The bodily changes that happen during menopause may result in different factors that can cause headaches, dizziness and nausea. Among these triggers are: Hormonal changes, stress, sleep problems, fatigue, blood sugar level fluctuations, food sensitivities, dehydration, excessive medication use or underlying health problems.
Almost every one of us has experienced headaches throughout our lives. But, headaches are not all the same! Headaches have different causes and can have varying levels of pain and duration. In fact, experts can classify headaches into more than 100 types! Some are also accompanied by dizziness and feelings of nausea. ?
Well, I am not going to talk about one hundred types of headaches in this article. Otherwise, I will only leave you having one! ? As you read further, you will learn different factors that can trigger headaches, dizziness and nausea. I will also share how to prevent migraines in menopause and natural remedies you can try! Read on and keep that head up, sweetie!
What Triggers Headaches?
In menopause, getting a headache can be due to several factors. It’s more than just the bills to pay, the snail-like traffic, the mysterious disappearance of your glasses, the loud neighbor outside or an eye strain from watching too many cooking shows. ?
There are steps you can take to manage them! Let’s talk further about these triggers:
1. Hormonal Changes
A headache can be triggered by hormone fluctuations (particularly estrogen deficiency), adrenal imbalance or thyroid imbalance. Here’s the relationship between hormones and headaches:
• Estrogen Imbalance: Women may begin to experience more headaches as they enter perimenopause. Hormonal fluctuations can cause headaches to happen in cycles, especially when estrogen levels decrease. Estrogen has a known impact on the action of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates pain and mood! Therefore, a drop in estrogen levels can trigger painful headaches and migraines.
• Adrenal Imbalance: If you think you have adrenal imbalance, your headaches might arise with the onset of stress. They may also occur after the “low” that follows after a caffeine or sugar “high”! You see, it’s extremely common for women with an adrenal imbalance to get in the habit of using sugar or caffeine to spark the energy they need to get through the day. This vicious cycle leaves the body depleted of essential nutrients and causes headaches! Adrenal headaches may also come with other symptoms like dizziness, fatigue and salt cravings.
• Thyroid Imbalance: Chronic headaches or migraines could also be related to a thyroid imbalance. Daily persistent headaches related to the thyroid tend to bother both sides of the head and have a pressing or tightening sensation. They can also be aggravated by intense light or sound! Thyroid-related headaches may also be accompanied by cold intolerance, skin issues, loss of energy, constipation or fluid retention.
2. Mental and Emotional Stress
The increase in blood pressure and muscle tension when you’re under stress can directly lead to headaches. In fact, people who consistently experience higher stress levels report more frequent headaches than those who do not. The link between headaches and stress can be due to overactive nerves sending pain signals to the brain! Stress headaches may also be the effect of overly tense muscles in the face and neck regions.
3. Sleep Problems
Both oversleeping and poor-quality sleep can raise the chances of headaches the next day. Sleep deprivation lowers our pain threshold — which explains why people with chronic headaches experience more severe pain when they go short on sleep! ?
Moreover, people with sleep apnea (blockage of the airway) often report frequent morning headaches. This sleep condition leads to headaches (and loud snoring) because of the fluctuating carbon dioxide and oxygen levels in the blood.
Headache and fatigue may be symptoms of another condition. Dr. Noah Rosen, a specialist in psychiatry and pain management, said that the combination of fatigue and headache is often a sign of disrupted homeostasis — the natural balance inside our body. Homeostasis is the ability of our system to regulate its internal environment. So, when our body is in a “state of disorder”, we become more prone to health conditions and chronic diseases! ?
5. Histamine Intolerance
Histamine is a neurotransmitter released when the immune system feels “under attack”. It causes an immediate inflammatory response, expands the blood vessels and allows white blood cells to “flood” the bloodstream — to find the source of the attack!
You see, our immune system is doing a great job of protecting your body against threats. Therefore, if you have food sensitivities, your immune system might mistakenly “think” that certain foods are dangerous to your body. This immune response can result in many symptoms, including headaches and migraines! ?
