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  • Writer's pictureDr. Brian Lum

How To Prevent Migraines During Your Period

Updated: Jun 7

Many women suffer from migraines every month before or during mensuration.

These migraines can range from just annoying to seriously debilitating.

Unfortunately, few are aware that there is a lot you can do to prevent these migraines and that finding out what is causing them will lead to better overall health.

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Causes Of Migraines During Menstruation

While there are hundreds of potential causes of period-related headaches and migraines, the most common are chronic inflammation and hormone dysregulation.

At the core of many of these period-induced migraines is systemic inflammation and hypothalamic inflammation (inflammation at the base of the brain) which are triggered or increased by hormone fluctuations. [1]

The hormone fluctuation triggering this process is usually either a drop in estrogen or a drop in progesterone.

If you tend to have migraines right before or during your cycle then it may be due to low progesterone production in relation to your estrogen levels.

Most often I see low progesterone levels in my patients contributing to their chronic migraines.

Symptoms Of Low Progesterone

  • menstrual irregularities

  • severe PMS symptoms

  • fibrocystic breast disease

  • hypothyroidism

  • tendency towards anxiety depression

  • mood swings

  • difficulty sleeping

  • difficulty losing weight

  • blood sugar problems including hypoglycemia

  • hot flashes

  • bloating

Low progesterone levels can also adversely affect your hair, skin, and nail health.

This hormone imbalance can cause an inflammatory scenario internally, some indication that this is happening is increased water retention (feeling bloated) and blood vessel dilation (feeling hot).

The Role Of The Hypothalamus

Inflammation is a major cause of migraine headaches as well as other pain based chronic conditions like arthritis, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, Hashimoto's thyroiditis, and fibromyalgia.

Inflammation originating from your hypothalamus can cause the following symptoms as well as many not listed below.

Symptoms Of Hypothalamic Inflammation [2]

  • pain

  • anxiety or depression

  • lack of motivation

  • brain fog is a key sign that the base of your brain may be inflamed

  • headaches & migraines

  • hormone imbalances

  • fatigue

  • adrenal fatigue

  • hypothyroidism

  • testosterone abnormalities

  • bone and soft tissue problems (pain, weakness, etc.)

  • breast symptoms

In many cases, the patient already had too little progesterone and the further drop that happens with their period makes these symptoms worse.

Many women find NSAIDS (like aspirin and ibuprofen) effective for not only menstrual headaches but also PMS symptoms.

This further supports that inflammation plays a large factor in many period-related symptoms, including migraines [3] This is why treating underlying inflammation can not only reduce your headaches and migraines that occur during or before your period but it can also make you feel better overall.

All of the above symptoms will be improved by treating this brain inflammation.

How Adrenal Fatigue Can Cause Headaches

One of the top causes of period-related headaches is adrenal fatigue and adrenal exhaustion.

Hormone imbalances are almost always caused by adrenal fatigue or by chemicals that disrupt hormone levels.

Restoring optimal function of your brain and adrenal glands will improve your hormone levels.

Your adrenal glands are responsible for secreting excitatory hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. When we are stressed, we overtax our adrenal glands causing them to weaken.

Weakened adrenal glands can be the cause of sex hormone imbalances.

Progesterone is made from pregnenolone which is produced in the adrenal glands. If the adrenals cannot adequately manufacture pregnenolone then progesterone will automatically decrease.

Progesterone can be converted to produce aldosterone and cortisone (two very important adrenal hormones).

A preexisting deficiency of progesterone will make adrenal fatigue even worse.

Symptoms Of Adrenal Fatigue or Collapse

  • tired all of the time

  • you feel as though your sleep is not restful

  • its a struggle to get through the day

  • hormone imbalance symptoms

  • you feel better around 10-11pm at night

  • sleep quality varies significantly or is consistently low

  • low back pain (can be from the tailbone to below the mid back)

  • hair texture has changed

  • hair easily falls out

Read more about Adrenal Fatigue & Adrenal Collapse

Healing your adrenal glands starts with supporting optimal brainstem function as well as adrenal and kidney function.

If there is brain inflammation then your adrenals will also be affected. Optimal adrenal function starts with harmonious communication from your brain to your thyroid and adrenal glands. 

Hormone regulation starts in the middle of brain at the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus 'tells' your pituitary gland what to do, including messages about hormone production.

kidney with adrenal gland
An adrenal gland (sitting on top of the kidney)

These messages eventually get to your ovaries and uterus so they can begin production of your hormones.

Along the way, signals reach your adrenal glands which help your overall regulation of your internal environment as well as your energy production.

This is why healthy adrenal glands are a vital piece of your overall hormone health.

Usually in the case of adrenal fatigue or collapse your progesterone levels will be low and your estrogen levels will be relatively high.

Testing Inflammation Levels And Adrenal Function

To see if two common causes of period-related migraines are a factor for you, you will need to assess your adrenal function and inflammation levels.

A functional medicine doctor is best suited to order this kind of assessment and can order specific testing to suit your needs.

