Treating low progesterone migraines with diet
by Sue Kira, Naturopath & Clinical Nutritionist
Client name and identifying information changed
When Marie first visited me, she was getting a migraine every month just before her period. Called menstrual migraines, they were quite debilitating, especially for her work and social life. Unfortunately, Marie wasn’t regular with her cycle so she couldn’t predict when a migraine would strike. She could however predict when she would get her period by the onset of a migraine.
Tests showed that her progesterone was on the low side of normal for most of the month and then really low when it should be high in the week prior to her period. Her adrenal hormone cortisol was somewhat high, which indicated that her body was suffering from stress which was a possible reason for the low progesterone.
We spoke about stress, which played a big part in Marie’s life. I felt the migraines were her body’s way of making her rest as she couldn’t get out of bed for at least 12 hours when one hit and then she would be exhausted for another 12 or so hours.
So we spent some time discussing stress management and meditation and doing some gentle exercise, rather than her full on ‘spin’ classes (fast stationary bike racing) at the gym, which would also have been pushing her adrenaline button and increasing cortisol in favour of progesterone production.
Marie’s diet wasn’t the best as she ate a lot of carbs to keep her energy going (so she thought) which would have been making her blood sugar levels go up and down. Irregular blood sugar levels can also trigger a migraine for some people, especially when added to low progesterone at that time of month, and add another factor to take her over the threshold.
Due to her diet, Marie also had an imbalance in her gut bacteria levels, but by removing all those carbs (except vegetable carbs) from her diet, the bacteria levels re-balanced nicely after a few months.
Apart from removing the gluggy carbs, I put Marie onto a low histamine diet because histamines are known to trigger migraines. I also included magnesium and potassium supplements along with some B group vitamins to try to calm down her adrenaline (cortisol) levels and relax her.
After only one month on the changed diet and the supplements she only had one mild migraine on her next cycle. Fortunately, she only needed the one container of the supplements as her new diet helped to keep things stable.
After the first month, we slowly reintroduced histamine foods to see if any brought on symptoms (as she did have some other random symptoms) but all was good. We then just focused on the progesterone and adrenal supporting foods. She only had another migraine if she went a bit crazy (her words) by drinking at a party, having heaps of carbs/sugar or from getting super stressed at work.