Besides food sensitivities, histamine intolerance may also trigger a headache. This condition happens when there is an imbalance between the amount of histamine released and your body’s ability to break down histamine. Women in perimenopause are usually prone to histamine intolerance because histamine and estrogen were found to attach to the same receptors. Meaning, estrogen can trigger the release of histamine! The more estrogen you have, the more histamine will be released into the bloodstream.
6. Fluctuating Blood Sugar Levels
Sugar causes hormonal changes, specifically with the neurotransmitters epinephrine and norepinephrine. These shifts can change blood vessel behavior in the brain, causing a headache!
“Sugar-related headaches come from a rapid swing in your blood sugar levels. Glucose level fluctuations affect your brain more than any other organ.” — Dr. Anisha Patel
A headache that roots from dehydration happens when your body doesn’t get enough fluids. Even mild dehydration can cause a headache! Other symptoms of dehydration (like fatigue, extreme thirst, dry mouth and dizziness) appear along with headache pain. Nothing to worry about, though! Dehydration headaches often go away by staying hydrated. Drink at least 8 glasses of water daily to keep headaches away and stay healthy! ?
8. Excessive Medication Use
The World Health Organization said that medication-overuse headache (MOH) is caused by chronic and excessive use of medications to treat headaches. Among the painkillers known to result in MOH are triptans, ergotamine, opiates, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and paracetamol. MOH is often described as persistent and often at its worst upon waking up!
Imagine that? A headache drug causing headache? Good thing there are natural remedies! Keep reading and discover some of the most effective relief for headaches, dizziness and nausea! ?
How Long Does a Normal Headache Last?
Tension headache, the most common type of headache, can last from thirty minutes to a few hours. It is typically caused by stress and muscle tension. This type of headache can be mild to moderate and has a steadier pressure rather than throbbing. Furthermore, tension headaches are not linked to sound or light sensitivity or nausea.
Generally, headaches result from signals interacting in the brain, blood vessels and surrounding nerves. However, some headaches can signify a serious underlying condition and should be evaluated promptly! According to the North American Menopause Society, any of these symptoms must be reported to a healthcare provider:
- Occurrence of a “first or worst” headache
- Progressively worsening headache
- Sudden or abrupt headache onset
- Headache that wakes you up from sleep
- Headache that occurs with a high fever or rash
- Headache that leads to confusion
- Headache with dizziness and nausea
- Headache that accompanies unexplained weight loss
- Headache that differs from all previous headaches
How Do I Differentiate a Headache from Migraine?
Tension headache, the most common type of headache, is described as feeling like a band around the head. If it is accompanied by throbbing and pounding sensations in your head, you may be experiencing a migraine headache.
The NAMS define migraines as moderate to severe headaches that involve throbbing or pulsating pain — usually aggravated by activity. They are also accompanied by sound sensitivity, light sensitivity (aura) or nausea.
As mentioned earlier, hormonal imbalance results in headaches. The same hormone imbalances (estrogen, adrenals and thyroid) can also trigger migraines in menopause!
Other possible causes of migraines are:
- Emotional Triggers: Stress, tension, shock, grief, anxiety, depression, excitement
- Physical Triggers: Tiredness, poor-quality sleep, poor posture, neck or shoulder tension, jet lag, low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
- Dietary Triggers: Gluten, dairy, sugar, peanuts, smoked fish, aged cheese, wine, food products with preservatives (especially “tyramine”)
- Environmental Triggers: Bright lights, flickering screens, smoke, loud noises, changes in climate, strong smells, stuffy atmosphere
- Medications: Sleeping pills, combined contraceptive pills, hormone replacement therapy
A study also found a link between hypertension and migraines in menopause. Researchers determined if women who have had migraines were more likely to develop hypertension after menopause. None of the women had high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease at the start of the study. After controlling for migraine medications and lifestyle factors that could affect cardiovascular risk, the researchers found that high blood pressure was more common in women who had migraines than in those who did not!
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), a headache or migraine can be a sign that a person is experiencing a hypertensive crisis. Meaning, the blood pressure reaches 180/120 mmHg or higher — a medical emergency if left unmanaged!
Learn more and watch this video from Dr. Anne MacGregor of the British Menopause Society. She answered women’s frequently asked questions (FAQs) about migraines in menopause! ?
What Causes Dizziness in Menopause?
