Before the menopause, I rarely suffered with headaches.
Thinking back to my partying days, I would get headaches after a heavy night out but I was never the sort that had to go into a darkened room and lie down because of a headache.
During the menopause I started having these incredibly painful headaches. My head was pulsing as though it was being held in a clamp, I felt dizzy, nauseous and generally very out of sorts. I was also quite concerned as this wasn’t something I had experienced before and I was aware that constant headaches can be linked to some serious health conditions.
Another cause of headaches during the menopause is dehydration.
I did some reading about the link between headaches and the menopause and found out that estrogen is thought to cause blood vessels to dilate while progesterone causes them to tighten. As the level of our hormones fluctuate during the menopause, our blood vessels are constantly expanding and contracting. This can cause pressure changes in the brain that results in the headaches.
…extra mental pressure that we are putting on ourselves just to get through everyday day life can also cause us to experience headaches.
Another cause of headaches during the menopause is dehydration. As a society, we don’t drink enough water but the effects of dehydration can be worsened by the menopause. On average, we lose one litre of water every night. Constant night sweats and hot flushes cause us to lose even more water and wake up with headaches and so we have to drink much more to replenish what we have lost. In my experience, I’ve found that this has been more important than anything.
During the menopause, we generally have to think much harder. Other symptoms like disrupted sleep, foggy brain and difficulty concentrating mean that we have to push our brains to work harder. This extra mental pressure that we are putting on ourselves just to get through everyday day life can also cause us to experience headaches.
My Top Tips
Drink more water
Two thirds of our bodies consist of water and for women the recommended intake is 1.6 litres a day or just under three pints. As we lose one litre (or more) of water during the night through sweat and other bodily functions, we have to drink enough not only to replenish what we have lost but also to keep our body running smoothly.
Alcohol can wreak havoc with our hormone levels and cause our livers and kidneys to work overtime. If you’re finding it difficult to cut out completely, try gradually reducing the amount of alcohol that you drink as suddenly cutting off can lead to withdrawal headaches.
Switch off the heating at night
If you’re in a relationship, this may annoy your partner especially in winter(!) but try to at least keep the heating down or preferably switched off during the night. You should already be warm under the covers and so the additional warmth from the heating may cause your body to overheat leading to dehydration and even triggering night sweats.
Don’t rely on painkillers
The first thing I used to do when confronted with a headache was take a painkiller. But as with antibiotics, a constant intake of painkillers has been linked to the reduction of mucus production in your stomach. The less mucus you have in your gut lining, the harder it is for your body to absorb all the nutrients that you feed it. So even if you have a healthy diet it could be that your body is just not able to absorb all the goodness. Think about that before you reach for the nearest bottle of painkillers!
Try a magnesium spray
Studies have shown that magnesium levels are directly linked to serotonin receptors and a variety of other migraine related receptors and neurotransmitters. I started taking a magnesium spray and found that this reduced the severity of my headaches and on many occasions got rid of them completely. The spray works transdermally, going through the skin and therefore reducing the number of tablets I had to take.
Reduce your stress levels
It might sound like a fantasy but try and keep your stress levels to a minimum. Small things can help to reduce stress like taking a relaxing bath with Epsom salts or having a hot cup of cocoa before bed.
Try not to worry.
Even with HRT treatment, the headaches can still persist. I’ve spoken to a lot of women about headaches and some have been worried enough to see neurologists about the persistent headaches. For everyone that I’ve spoken to the results of their tests were all negative and the headaches were found to be a result of the menopause. So try not to worry if they do persist as headaches are one of the symptoms that we have to put up with. NOTE: If you do feel that the headaches are caused by something else or if your GP recommends that you go for further testing, make sure you go, even if only to lay your fears to rest.