One of the most common and regular triggers out there is the first day of a woman’s cycle, her period. Luckily these are largely caused by hormones which regulate themselves quite well when supported. In this article I will be answering the question, can menstrual migraines with aura be prevented?
What is a menstrual migraine and why can auras come with them?
A menstrual migraine is one that comes with the menses.
Menses are the first few days of your period when you bleed.
The reason this time of the month is usually such a problem is because estrogen and progesterone are at an all time low.
The menstrual cycle begins with day 1 being the first day of bleeding. Days 1-14 are when estrogen generally rises the highest with day 14 being around the time of ovulation and the best time to conceive. Days 14-28 there is a small spike in estrogen but a large increase in progesterone followed by a drop in both progesterone and estrogen by day 28. This is followed by the period once again.
The large fluctuations during this time can be enough to push us over our threshold and cause our brain to shut down.
If the weak link in our brain is our visual centers then we can experience a visual aura when this shut down occurs.
If it is in our auditory brain centers then we may experience an auditory aura etc.
4 Huge factors that impact our menstrual migraines during our cycle and their auras
The first factor we need to consider is our progesterone.
Progesterone is one of the most important and protective hormones that women have. It not only balances the effects of estrogen but it can also become estrogen or testosterone based on the bodies needs.
But progesterone is fragile because of its reaction to stress and its need for a safe environment to work properly.
The body has a hierarchy of priorities.
It always chooses Survival over Sex.
It’s actually a feedback mechanism it uses to keep you from becoming pregnant when there is famine or war or too much scarcity around you.
The body makes survival and sex hormones out of the same resources.
But it will always choose survival.
This means that whenever we are in chronic stress or even if we may not necessarily think we are but our body feels like we are through the feedback of all of its systems and how well they are functioning…
Then it will divert all of its resources into creating survival and stress hormones leaving sex hormones dry.
Progesterone is especially susceptible to this which means we want to make sure that we are relieving stress on a few different levels:
Mental and emotional stress in the form of fears and safety issues
Physical stress in the form of musculoskeletal imbalances, tightness or overtraining
Dietary stress in the form of too many sensitive and inflammatory foods
Chemical stress in the form of off gassing products and polluted air space
Electromagnetic stress causes by electronic pollution
The 5 most common mistakes guide goes into more depth for addressing these stressors and how they affect the nervous system which you can get free here.
Estrogen is a critical part of women’s health but it also has its negative effects. It is responsible for releasing nitric oxide into the blood which triggers vasodilation and may aggravate sensitive blood vessels in the brain because of it.
The key with estrogen is not having too much or too little.
In terms of too much estrogen we want to make sure that our body is not creating too much of it and that we are not taking in too much environmental estrogen.
Estrogen is wide spread in our environment because of our reliance of rubbers, plastics, oils and other synthetics which is causing many changes in the wildlife around us as well as in ourselves.
Some of the largest sources are:
High estrogen foods
Makeups and other hygiene products
Plastic containers and synthetic fibers(BPA)
Cleaning products and fragrances(Obesogens)
But we also want to make sure our estrogen isn’t falling too low and this is where our doc may suggest taking the birth control pill to supplement a little bit of estrogen every day and avoid harsh drops.
This needs to be carefully monitored and you should make sure that before you start taking any estrogen that you get tested at different times in your cycle.
See this pin on how your estrogen and progesterone fluctuate throughout your cycle.
Testosterone has been shown to be a massive success in helping with migraine headaches.
One study found that 92% of patients improved on subcutaneous testosterone and 74% had a 0 severity headache score in 3 months time.
Testosterone is not just a male hormone as women create it as well but just much less than a man.
Both men and women can benefit from testosterone but again this is a hormone and affects every system in our bodies so it needs to be regulated through testing as there may be side effects.
The fourth and final factor that changes with these hormonal up and down swings is glutamate.
Glutamate is a neurotransmitter in the brain and is completely normal for brain function. It helps carry thoughts between neurons in the brain.
Glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter and excites nerve cells in the brain.
But there are also glutamate scavengerd and glutamate transporters which make sure any excess glutamate is picked up and being taken to where it needs to be used instead of exciting cells where it shouldn’t be.
During the menstrual cycle glutamate will fluctuate and reach its highest points around the end and beginning of the cycle.
The problem is that women have far less glutamate scavengers and transporters than men and this leaves it out causing it to excite cells.
If we have neurons that are already having issues producing energy, if they aren’t able to maintain normal concentrations of minerals and process oxygen and glucose properly then this excitation becomes too much.
It may actually lead to the over excitation and death of nerve cells called excito-toxicity but once this starts it can spread to surrounding nerve cells creating a wave of over-excitation followed by a blackout.
This is known as cortical spreading depression or CSD and implicated in the creation of migraine auras which you can read more about in our article on 7 essential skills for how to stop a migraine aura.
So what can we do about it?
Glutamate is most well known as MSG or mono-sodium glutamate.
But glutamate is found in almost every food at least in small amounts so what makes MSG so bad?
MSG is a form of free glutamic acid which means it’s not bound up to other nutrients like amino acids and fibre.
This makes it get absorbed and enter the blood stream very quickly and gives it the chance to enter the brain. We are especially susceptible if we have leaky brain like I describe in this video.
Some of the most common sources of free glutamic acid are the same ones that have high histamine and tyramine levels which are also migraine triggers in some people.
These foods include:
Matured, cured, preserved foods
Soy sauce and protein
Bone broths and meats cooked for long periods of time
Malted barley used in breads and beer
The best way to go about removing free glutamate would be to first remove processed and packaged foods as they can contain numerous forms of hidden glutamate such as the ones in the pin below.
Then if that’s not enough you can go ahead and remove some of the natural sources of it like those above and once symptoms have settled start introducing them one by one into your diet until you find specific triggers.
It’s important to note that glutamate may only be a problem if there is also chronic inflammation going on so this needs to be addressed as well with something like turmeric or ginger.
By supporting your progesterone’s natural protective effect and making sure your estrogen and testosterone are balanced with glutamate you can make amazing strides with your menstrual or hormonal migraines and auras.
See our video on why do menstrual or hormonal migraines happen and what to do below.
Make sure to read our article on 7 essential skills for how to stop a migraine aura here.
Do you experience menstrual or hormonal migraines?
Let me know in the comments below and make sure to share this with someone who needs the information.
Holistic Health Practitioner
Mark Canadic is a writer, speaker, holistic health practitioner and migraine community leader. Read Mark’s inspiring comeback story, “My Burnout and Brain Fires that Lead me to the Root.” Feel free to send Mark a message here.