Dizziness may occur as a result of other menopause symptoms like hot flashes, stress, fatigue, anxiety or panic attacks. If suffering from these symptoms, breathing and heart rate levels become rapid and unsteady! This change in breathing can disturb the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain, causing dizziness. ?
It is common for many women to experience light-headedness during menopause. Three types of sensations that can be experienced with dizziness:
- a sense of spinning or whirling
- feeling as if you are going to faint (nauseous)
- loss of balance
Estrogen and progesterone are the female hormones that change most during menopause. As the levels of these hormones change, they negatively affect blood vessels and circulation — resulting in bouts of headaches, dizziness and nausea!
Research also shows that dizziness is highly prevalent in peri- and postmenopausal women and is associated with anxiety.
What’s the Difference Between Dizziness and Vertigo?
According to Dr. Julie Honaker of Cleveland Clinic, dizziness used to be an umbrella term and vertigo fits underneath it. However, they recently found that dizziness is very separate from vertigo.
Dizziness is an altered sense of spatial orientation — a distortion of “where we are” within a space and your balance just feels off. On the other hand, vertigo involves a false “movement” of your surroundings. It may feel like you are standing still and the world is spinning around you.
Vertigo is often accompanied by other symptoms like nausea, vomiting, loss of balance and trouble walking. Another possible symptom experienced during an episode of vertigo is “nystagmus” — a condition in which the eyes make repetitive, uncontrolled movements.
Suppose you are experiencing episodes of dizziness or vertigo. In that case, your doctor will get more information about your symptoms and give you a physical exam in which your balance and other functions are checked. They may perform a few tests to find the root cause and determine if the sensations you have qualify as dizziness or vertigo. One test used to diagnose the cause of balance disorders is “videonystagmography (VNG) balance test”. VNG tests the inner ear and motor function to find the cause of dizziness or vertigo.
Our balance system is our sixth sense. Don’t wait until something goes wrong with it! You can promote better balance and prevent vertigo by doing certain exercises! Here’s Dr. Jo, a physical therapist, sharing her simple vertigo exercises:
Is Nausea Common in Menopause?
Yes. Nausea is common, especially for women entering perimenopause. This symptom is defined as “feeling sick” or having an uneasy stomach — which may (or may not) lead to an urge to vomit!
Many midlife women report that nausea is usually at its worst in the morning and can be accompanied by other PMS-like symptoms. The exact relationship between nausea and menopause may not yet be fully understood, but hormonal fluctuations rank high in the “suspect” list! The same concept behind pregnant women’s “morning sickness” applies to nausea in menopause — where estrogen and progesterone levels are having a dance showdown! ?
Moreover, research shows that low progesterone levels can cause gastrointestinal problems like bloating, indigestion, irritable bowel syndrome and heartburn. These effects of low progesterone can also lead to nausea!
To ease nausea in menopause, relaxation techniques such as deep breathing can bring great relief! When you focus on your breathing, you remove your mind from the fact that you feel sick and give it something else to think about. Getting nervous about vomiting can also increase your heart rate and makes you start taking shallow quick breaths! Pause and breathe some fresh air like it’s the only thing you care about — it will help you regain control of your body and mind! Say NO-usea! ?
You can also try quick natural remedies such as:
- Ginger or peppermint tea
- Avoiding strong odors
- Stop eating spicy, greasy and sugary foods
- Try some essential oils
More importantly, it is important to embrace healthy habits that will help you prevent nausea in the longer term! Eat fresh, nutritious foods that are free from additives and preservatives. Hydrate, exercise regularly, eat mindfully and get quality sleep! Also, find ways to manage stress and anxiety! ?
Are There Any Risks When Taking Medication for Headaches, Dizziness and Nausea?
Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers are generally safe. However, overusing pain relievers may lead to headaches, drug tolerance, drug dependence and other side effects!
• Headaches: Taking pain relievers too often can actually cause a headache (called rebound headaches) when you stop taking medicine. This effect is similar to withdrawal.
• Reduced benefits over time: Your body can build up a tolerance (get used to) any medication. You may notice that a medication you’ve used regularly doesn’t work as well as it once did.
• Dependence: Some medications can become addictive. They may pose more risks than benefits. For that reason, healthcare providers usually recommend against prescribing benzodiazepines and narcotics (such as codeine and oxycodone) to treat tension headaches.
