try over the counter bite planes or nightguards but if they dont work well enough, your dentist can custom-make one for you.
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How To Treat Headaches And Nausea During Menopause
Nausea and headaches can be extremely unpleasant at any time in your life. Many women come to expect these symptoms during their period or with pregnancy. However, theyre less commonly thought of as symptoms of menopause.
Just like with pregnancy, nausea during menopause tends to be worse in the morning. It can also be associated with symptoms of premenstrual syndrome during the perimenopausal phase. To alleviate nausea or prevent it from occurring entirely, try to avoid foods that are spicy, fatty, or greasy.
You can also try removing things from your bedroom that can cause strong odors and adjust the temperature to a comfortable setting for better sleep. If necessary, open a window for a few minutes to remove any stuffiness or stale air. Fatigue can make nausea worse.
You might try some natural remedies for nausea that are believed to be effective during menopause and pregnancy. Upon awakening, take your time getting out of bed. Herbal teas, ginger, and plain crackers or toast might help alleviate nausea, particularly first thing in the morning. However, theres no scientific evidence of their effectiveness.
Some doctors may prescribe creams or tablets containing estrogen, progesterone, or both if you have severe menopausal symptoms in addition to nausea and headaches. Make sure to educate yourself about the possible side effects of hormone replacement therapy. Always discuss any concerns you have about your health and about any new medication with a health professional.
Headaches From Common Cold
If you have a cold, theres a good chance youll develop a headache as a symptom. One study found that more than 60% of cold sufferers developed a headache along with their other common cold symptoms, which include a runny nose, sore throat, chills, and a cough. When you have a cold, cytokines are released in the body. These molecules are an important part of your bodys immune defense and while they work to fight your cold, they can cause headaches. Over the counter cold medication helps, but rest and an increase in fluid intake is also recommended.
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Gaps In Knowledge And Future Directions
It has been difficult to distinguish between symptoms that result from loss of ovarian function and those from the aging process or from the socio-environmental stresses of midlife years. Symptoms which result from loss of ovarian function should resolve by hormone replacement, but it has not been found so. Further research is required in this direction.
Symptoms have variable onset in relation to menopause. Some women experience symptoms earlier during perimenopause while some experience them at a later time. When should treatment start is also an issue for debate.
As recent data from the WHI establish the risks of long-term HRT use, concern about using HRT, even as a short-term intervention, has increased substantially. Although HRT remains the first-line treatment for hot flushes, the WHI findings have drawn attention to nonhormonal treatments of hot flushes and other menopausal symptoms. Growing evidence to support the efficacy of serotonergic antidepressants and other psychoactive medications in the treatment for hot flushes suggests that nonhormonal interventions will prove important alternatives to HRT. As further evidence of the benefits of psychoactive medications for menopausal symptoms is established, the choice between using hormonal and nonhormonal therapies for the management of menopausal symptoms will continue to evolve.
Could Hrt Cause Menopause Nausea
What if you are taking HRT and, despite your hormones being managed with medication, you are still feeling sick?
It might actually be the medication causing your gastrointestinal discomfort.
Dont suffer in silence. Report any potential side effects to your healthcare provider if they are severe , and work with them to find a form of HRT that suits you.
There are many types and combinations of HRT and a number of different delivery systems. If your main issue with menopause is vaginal dryness, why not try a topical pessary or cream instead of tablets taken orally?
You could also explore using HRT patches, nasal sprays, vaginal rings or gels.
It might simply be a case of changing the time you take your tablet. Try taking it with food to cut down on indigestion and nausea.
Or it might be that your dose needs to be adjusted. Obviously you should only increase or decrease dosage following advice from your doctor.
The thing to remember that no one has to put up with symptoms like nausea, which can make something as simple as shopping for, cooking and eating dinner feel like an impossible task!
