Why Do Menstrual Migraines Happen and What Can You Do About Them?

Why Do Menstrual Migraines Happen and What Can You Do About Them?

You know your period is coming. You start to feel bloated. The cramps start to sneak in. And those awful menstrual migraines hit.

You know it’s related to your menstrual cycle but how – you ask, and what can you do about it so you don’t have to go through it so intensely?

The culprits behind the PMS migraine and all the other PMS discomfort are some of the hormones that regulate your whole reproductive system — namely estrogen and progesterone — and prostaglandins that are released.

These and other hormones trigger the release of an egg each month. They trigger the build-up of the walls of your uterus — the endometrial linking — in case an egg is fertilized. And if there’s no egg implanted, they trigger menstruation to clear out the lining.

There’s a lot going on right before your period. Let’s take a deeper look and then talk about some solutions to deal with the migraines and other PMS symptoms.

The Culprits

One of two things is probably causing your menstrual migraines. The combination of the two can also make it worse.

Estrogen and Progesterone Drop

Right before you get your period, you get a huge drop in the hormones estrogen and progesterone. These are the hormones that are vying for you to reproduce. But when that doesn’t happen, their job is to move out the old cycle to bring in the new.

The progesterone keeps the menses in the uterus and when it drops, the menses comes out. The drop in these hormones could be causing the migraines.

Estrogen protects the brain, and when it drops, inflammatory prostaglandins move in.

Prostaglandins Released

The other thing that occurs when you get your period is a release of these prostaglandins, which are always released when there’s bleeding. Prostaglandins cause inflammation to help you heal and inflammation causes pain.

It’s thought that the release of prostaglandins in the uterine area could cause a surge in other areas of the body too, like the brain. The prostaglandins in the brain can cause inflammation there too and hence the migraines.

The Relief

Let’s take a look at ways to counteract these culprits to get you some relief. There are both natural and pharmaceutical solutions. Always check with your physician before starting a new program.

Also, know that what works for some women doesn’t work for others. Be ready for some trial and error with these solutions.

Balancing Hormones

Since the dips and surges in hormones may be causing your menstrual migraines, one solution is balancing hormone levels by taking a form of estrogen or combination of estrogen and progesterone  — whether over the counter or prescribed — to keep the levels steady when you’re experiencing the dip.

This is used during menopause and called hormone replacement therapy. It helps relieve migraines for some women and doesn’t work for others.

You can do a version of this by working with your physician or another health professional to determine the right amounts.

Cutting Down Inflammation

Since the whole menstrual process causes so much swelling and inflammation, cutting down that pressure on the nerves is a great way to reduce pain in general and can give you relief for those awful hormonal migraines.

Foods That Reduce Inflammation

Try bumping up some of these anti-inflammatory foods and spices all month long and especially come period time.

  •     Fatty Omega-3s that you get in wild-caught fish, fish oil and flaxseed oil
  •     Tumeric for the curcumin that you can get in Tumeric tea, pastes and using it on your meals
  •     Flavinoids that you get from in fresh fruits and vegetables deep in color
  •     Resveratrol that you get from red grapes, strawberries, and blueberries and dark chocolate and peanut butter
  •     Oleocanthal that you get in olive oil which works like Ibuprofin

Always go for the freshest fruits and vegetables as they lose some of their helpful qualities the longer they’re off the tree, bush or vine. You can do this by buying local, organic produce.


This oh-so-simple solution really works! Cold causes everything to contract, including your inflammation. With the pressure off the nerves, your pain and hopefully your migraine will subside.

Put a cold pack on your neck, shoulders and/or head for about 15 minutes several times a day and see if it makes a difference.


Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are another way to go. You can buy them over the counter and they do work. They’re not all-natural but may be useful if it’s crunch time and you don’t have anything else that’s working.

Protecting the Brain With Magnesium

When the estrogen drops, it can’t protect the brain like it usually does. This makes room for the prostaglandins to move in and create inflammation.

Magnesium is great at protecting the brain like estrogen so getting a bump in magnesium can protect the brain from prostaglandins and hence the instigation of inflammation.

To get the bump in magnesium, you can do an Epsom salt soak or get extra magnesium in your diet. Magnesium-rich foods include black beans, dark greens, kelp, pumpkin seeds, cacao in dark chocolate, bananas, and cashews to name a few.

Getting Relief From Your Menstrual Migraines

Now that you know the culprits behind menstrual migraines and some great solutions to help you get relief from the pain, you’re ready to take action.

Did any of these treatment options jump out at you? Start there.

Also, give us a call any time to find out more about some of these options. We’re here to help you get the relief you’re looking for so you can get back to being you and thriving without those migraines each month.