In part one of this article—Estrogen and Progesterone, A Migraine Cure?—we learned that increased estrogen and progesterone levels prevent migraines and a lack of estrogen and progesterone during menstruation raise migraine probability and something called glutamate. In this article, we evaluate what happens to migraines during pregnancy and why this phenomenon could hold the answer to migraine.
Watch the video for this article above. It is fantastic!
Migraines during pregnancy
If Pregnancy were a migraine drug, it would be the most successful. Preventative drugs will reduce migraine by 50% in about half of migraine sufferers. Pregnancy completely eliminated migraines in 79% of women (study link). What is going on with the estrogen and progesterone?
Estrogen and progesterone begin to rise during the 6th to 8th weeks of pregnancy and then rapidly ascend in the beginning of the second trimester (week 13). By the third trimester (after week 28), estrogen levels are 30 to 40 times higher and progesterone levels are 20 times higher than peak levels of a normal menstrual cycle.
Graph 2 above shows how this increase in estrogen and progesterone align with increasing migraine improvement during the course of pregnancy. Studies show that 47% of women report migraine improvement in the first trimester, with 11% experiencing complete migraine elimination. By the second trimester 83% had improvement, and 53% complete elimination, and by the third trimester 87% were improved with a whopping 79% experiencing complete migraine elimination.
The dramatic rise in estrogen and progesterone puts pregnant women at an advantage over their migraines, and this next advantage is equally advantageous.
Many pregnant women also experience a reduction in allergies during pregnancy because of a five hundred-fold increase in Diamine Oxidase (DAO) during the second trimester (study link). DAO breaks down biogenic amines such as histamine, a major migraine trigger that is also involved with allergic reactions. The fetus produces histamine, so the mother produces more DAO to protect herself from the elevated histamine.
A 2015 study (study link) found that a genetic defect in DAO production and its ability to break down biogenic amines in food may double a woman’s risk for migraines. Histamine and other biogenic amines may raise both inflammation and glutamate levels in the brain, thereby increasing migraines probability. The increase in DAO during pregnancy likely contributes to the reduction in migraines during pregnancy.
How to get the benefits of pregnancy without the pregnancy
Benadryl is a first-generation anti-histamine that is extremely powerful and used in emergency medicine across the globe for allergic reactions and migraines. However, this isn’t a widely known fact and many chronic migraine sufferers have resorted to a long list of expensive and dangerous prescription medications before trying this cheap and over-the-counter alternative.
If your migraines went away during pregnancy, it is likely the Benadryl will benefit you. The strongest solution is to find and eliminate the source of histamine or the substance causing allergic reactions. These triggers could be food allergens, foods with high levels of biogenic amines, mold, pollens, cats, perfumes, cleaning products, or anything that may trigger an allergic reaction.
It’s critical to note that allergic reactions could result in low thyroid function and low hormone production. A 2013 study found that hypothyroidism prevalence is 3-fold higher in migraine sufferers than in the general population. And 97% of patients evaluated had migraine before hypothyroidism, making migraine a possible warning sign of hormone imbalances (study link).
Because 90% of underactive thyroids stem from auto-immune conditions (study link), such as a gluten intolerance (study link), it’s likely that migraines and hypothyroidism are frequently caused by food allergens. To make matters worse, thyroid hormones have been found to regulate histamine (study link). A food intolerance could lead to progressively low thyroid function, higher histamine levels, and a migraine condition that slowly deteriorates.
Glutamate, inflammation, and histamine (study link) all interact with each other and elevated levels of each may induce migraines. If migraines were found to be hormone related, it would be a good idea to check thyroid levels. If migraines went away during pregnancy, trying a low histamine and low biogenic amine diet would be a good idea. In addition, all types of inflammation and glutamate should be limited. Read part one of this article for more solutions.