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How Can Menopause Cause Nausea
Its a symptom you might link more with pregnancy than menopause. But it does affect some women in midlife. “Ive recently been hit with a new symptom: nausea,” says Live Better With Menopause community member Weezer. So whats the connection? It isnt well understood but its though fluctuating oestrogen and progesterone may cause a feeling of sickness in some women.
But nausea may also be linked in less direct ways. For example, some of the more classic symptoms of menopause can make some women feel nauseous. Migraines, dizziness, anxiety, insomnia and digestive issues may all result in nausea.
And if youre taking HRT, that could be a culprit. Feeling sick is a common side effect of oestrogen supplementation when you first start on it, although it usually passes in a few weeks or months, once your body adjusts to the hormones. Other medication or even herbal or vitamin supplements you are taking could also be contributing.
Causes Of Headaches During Menopause
Research studies have established a strong link between headaches and female sex hormones. The most common culprit is estrogen. Hormone levels can also influence the severity of headaches during menopause as well as during your period and when youre pregnant.
Fluctuating hormone levels during the perimenopausal phase can increase the frequency of headaches.
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Why Does It Get Worse
The main reason for worsening migraine during menopause is the fluctuation of estrogen. This is also responsible for initial worsening of migraine at puberty, as it can take a few years for the hormones to reach the settled pattern of the menstrual cycle. From late teens to mid 30s, most women have a regular pattern of menstrual cycle hormones. For some women, the natural drop in estrogen that occurs around menstruation and during the pill-free week of oral contraception, can trigger. Others find that heavy, painful periods are linked to migraine. From early 40s, the menstrual cycle can become more erratic, with much more variable fluctuation in estrogen levels. Periods themselves can be more troublesome, with more pain and heavier bleeding. All these factors can make migraine more likely. As periods lessen, so the hormonal trigger for migraine lessens, which is why many women find migraine improves after the menopause.
What Can I Do To Help Relieve The Symptoms Of A Menstrual Migraine
Do your best to figure out what makes your hormone headaches better or worse. For example, if light causes pain and you feel overheated, stay in a cool, dark room. Additional tips include:
- Keep your blood sugar levels up by eating small, frequent snacks. Never miss a meal.
- Learn relaxation techniques.
- Avoid too little or too much sleep, and keep a regular sleep pattern.
- Change your diet, if needed.
- Avoid stress when you can, and learn how to manage it when you cant.
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What Alternative Medical Therapies Help Ease Perimenopausal Symptoms
This product is a commonly used herbal extract that is touted as a treatment for hot flashes. Multiple studies have shown that it is ineffective. It has numerous side effects, and there have been issues with liver toxicity.
These are naturally occurring estrogens in two forms: 1) lignans, and 2) isoflavones.
Lignans are found in:
Tips To Manage Your Headaches
Migraines tend to improve only after menopause when your hormones have settled down. But here are some lifestyle tips that will help you manage them:
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What Causes Nausea During Menopause
In the menopause, your levels of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone drop. These hormonal changes also start to happen months or years before the menopause itself a time known as the perimenopause and can cause a range of physical symptoms.
Nausea may be more common during the perimenopause, because this is when your hormone levels start to change. Its thought that this is what may trigger nauseous feelings, although its still not well understood.
Nausea can also be related to or caused by other menopause symptoms, including:
- hot flushes during an intense hot flush, you may feel sick to the point of wanting to throw up or actually being sick
- hormonal headaches these can make you feel sick and sometimes get worse around the menopause, because your periods may come more often and your normal hormone cycle is disrupted. Migraines can also become more frequent or severe
- dizziness the part of your brain that controls dizziness also helps control nausea, so you can feel sick at the same time as feeling dizzy
- heart palpitations these can happen because of hormone changes and can also cause nausea
Some medications used to treat menopause symptoms can cause nausea, including hormone replacement therapy . Certain antidepressants, such as citalopram or venlafaxine, can improve hot flushes but may also have side effects such as nausea.