Ghislain & Marie David De Lossy
What to do: Change your meds. Migraine sufferers who stopped taking their triptans or other pain relievers for two months had a 67 percent reduction in headaches, according to one study. To get through the withdrawal period, ask your doctor about daily headache-preventive prescription medicines, which don't cause boomerang headaches. Your doctor may keep you on these pills for a few weeks, until your pain subsides, or indefinitely, if you continue to need meds for headache relief.
Sixty percent of women who suffer from migraines have more frequent and intense pain before menstruation, and those who get tension headaches are more likely to have them around that time of the month, says Elizabeth W. Loder, M.D., chief of the headache and pain division at Brigham and Womens Hospital in Boston. The drop in the hormone estrogen right before your period may correspond with changes in sensitivity to brain chemicals that help regulate pain, causing your headache.
What to do:
If youre on the Pill, talk to your doctor about taking it continuously, skipping the placebo days to avoid a monthly estrogen withdrawal. Women who did this had fewer and less-severe headaches within a month, according to a recent study. Non-Pill users can take painkillers such as ibuprofen or a prescription medicine, like Amerge or Frova, for five days, starting two days before your flow begins. Or treat yourself to a massage, which can reduce headache frequency (see "The Healing Power of Touch").
Your (Artificial) Sweet Tooth
Downing foods or drinks that contain aspartame may set off the release of brain chemicals that cause blood vessels to swell, leading to head pain, research shows. Sucralose (Splenda) also may cause headaches in some women, preliminary reports indicate.
What to do: Cut out foods that contain these chemicals. Aspartame (also marketed as Equal and NutraSweet) is a common ingredient in flavored water, fat-free yogurt, diet soda, low-calorie ice cream, and even chewable vitamins and gum that arent necessarily touted as "sugar-free."