Key Tests For Adrenal Function

  • cortisol

  • cortisone

  • DHEA

  • evaluation of your nutrient deficiencies (in your blood and white blood cells - measuring not only what’s floating in your blood but also see if you’re deficient inside your cells)

  • progesterone, estrogen, testosterone and their many metabolites to evaluate the true nature of a possible hormone imbalance

  • evaluation of mitochondrial function 

Key Tests For Inflammation

  • evaluation of your nutrient deficiencies (in your blood and white blood cells - measuring not only what’s floating in your blood but also see if you’re deficient inside your cells)

  • hs-CRP

  • fibrinogen (key for migraine suffers)

  • LpPLA2

  • ox-LDL

  • family history of autoimmunity - ANA screen 

Read more about Testing For Inflammation

Potential Problems Of Self-Diagnoses

Self diagnosing or ordering single tests as new symptoms come up can put you at risk for missing the big picture.

I have found that piecemeal testing often does not yield long-term beneficial results.

For many of my patients, utilizing functional medicine testing to find and treat the actual underlying cause has saved them years of time, effort and money.

Adrenal Fatigue and inflammation-based causes are common, but your case can be different, or can be the result of a combination of factors.

Other Potential Causes Of Period-Related Migraines We May Assess

  • high toxic burden of pesticide & herbicides 

  • digestive problems (malabsorption of nutrients & underlying infections in the gut)

  • underlying nutrient deficiencies

  • food sensitivities & allergies

  • environmental allergies

  • poor sleep quality 

  • too much sugar in diet

  • too much fat in diet

  • too little carbohydrates in diet

Natural Treatments For Menstrual Migraines

Natural herbs and supplements should always be added with the guidance of your functional medicine doctor. I make sure that the supplements we use are the best quality and and are free of contaminants.

A poor quality supplement or a supplement taken at the wrong dosage can be dangerous and is certainly worse than taking nothing at all.

The following supplements are for general knowledge or options you can bring up with your doctor.

Vitex (Vitex agnus-castus, chaste tree, or chasteberry)

Vitex works by enhancing dopamine regulation and decreasing prolactin which helps to balance sex hormones, especially progesterone. [4]

A small, open label clinical studied the effects of Vitex on migraines and "reported 42 % of patients experienced a reduction higher than 50 % in frequency of monthly attacks, and 57 % of patients experienced a reduction higher than 50 % in monthly days with headache" [5]

Vitex has also been used for centuries by Chinese medicine in the treatment of headaches and rheumatism. [6]

Work with your functional medicine doctor to determine if this supplement is right for you and to see what dose and duration would be beneficial for you.


Well known to decrease both systemic and hypothalamic inflammation.

Professional Grade Omega 3’s

Omega 3's can be extremely beneficial but the quality must be of the highest standard otherwise you could be poisoning yourself with heavy metals.

Omega 3's have been shown to decrease inflammation throughout the body.


'Specialized pro-resolving mediators' (or SPMs) are specific compounds derived from omega 3's that send signals to shut off chronic inflammation.

Remember that Inflammation is a good thing for healing in the short term but when it is chronic it can cause symptoms, tissue damage and chronic illness. SPM can help quell chronic inflammation.

Vitamin C (liposomal or ester C) 

Decreases histamine which can be a component involved in headaches and migraines.

Vitamin C can also decrease inflammation throughout the body and support your immune system. Vitamin C also helps heal the adrenal system.

Lifestyle Treatments For Period-Related Migraines

Yoga, Qi-Gong, Tai Chi

woman practicing yoga

Yoga has been studied for the last few years and researchers have found that regular practice has decreased the duration, pain and frequency of headaches and migraines [7].

Tai Chi also has similarly measurable benefits. [8] Qi-Gong, which is similar to Tai Chi, has also been beneficial on many levels for my patients.

Additional Lifestyle Changes

  • get at least 8 hours of sleep per night

  • cut out refined sugar from your diet

  • consider removing chocolate and bananas from your diet as they can be migraine triggers

  • consider removing or reducing caffeine from your diet

  • cook with organic herbs and spices (basil, turmeric, garlic, etc) 

  • use raw honey instead of processed sugar 

  • remove gluten and dairy if you’re intolerant of these 

Long Term Solutions For Menstrual Migraines

Functional medicine is best suited to complex problems. Your monthly migraines and headaches could originate from multiple sources.

I offer online and in-person functional medicine appointments. During your hour-long new patient appointment we go over your entire medical history, family history, medical history, previous testing and current symptoms and goals.

Based on what we find, I can order the specific testing to confirm your diagnosis and evaluate your physiology from a holistic perspective.

Some common causes of frequent migraines and headaches are low grade infections, heavy metal toxicity, hormone imbalances and food sensitivities.

Most of the underlying problems I find can be treated naturally and patients start to see symptom relief within weeks.

Don't Know Where To Begin?

Managing your own health can be exhausting and confusing with the amount of information available.

Dr. Brian Lum in an online functional medicine consultation

This is why I offer Telehealth services including online functional medicine consultations and in-person functional medicine and soft tissue appointments.

I can personalize treatment and even work with your primary care physician or order testing if you are out of state or outside of the country.

If you would like to speak with me directly you can schedule a Free 15 Minute Consultation here or call my office directly at 913-728-5291.

Read more about Online Consultations


If you think that you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.  No action or inaction should be taken based solely on the contents of this information. Nor should you ever delay seeking medical advice or treatment due to the information contained on this Website.

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