When the word migraine is mentioned, the first image that comes to mind is a woman with her fingers on her temples and a pained expression on her face. This particular type of headache can also land the sufferer in bed, with lights out, icepack on the head and in total silence due to additional symptoms of light and sound sensitivity and possible nausea. Not a fun way to spend a day.
And even though there is a definite higher incidence in females, men may need to be wary of having to deal with migraines as well, especially if their hormones aren’t in proper balance. Yes, men should always be mindful of where their testosterone level resides since that is their primary sex hormone. They also have smaller amounts of estrogen as well, and if this gets too high, not only could it cause increased bodyfat and emotional changes, but it could possibly predispose them to migraines as well!
Hormone fluctuations are one of the known causes of migraines in women, as many experience them around the time of their monthly menstrual cycle. As estrogen levels rise, so can pain perception, which may account for the intensity of those types of headaches. There is also a theory by researchers involved in a study published in Neurology that a rise in estrogen produces changes in the brain like a “spreading wave of hyperactivity” that could heighten sensitivity. They set out to see if this held true irrespective of testosterone levels.
They took blood samples from 22 men with no history of recurrent headaches, and from 17 men with periodic migraines occurring an average of three times per month. Both groups had similar testosterone levels, but there was, in fact, higher estrogen found in the migraine sufferers as measured by their estradiol levels.
What are some of the possible causes of elevated estradiol in men? Stress is a definitely a major factor. It can cause them to convert some of their testosterone into estradiol under the wrong circumstances. Blood sugar imbalances, pre-diabetes and diabetes are other conditions that drive the body to go through the same type of response. Carrying excess bodyfat is also a culprit, and it can go hand-in-hand with the other two. In short, poor management of lifestyle habits can be seen as a primary underlying cause of many of the drivers of elevated estradiol. (And also the reason why many experience a drop in testosterone level as well!)
Fixing the issues, therefore, comes from identifying the root causes of the problems and correcting them. Simply taking a pill to decrease estradiol or increase testosterone may work temporarily as blood levels improve, but eventually the underlying habits will trump this effect. This leaves the affected person either continuing treatment with even higher dosages of the meds to try and force a change, or giving up because it’s “not working anymore”.
In taking the functional medicine approach, patients work with their doctor to help identify the causes of what may be throwing their hormones out of balance. Corrective measures can then be taken through lifestyle measures like diet, exercise, stress management and supplementation to help restore natural balance to the body. Once achieved, maintaining these healthy habits gives the best chance to ensure that the changes will be lasting.
And men, that may be saving you from potential headaches in your future!