Menstrual migraine is a type of migraine that typically starts three days before a menstrual period but can last for the duration of the period. Some may experience these episodes sporadically, while others may suffer monthly attacks.
A woman’s oestrogen and progesterone levels drop dramatically in the days preceding a period and, in turn, this plummet of hormones can induce a migraine attack. The fluctuation of hormones can be very disruptive to the migraine brain and many female migraine sufferers may notice an increase in attacks throughout puberty and during perimenopause, when hormone levels are less stable.
However, there is a small flicker of light at the end of the tunnel for menstrual migraine sufferers, as research suggests many women who suffer with menstrual related migraine will experience a significant improvement in their migraine attacks once they are post-menopausal. This improvement will not be immediate, as oestrogen continues to fluctuate for a few years after menopause, but in most cases, they will ease over time.
It is vitally important to discuss your migraine with your GP, as they may be able to offer you some solutions, be it patches, medication or lifestyle changes, to ease these painful attacks. It has been reported that daily oral magnesium supplements can help to relieve menstrual migraine, but always discuss the addition of any supplements with your GP or pharmacist. There are many foods that are naturally rich in magnesium; nuts, especially almonds and cashews, pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds, and dark leafy greens such as spinach and kale. Raw cacao is one of the best food sources of magnesium, however, for many, cacao or chocolate may be a migraine trigger, so it would be up to each individual if they could tolerate it added to their smoothies or bakes.
Anyone who suffers with migraine long-term will be aware how positive lifestyle choices can help the migraine brain, and the main management of menstrual migraine is no different. It’s very difficult to exercise during a migraine attack, so making the time for regular exercise on pain-free days is essential. It’s important to keep well hydrated in the days preceding menstruation. At this time, also include plenty of nutrient-rich ingredients into each meal and try to avoid highly-processed, salty foods, if possible.
Chickpea and spinach curry
This easy-to-make curry is packed with magnesium-rich ingredients. It can be served with rice or alongside a flatbread. It’s deliciously nutritious, and the leftovers will keep well in the fridge for up to three days.
1tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1tbsp medium curry powder
1tsp ground cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1 tin coconut milk
1tbsp tomato purée
2 tins chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Salt and freshly ground pepper
100g spinach, washed
50g raw cashew nuts
Handful coriander leaves, roughly chopped
1 Add the olive oil to a large frying pan and place over a medium heat. Once hot, add the onion and cook gently, stirring regularly, for about 10 minutes until soft, but not coloured.
2 Stir through the garlic and add the curry powder, cumin, and turmeric. Increase the heat under the pan and add the coconut milk, tomato purée and chickpeas. Season with salt and pepper.
3 Once the sauce begins to bubble, reduce the heat, and leave to simmer for 10 minutes.
4 While the chickpeas are cooking, place a small pan over a low heat. Add the cashews to the dry pan and lightly toast, stirring constantly, for about two minutes.
5 Add the spinach to the chickpeas for the last minute of cooking. Stir though and remove from the heat. Check the seasoning, and add a little more salt and pepper, if necessary.
6 Serve with cooked basmati rice, chopped coriander and a sprinkling of the toasted cashews.
This smoothie is a convenient way to incorporate a good boost of nutrients, and especially magnesium, into your diet.
1 banana, peeled, sliced and frozen
75g spinach, washed
1tbsp almond butter
Handful of ice
1 Add all the ingredients to a high-powered blender. Blitz until smooth and enjoy straight away.