Headaches and Hormones

We don’t usually associate headaches with hormone balance, but that is the case and both progesterone and oestrogen can be involved.


The main reason that you get headaches in the menopause is because your hormone levels are changing. Both progesterone and oestrogen are falling, and there’s very specific oestrogen receptor sites in the blood vessels, so if your oestrogen is going up and down like a seesaw, if it’s tumbling.

Headaches are usually caused when the blood vessels are dilated which is often a feature of oestrogen dominance, but progesterone does restore normal vascular tone to counteract the dilation in a safe and natural way.

If your oestrogen levels are fluctuating rapidly, and this can happen quite suddenly, that will very often trigger the blood vessels to go into a spasm, and especially if that happens round the back of the neck or the shoulders, the next thing that will lead to a headache.

Dr John Lee – the pioneer of natural progesterone usage – stated that women who regularly experience migraines find they are often linked to oestrogen dominance so that progesterone helps by rebalancing your hormones so this is less likely to occur.

If you are very low in oestrogen then a combined cream with both progesterone and oestrogen may be helpful, particularly if the Migraine headaches tend to recur 4 to 5 days before the end of the menstrual cycle, this is called a Pre-Menstrual Migraine and is caused by rapidly dropping estrogen levels.

Dr. Uzi Reiss, in his book, “Natural Hormone Balance for Women “, advocates treating Pre-Menstrual Migraines with sublingual bio-identical estrogen drops and natural progesterone which stabilizes hormone levels. Dr. Broda Barnes points out that frequent Migraines can also be associated with low thyroid function. Even low blood sugar can be a causative factor so all these should be investigated.

5 other headache triggers

However, there are lots of other things in the menopause that can trigger headaches, too, and sometimes, it’s a bit difficult to distinguish between what’s what.

1. Hot flushes

Hot flushes can be a trigger, and it’s amazing how many women say that they feel a hot flush coming on, they get that hot flush, and the next thing that they’ve got a headache. Again, this can be due to the fact that your blood vessels are suddenly opening up with the heat, and that can then trigger the spasming as well.

This is very often accompanied with dizziness, and palpitations, and nausea, so it can be quite a little picture here for this particular case.

How to help yourself:

The best way to deal with this is to make sure that you find the triggers for your hot flushes, so that’s another thing that you need to know because there can be very specific things triggering your flushes.

2. Dehydration

As usual, water is always a factor in our overall health, and certainly related to more frequent headaches.

The minute you get really dehydrated, you can end up with a real thumping headache. Dehydration shrinks your brain, so drinking lots of water is very, very important at all times. S

Some women find that they just get the headaches first thing in the morning, just as they wake up. Very often, that’s due to the fact that they have got dehydrated during the night, and the minute you wake up, your blood pressure, very often, starts to rise, so it can be a combination of the two.

How to help yourself:

If this is the case, then first of all, have a little glass of warm water before you go to bed at night, just to ease the dehydration. And this is really important if you end up getting night sweats because they will dehydrate you even further during the night.

You can also have a glass of water by the bedside so that the minute you sit up and put your feet on the floor, you’ve started to hydrate yourself, so get that first glass of water drunk before you even stand up and you’re out of bed.

3. Stress & anxiety

The other thing that can increase headaches is stress and anxiety. We know that we get tension headaches when we’re stressed, and this is because we’re a lot tighter when we’re stressed or when we’re anxious. We tighten up and that tension in our muscles can cause a big problem, especially across the shoulders.

How to help yourself:

Is there something you know helps to relax you? Whether that is meditation, some deep, slow breathing exercises or listening to something calming from your music collection – it doesn’t matter what it is as long as it works for you.

If you find you are sitting a lot, then getting up and moving around will help as will doing some simple stretches. Just stand up, and push your hands right above your head so you stretch the whole shoulder area.

You can look at calming herbs. Remember to do your daily relaxation. And a really important thing here, if you’re getting a lot of stress and anxiety, it’s very likely that

you’re low in magnesium. And we know that low magnesium will trigger headaches as well, so a good thing to take on a regular basis is a nice little portion of magnesium every day.

Don’t forget that progesterone is a natural relaxant so make sure you have adequate levels, and maybe increase your dosage when stressed as it certainly can impact your hormones.

4. Posture

Headaches are related to how you stand, sit and the positioning of your spine so your posture is really critical. If you spend a lot of time sitting or at a desk then check you are not slumping as that not only cramps your abdominal muscles and can affect digestion but you will have a lot of tightness and tension across your shoulders by the end of the day.

How to help yourself:

As well as taking regular breaks and moving around, you could try some simple yoga stretches – there are plenty of examples available online as well as the standing stretch described above.

If your tension is still there in the morning after you have been to sleep then check whether your pillow is giving you really good support. A poor pillow will affect your posture and increase tension in the neck and shoulders so try out a few that give you proper support.

5. Diet

Number five is diet. We know that things like caffeine, high sugar, high salt foods can trigger headaches. Missing meals can do it as well, and especially if you’re going for long periods without anything to eat or drink, then that can trigger quite severe headaches.

Also be aware that dieting can trigger headaches, whether it is the body trying to detox too quickly or you are reducing your calorie intake too much, both those factors that can end up causing headaches as well.

How to help yourself:

In theory we all know what a healthy diet involves, but in practice we can be ‘forgetful’ about exactly what we are consuming. A food diary is really helpful to help you see if there is any particular food or drink that is always followed by headache.

It is also important to keep your blood sugar stable because again, if you’re not eating enough, sorry, then your blood sugars can really dip, and that can end up triggering headaches, too.

Once you know what is causing them you can eliminate it, whether that is food or some stress factor that always brings on a headache.