Watching for Triggers
During perimenopause and menopause it becomes more important to watch out for typical migraine triggers, because some things that rarely bothered you before could start to team up with your hormonal fluctuations, and then you’ll have a bigger issue.
Try your best to avoid these potential migraine triggers:
- Bright light and loud noises
- Alcohol and caffeine
- Skipped meals
- Artificial sweeteners
- Foods containing tyramine (blue cheese, cured meats, soy products, and other aged or fermented foods)
Each migraine sufferer has a unique set of triggers and irritants, so you’ll have to keep an eye on any new developments in your migraine patterns to treat your symptoms more effectively. The first step is to decrease the amount of stress in your life; once you eliminate your biggest enemy, you can concentrate on building better defenses against your migraine headaches.
Revising Your Treatment Plan
Treating migraines during menopause can require a different approach than you’ve used before. You’ll have to consider your body’s needs and vulnerabilities, before you proceed with medication. However, there are some ways to reduce the frequency and severity of your migraines:
Keep a Diary
Recording details of your migraines, including the phase of your cycle, what mood you were in, and what was happening around you when the attack hit will help you track your headaches better. After keeping a journal or diary for a few months, you’re bound to see some patterns emerge, and after reporting these to your doctor, you can begin to manage your symptoms more effectively.
If you work better with structure, search online for a migraine diary template – having the fields laid out beforehand can make it easier to keep up a regular record of symptoms and triggers.
Consider Hormone Replacement Therapy
If your hormones are causing too much havoc to handle, you can talk to your doctor about hormone replacement therapy (HRT). The main concern with HRT is the increased risk of breast cancer and stroke that comes with it, but in some cases, the rewards outweigh these risks.
You’ll need to discuss with your doctor any family history of breast cancer, and whether you have any other risk factors that may interfere with the therapy. HRT patches or gels (as opposed to the oral forms) provide a more stable level of hormones, which appear to work better for migraine sufferers.
If HRT isn’t working, or happens to make your migraines worse, there are other, gentler, approaches you can take. Relaxation exercises, biofeedback and changes to your diet can have surprising effects, and regular exercise can relieve an array of menopausal symptoms (which will undoubtedly reduce your stress levels).
But be wary of adding herbal remedies to your menopause management plan – some herbs and supplements for menopause can cause more harm than good, especially if you’re taking other medication.
Migraines can interfere with your quality of life, but they shouldn’t dictate how you live your days – or how you define yourself. Menopause is a challenging time, and you owe it to yourself to counter the hormonal shift with good self-care, an open mind, and regular communication with your doctor to reduce the instance of migraine.