Menstrual Migraines

migraine menstrual headache
Migraine Headache

Menstrual Migraines

Suffering from a migraine every month around the time of your period?  Likely there is a hormone imbalance contributing to these PMS headaches.  I have had women who had suffered with these every month for 16 years, who were amazed to find that their period could come and go without a migraine after naturopathic treatment.

What Causes Migraines?

There are a number of theories as to the origin of migraines:

  1. Serotonin imbalance
  2. Histamine – excess or intolerance
  3. Lack of B vitamins
  4. Lack of magnesium
  5. Muscle tension
  6. Hormone imbalance

What Can I do About Migraines?

The solution to migraines is to address some or all of the factors listed above, all of which can be done through naturopathic medicine.

Serotonin imbalance

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is produced in the brain, it is a chemical that the brain produces that influences how the brain works.  It is considered to be the “happy” neurotransmitter and it’s one of the key neurotransmitters addressed in people who suffer with depression.  The brain requires vitamin B6, magnesium and an amino acid called tryptophan to make serotonin.  Supporting these nutrients can sometimes allow the brain to rectify a serotonin imbalance on its own.


Histamine is a substance released by white blood cells called mast cells.  It’s part of how the immune system defends you against viruses and bacteria, but excessive histamine can cause inflammatory conditions like allergies.  People with allergies will take anti-histamines to try to prevent histamine release or histamine binding to receptors.  Vitamins C and B6 are natural anti-histamines.  In the gut, we produce an enzyme that helps to break down histamine, called DAO.  Some people aren’t genetically programmed to produce enough DAO, for those people sometimes supplementing DAO helps.

Lack of B Vitamins

Vitamin B2, B5 and B6 supplementation have all been shown to help migraine sufferers.

Lack of Magnesium

Magnesium serves a dual purpose for those with migraines: it helps muscles to relax and helps calm down the nervous system.  Both B vitamins and magnesium are also essential to help the body cope with stress.

Muscle Tension

Tightness in the neck and shoulder muscles can compress nerves, cause misalignment of the spine (subluxation) and contribute to migraines.  Massage therapy, chiropractic treatment, proper posture, yoga, pilates, a more ergonomic work environment, acupuncture, craniosacral therapy and magnesium may all help with migraines that originate from muscle tension.

Hormone Imbalance

Menstrual migraines are obviously related to fluctuations in hormones or hormone imbalance. What has worked most effectively in my practice for these types of migraines has been enabling efficient phase I and phase II liver detoxification through supportive nutrients like pyridoxal-5-phosphate, 5MTHF, vitamin B12, indole-3-carbinol, calcium-d-glucarate, N Acetyl-cysteine, and magnesium.  Herbs like Vitex agnus-castus combined with vitamin B6 will also sometimes help in the event of insufficient progesterone production.


Tired All the Time?

tired woman yawning with fatigue

If you have no energy, you’re tired, never wake up feeling refreshed or you have fatigue after any amount of effort, there are a few possible root causes:

  1. Underactive thyroid or hypothyroidism – you need a blood test for TSH, free T3 and free t4 to check this and even if these are normal, you may have a condition known as Hashimoto’s, where these blood levels are normal but the thyroid is being attacked by your immune system.  The tests for that include anti-TPO and anti-thyroglobulin antibodies.
  2. Allergies – having your immune system in overdrive to fight dust or pollen is tiring!  Balancing the immune system can relieve allergy symptoms naturally.
  3. Low ferritin – storage iron is called ferritin.  Optimal levels are above 60, although many labs will consider it normal above 12. Knowing your numbers will help you to know if your tiredness is due to low iron.
  4. Underactive adrenal glands – these underappreciated glands sit atop your kidneys and perform a number of functions including regulating blood pressure and blood sugar.  The hormones they produce can also help you have energy, drive and motivation.  Blood tests for adrenals include cortisol, DHEAs and testosterone.

I can help test for and resolve all of the above with natural medicine.  You can book an appointment for my help here: Book Now.

Diagnosing PCOS

“50% of women with PCOS go undiagnosed and it takes 5-7 different doctors to eventually get a diagnosis”. This is unacceptable.

Diagnosing PCOS is not that hard to figure out:  periods may be irregular,  there may be acne, excessive facial or body hair, head hair loss, infertility,  there may or may not be cysts on the ovaries on ultrasound, there may be glucose intolerance or a family history of diabetes. Doctors need to look at the whole symptom picture and a) not mask the problem with birth control pills and b) check some hormone blood work.

PCOS: Are Birth Control Pills and Metformin the Only Treatment?

That depends on who you ask.  If you ask a medical doctor, gynecologist or endocrinologist, the answer will be yes or possibly a drug called spironolactone and Accutane for the acne.  If you ask a naturopathic doctor, the answer will be “not by a long shot!”.  There are numerous natural treatments for PCOS that can not only ease the symptoms, but also address the underlying cause of the condition and build up your body at the same time. Why the disparity in answers?  Because Medical Doctors are not trained in and have little or no knowledge of naturopathic medicine.  If you are looking for an alternative to drugs for PCOS, the best person to ask is not the person who is only trained in the drugs.  It’s like asking your mechanic “what is the best dog food?”  He or she may offer up an opinion on what to feed Rover, but it’s not coming from an expert on the subject. The best person to consult regarding natural remedies or alternatives to drugs for PCOS is a licensed naturopathic doctor who specializes in women’s health and PCOS.