• Other side effects: All drugs have side effects. Avoid taking aspirin or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, too often. Overuse may cause stomach pain, bleeding or ulcers. If you take any medication regularly, discuss the risks and benefits with your doctor.
15 Natural Relief for Headaches, Dizziness and Nausea
Now, you learned that several factors could influence headaches, dizziness and nausea. But hey, you’re not completely at the mercy of those triggers! ?
There are natural remedies you can try to prevent or relieve headaches, dizziness and nausea. They can also help manage migraines in menopause! Among these great remedies are: Eating foods rich in magnesium, healthy snacks, taking enough vitamins and minerals, herbal teas, healthy coffee alternatives, proper hydration, checking for food sensitivities, managing stress, doing relaxation activities, observing good posture, avoiding toxin-loaded products, embracing essential oils and more!
- Eat magnesium-rich food! Research shows that magnesium, riboflavin (vitamin B2), vitamin B12 and coenzyme Q10 are the nutrients you need to prevent headaches and migraines! Leafy greens, nuts, seeds, whole grains, dark chocolate, bananas, fish and beans are among the best sources of magnesium. Check out my article for more magnesium sources! ?
2. Go for healthy snacks! Seeds and nuts are my go-to snacks because they help me keep a healthy weight while providing nutritional benefits! Flaxseeds, sprouted pumpkin seeds and chia seeds are all good sources of magnesium! Pumpkin seeds are also high in fiber, preventing constipation that sometimes comes with headaches or migraines!
3. Take enough vitamins, minerals or supplements! Food is your number one source of vitamins and minerals. You may need extra support from supplements, but nothing beats going for natural sources! Also, there are many types of vitamins and minerals, so let’s just say there are some that are a perfect match for menopause! Check my article and find out the most important vitamins and minerals I handpicked for menopause! ?
4. Check for any allergic reaction to the food you eat, or from your environment! Keep a food journal and write down what you eat. This will help you identify patterns in how your body reacts to the food you eat daily. Learn what works for you! Gut problems and inflammation are big triggers for many symptoms — including headaches, dizziness and nausea!
5. Reduce caffeine intake and try healthy alternatives! Coffee products that go through many processes are usually the ones that can give you jitters, headaches and other discomforts! Check out my article for healthy drinks that will keep you energized while supporting your health! ?
6. Get rid of home products that contain strong and toxic chemicals! Toxins are all around us. They lurk in the food we eat, the products we use, the clothes we wear and even the home we live in! Many headaches also come from food additives (which are toxic for our body)! So, the best advice I can give you? Cook your own food! Read my article and discover more ways to cut toxic overload! ?
7. Drink herbal tea! Tea can help with overall hydration, which in itself can prevent or relieve headache, dizziness and nausea. Ginger and peppermint should be your best pals! Ginger is a really good, natural, anti-nausea food. You can drink it as herbal tea or simply add sliced ginger to water! Peppermint, on the other hand, can be effective in relieving sinus pressure and migraines in menopause!
8. Heat or cold pack! If you’re experiencing a headache, you can apply a heat or cold pack to your neck and head area. Then, gently massage to soothe the pain!
9. Set a limit to your screen time. Yes, you’ve reached this far in this article knowing all the nitty-gritty. But, there is still a slight chance that your headache, dizziness or nausea is caused by too much gadget use! Sweetie, you can watch as many episodes on Netflix as you want, but don’t let Mrs. Eye Strain join you, okay? ?
10. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
11. Get good sleep quality!
12. Manage stress levels!
13. Do relaxation activities, breathing techniques, stretching exercises AND take a walk outside!
14. Practice good posture. Neck and back strain can cause a headache!
15. Try essential oils! ?
Triggers are very specific to each person — what gives you a headache may not be a problem for others. Therefore, the key to preventing headaches, dizziness and nausea is figuring out what really triggers them! Trace the root cause. Once you take down the guilty culprit, you can make healthy lifestyle changes to avoid or minimize the chances of getting these discomforts!
Don’t let anything knock you down, love! Not a headache, nor a migraine. Keep your head up, your heart strong and your mind positive. Find your balance in menopause and not a dizzy moment will bother you! ?
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