WOMEN’S HEALTH: Headaches—Addressing Causes Instead of Symptoms

wh-11.jpgThere are alternatives to painkillers available to the menopausal headache sufferer. Find out what they are.

Headaches can affect a woman’s health. Of the many types of headaches, tension and migraine are the most common. A tension headache is characterized by a dull, overall tightening around the head. Migraine headaches are more severe. They are localized, and throbbing. A migraine is debilitating, often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light, and aggravated by motion. Migraines interfere with your ability to work or take care of the kids. They affect women’s health more commonly than men’s — 18% of all women experience migraines while only 6% of men do.

Headaches often lessen for women as they age. However, the hormonal changes prior to and during menopause can also trigger frequent tension and migraine headaches.

Over-the-counter and prescription pain killers can mask the pain of a headache once it’s manifested, but are there preventative measures you can take to avoid even getting a headache altogether? There are:

  • There are foods known to trigger headaches. These foods contain nitrites, a chemical used in the preparation of hot dogs, bologna, salami, pepperoni, ham, bacon, and smoked fish. Other likely triggers are MSG (monosodium glutamate), chocolate, liver pate, aged cheese, balsamic vinegar, fresh-baked bread products high in yeast, and most alcoholic beverages, especially red wine and champagne. If you suffer from headaches, cut these items out of your diet for a while and see if it makes a difference.
  • Too much daily caffeine (or stopping caffeine entirely and suddenly), can also trigger a headache. If you think you’re drinking too much coffee, cut back or switch to decaf, or eliminate it from your diet all together. If quitting coffee cold causes a headache to kick in, you have the option of ‘biting the bullet’ till it passes, or gradually ‘weaning’ yourself off caffeine products. Switching to tea can also help you get off of coffee as it contains less caffeine.
  • Delaying or skipping a meal can also result in a headache. A quick fix for this is a handful of nuts or some fresh fruit if you don’t have time for a full meal.
  • Many doctors think that moderate exercise can ease a tension headache, and prevent the onset of migraines. Try an aerobic activity such as walking or swimming for twenty to thirty minutes, a few times a week. Do not, however, try to exercise during a migraine.

Help in the form of vitamins and minerals, and herbal supplements comes from vitamin B2 (riboflavin), magnesium, coenzyme Q10 and possibly feverfew, as shown by recent studies:

  • Taking 400 mg of vitamin B2 (riboflavin) daily for three to four months has been reported to help prevent migraines.
  • 400 to 600 mg of magnesium daily can help women who get headaches with their periods.
  • 150 mg of coenzyme Q10 taken daily may help if you have recurrent migraines.
  • Some women find relief from migraines with the herb feverfew.

There are solutions for the menopausal migraine sufferer besides treating the symptoms with painkillers. With regular exercise, the avoidance of commonly known ‘trigger foods’ and helpful nutritional supplements, you can decrease the number of headaches you’re having, or eliminate them altogether.

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