Migraine headaches. That word should not be typed, let alone published. Even seeing the word “migraine” in print can bring waves of nausea to some headache sufferers. A migraine is not like other headaches. Some can be worse than others. Generally having a migraine feels like the pressure one might experience while vomiting through a crushing head injury. Its awful. And trying to support and comfort someone through one is awful too.
Estrogen and Migraine Triggers
Its difficult to say what trigger migraines. For some people it seems to be one type of food or another. Repetitive changes in light and shadow are what seem to get me. For many women, migraines seem to be worse during times of the month when estrogen levels shift. Other common triggers are thought to be:
- Stress and anxiety
- red wine
We’ll focus on estrogen today but I wanted to tell people about a new bit of research on estrogen-mimics and migraine headaches.
Estrogen-mimics are sometimes called XenoEstrogens. Bascially they are molecules that resemble estrogen. Molecules have shapes, just like most things. The shape of natural estrogen fits nicely into estrogen receptors. Once the two come together (estrogen and receptor) a series of events may proceed. What happens after the union depends on the type of receptor and the type of cell the receptor sits on.
There are many chemicals that are shaped like estrogen. These chemicals can unlock estrogen receptors and start chains of biochemical reactions just like natural estrogen. Well, there are some differences. Some don’t fit as well as real estrogen. Some only fit some of the estrogen receptors and not others. That means that many are not as powerful as real estrogen either. That is probably a very good thing. Estrogen mimics are everywhere. Men and children, as well as women are exposed. Still, a little hormone goes a long way. Less powerful estrogens can still have an impact.
Plastics, Estrogen-mimics and Migraines
Many of the molecules that make up plastics have estrogen-like behaviors. They can interact with estrogen receptors and make things happen. There is growing evidence that estrogen mimics in the environment, food packaging and medical devices are having an impact on human health and function. BPA is an example of an estrogen-mimic from plastics. There are others, but BPA has gotten the bulk of attention. There’s been a lot of research on BPA. Here is a bit more from Researchers at the University of Kansas Medical Center:
BPA makes Migraines worse
In rats. Rats are used for these kinds of studies because it would be unconscionable to do them with people. Migraine sufferers probably know it is unconscionable to induce migraines in any living thing. Animals used in this study were induced with what researchers call “inflammatory soup.” They were not given a BPA Migraine. Control animals and BPA-dosed animals both got what appeared to be nasty nasty headaches. Rats dosed with BPA showed more migraine-like behaviors than undosed rats. The BPA migraine appeared to be worse.
What this means is that BPA interacts with estrogen receptors (probably in the brain) and increases the intensity of migraine. The amount of BPA the rats were given was based on levels of BPA commonly found in people. This is a very interesting study. And it is “just out” and not widely available. Leave a comment if you’d like to learn more about the study.
- use fresh or frozen instead of canned when possible
- Drink out of metal or glass instead of plastic bottles
- Be aware of plastics in food packaging
Take care of yourself. Migraines suck.
A moment of silence, please, for all the animals who participated in this research.
Here is the reference:
Vermeer LM, Gregory E, Winter MK, McCarson KE, Berman NE. 2013. Exposure to Bisphenol A exacerbates migraine-like behaviors in a multibehavior model of rat migraine. Toxicological Sciences. E-published ahead of print. November 4, 2013.http://toxsci.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2013/10/31/toxsci.kft245.full.pdf+html
Christensen KL, Lorber M, Ye X, & Calafat AM (2013). Reconstruction of bisphenol A intake using a simple pharmacokinetic model. Journal of exposure science & environmental epidemiology PMID: 24252884