FOOD AND HEALTH: Migraine in Women
Headaches are tolerable and easily treated with analgesics or just plain rest or sleep. However, when it comes to migraine, Ouch!! This one is intolerable, at least to me, and characterized by throbbing or pulsating pain usually only in one side of the head (unilateral) and lasting from 4 to 72 hours, nausea and vomiting, and increased sensitivity to light and/or sound. According to Wikipedia, migraine is a neurological syndrome characterized by altered bodily perceptions, severe headaches and nausea. The most common migraine triggers include stress, menstruation, skipping meals, too much caffeine, certain foods (example, those with msg or certain seasoning), sudden change in sleep patterns, smoking, changes in hormone levels, weather changes, and travel.
But do you know that the ratio of women to men suffering from migraine is 3 to 1? Significant evidence showed that there may be a connection between migraines and fluctuations in estrogen levels in women-- a response of the central nervous system to normal hormonal fluctuations. Women usually experience their first migraine at the onset of menstruation during their teen years. However, they could be experiencing plain headaches and not necessarily migraine. Menstrual migraine occurs during the periods 2 days before up 2 days after the onset of menstruation and most frequently on the first day of the period while premenstrual syndrome (PMS) related headaches usually end with the onset of menstruation. The highest incidence of migraine in women occurs around age 40 and the frequency is reduced when the woman is aging or has reached menopause.
The following are the triggers of migraine for women:
1) Hormonal changes particularly around menstrual cycle
2) Use of oral contrceptives
3) Hormonal changes during the first trimester of pregnancy
4) Use of exogenous estrogen for menopausal women
There is no cure for migraine but the initial treatment would be analgesics, however, sometimes ineffective. If taking oral contraceptives, the doctor may advise you to stop it. But some women find migraines are alleviated after starting oral contraceptives while others find migraine attacks gets worse when taking them. There are also instances where migraine starts to reduce months after stopping oral contraceptives. Therefore, there is no over-the-counter cure for migraine in women. The best thing to do is consult your ob-gyne. Also, it is wise to consider that there may be other factors beside that for women that triggers your migraine, like stress, jet lag, smoking, or sleep disorders.
Other Sources: http://womenshealth.about.com/cs/headaches/a/migranes1.html