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Hormone Imbalance: When Your Hormones Really are to Blame

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Hormone Imbalance

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Hormone Imbalance: When Your Hormones Really are to Blame
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Hormone Imbalance Side Effect: A throbbing headache

You may blame your pounding temples on that second glass of Syrah, but if your headaches seem to coincide with your period, there's a good chance that estrogen is responsible. In fact, 60 percent of migraine pain in women is related to hormonal changes and hormone imbalance, according to the National Headache Foundation. "The dip in estrogen right before menstruation causes a drop in pain-buffering brain chemicals like endorphins and serotonin, making migraines more likely," says Susan Hutchinson, M.D., director of the Orange County Migraine and Headache Center in Irvine, California. To figure out if your headaches are truly hormone imblance-related, chart symptoms on a calendar for three months. Rank pain severity, note any associated symptoms (like vision problems or nausea), and record other potential triggers like foods or activities. "If you experience severe headaches in the three days before your period or any time during it, you may suffer from menstrual migraines," she says.

 

What to do about headaches caused by hormone imbalance:

Over-the-counter pain relievers, like aspirin or ibuprofen, as well as prescription migraine- revention drugs may offer short-term relief, but taking birth-control pills continuously might also help manage your symptoms. Most oral contraceptives are designed to keep estrogen levels steady for a period of three weeks; it's during the estrogen-free, or placebo, week that you get your period—and headaches. So talk to your doctor about possibly skipping the placebo pills and starting a new pack right away. It's also a good idea to avoid well-known migraine causes, like too little sleep, excess stress, wine, and aged cheese. "These lifestyle changes may not prevent a menstrual migraine," says Hutchinson, "but they can definitely make your symptoms less severe."

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