3 Common Misconceptions about PCOS

  1. All women with PCOS are overweight or obese – this is not true, up to 40% of women with PCOS are thin.
  2. Women with PCOS are infertile – possibly if they don’t address the root of the problem, but I’ve helped many women with PCOS conceive and have healthy, natural pregnancies.
  3. All women with PCOS have high testosterone levels.  Nope!  Many do, but others have different reasons why they’re not ovulating regularly such as high prolactin, high DHEAs, high androstenedione etc.


Menopause Natural Treatment Research

A study published in 2014 found that women who self treated with neroli oil aromatherapy experienced significant improvement in menopause symptoms, increased libido and reduced blood pressure.  The women self-treated for 10 sessions twice daily for five consecutive days. Each participant poured 1 mL of 0.1% or 0.5% neroli oil or an almond oil control onto a fragrance pad while sitting, with the pad 30 cm away from the nose for five minutes.

Source:  Yeon Choi S, Kang P, Su Lee H, Hee Seol G Effects of inhalation of essential oil of Citrus aurantium L. var. amara on menopausal symptoms, stress, and estrogen in postmenopausal women: A randomized controlled trial. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med 2014;2014:796518

Can PCOS Women be Thin?

Absolutely!  If your doctor has told you that you don’t have PCOS because you don’t “look like it”, then he or she is wrong.  You cannot diagnose PCOS or rule it out based on what someone looks like.  You can have a suspicion that a woman has PCOS if she’s overweight, has acne, thinning head hair and excess facial hair, but even then there are other conditions that need to be investigated such as adrenal hyperplasia. Up to 40% of PCOS women are thin.  Does that mean that these women aren’t insulin resistant?  Not necessarily, even thin women with PCOS can be insulin resistant.  Confusing isn’t it?  Sometimes, partly because everyone is different and PCOS can manifest many different ways and have several different root causes.  This is why it’s best to consult with someone who is well versed in PCOS, not all family doctors or even endocrinologists are.


If you know the feeling of feeling irritable, weak, shaky, light headed or outright angry every time you get hungry or go too long without eating, you’re probably suffering from hypoglycemia, which means low blood sugar.  This shouldn’t happen!  When blood sugar starts to dip, the adrenal glands should alert the liver to break down some stored sugar (glycogen) and release it into the blood stream as glucose to elevate the blood glucose without you eating anything.  If you get hypoglycemia symptoms, you should interpret that as your adrenal glands aren’t functioning as well as they should and take measures to support them with B vitamins, magnesium, zinc, vitamin C and herbs like rhodiola, ginseng, schisandra, centella, ashwaganda, maca and eleuthrococcus.  Cutting back on carbs and increasing protein with each meal can also help to stabilize blood sugar.  People with hypoglycemia often also suffer with difficulty getting to sleep or poor quality sleep because blood sugar instability is not relaxing to your nervous system.

Interstitial Cystitis

I ran into a patient on Wednesday who had suffered from interstitial cystitis.  When I last saw her she had been up several times per night to the bathroom, losing sleep, exhausted, and suffering with frequent painful urination during the day.  We worked on reducing inflammation, helping her body with stress and removing food sensitivities from her diet.  She saw some improvement and at the time I also referred her to a pelvic physiotherapist to physically help with the pain.  There was some improvement from this as well and she also saw a chiropractor.  The chiropractor was the one who nailed it as far as fully resolving her problem.  He determined that the pain was the result of scar tissue and adhesions from her caesarean section 4 years ago and after working on that, her issues are gone, she looks healthy and energetic again.  While I didn’t fully fix her, she was appreciative of the improvement she made under my care and that I made the referral in the right direction.

Lessons learned:

  1. Never underestimate the trauma caused by caesarean section, or any other major surgery for that matter.
  2. Interstitial cystitis isn’t necessarily a problem with the bladder itself, it can be a problem with the surrounding tissue.  I’ve even seen endometriosis cause what was diagnosed as interstitial cystitis.
  3. Cystitis or inflammation of the bladder can be caused by many things: bacterial infection, food sensitivities, endometriosis, scar tissue, adhesions etc.  Sourcing out the root of the inflammation is the only way to effectively deal with and remove the problem.

Increasing Rate of C-Sections

Rates of caesarean section have increased from 17% in 1995 to 28% in 2010.  Failure to progress in labour is the most common reason cited for performing a caesarean section.   Factors that contribute to failure to progress include: maternal stress/anxiety, a contracted pelvis, poor strength or coordination of contractions, fetal malposition (breech presentation) and large fetal size (macrosomia).

The benefits to both mom and infant of normal vaginal delivery are numerous:

  1. Lower risk of post-partum depression
  2. Greater infant-maternal bond
  3. Better digestive health for the baby as he/she acquires his/her normal flora as he/she passes through the birth canal.
  4. Lower risk of death for mom and baby
  5. Lower risk of injury to mom and baby
  6. Lower risk of infection for mom and baby

Naturopathic doctors can effectively manage the factors that contribute to c-section through diet, stress reduction, exercise, vitamin and mineral balance, and even acupuncture and moxibustion to turn a baby that is in breech position.


  1. Deneux-Tharaux C1, Carmona E, Bouvier-Colle MH, Bréart G. Postpartum maternal mortality and cesarean delivery. Obstet Gynecol. 2006 Sep;108(3 Pt 1):541-8.
  2. James E. Swain,1 Esra Tasgin,2 Linda C. Mayes,1,3 Ruth Feldman,1,4 R. Todd Constable,5 and James F. Leckman1 Maternal brain response to own baby-cry is affected by cesarean section delivery. J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2008 Oct; 49(10): 1042–1052.
  3. MacDorman MF1, Declercq E, Menacker F, Malloy MH. Neonatal mortality for primary cesarean and vaginal births to low-risk women: application of an “intention-to-treat” model. Birth. 2008 Mar;35(1):3-8.