PCOS and Headaches: What You Should Know
What You Should Know About PCOS and Headaches
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) affects roughly one in ten women worldwide. PCOS is a complex condition characterized by elevated androgen levels, menstrual irregularities, and ovarian cysts. This hormonal condition can leave you with many side effects, including mood swings, irregular periods, and headaches.
Several different factors may be causing your PCOS-related headaches, so understanding the causes behind your headaches is the first step in finding a solution that fits your needs.
We will break down some of the most common causes of PCOS headaches and what steps you can take to alleviate the discomfort to start feeling like yourself again.
Is There a Relationship Between PCOS and Headaches?
PCOS causes intense fluctuations in your hormones, including estrogen and testosterone. These hormonal changes may contribute to headaches as some sex hormones can affect the hormones your body uses to combat pain. When one hormone becomes unbalanced, it can have a domino effect on other hormones, too.
Other PCOS-related causes for headaches may include a lack of sleep or excessive stress, which are common issues in women with PCOS. A hormonal imbalance can make it difficult for you to fall or stay asleep, and consistent lack of sleep has been shown to play a major role in PCOS-related headaches.
The variation in your hormone levels may negatively impact your cortisol levels, which regulates your body’s stress response. In addition, the emotional stress that can come from experiencing PCOS can often result in head and neck tension.
Can Weight Cause Headaches?
Excessive body weight can also be a contributing factor to headaches. Many women with PCOS experience weight gain because the fluctuations of their hormones can lead to insulin resistance, meaning the body is not utilizing the insulin it’s producing, and food is eventually converted to fat rather than energy. The risk of chronic migraine also increases with weight gain.
In addition, high blood sugar levels can also increase the onset of a headache — with insulin resistance, high blood sugar can become a common occurrence since the insulin is unable to remove the sugar from the bloodstream and into cells for energy use.
Individuals with a higher-than-average weight are more at-risk for chronic inflammation, affecting the frequency and severity of PCOS-related headaches.
Common Food Triggers of Headaches
A variety of foods and drinks can also contribute to PCOS headaches. If you’re dealing with PCOS and its related symptoms, you may already know which specific foods to avoid and which foods help promote healthy hormone levels. Here are some of the most common food triggers of headaches.
Alcohol can contribute to headaches whether or not you suffer from PCOS. Consuming alcohol can negatively affect your hormone levels and increase the risk of developing headaches, especially for women with PCOS.
Alcohol inhibits your body’s ability to produce hormones, and while many women with PCOS experience increased hormone levels, hormone production shouldn’t be prevented altogether in this way.
Excessive alcohol consumption with PCOS may limit your body’s progesterone levels, and when your progesterone becomes too low, this can lead to a condition known as estrogen dominance.
High estrogen levels can lead to fatigue, mood swings, and headaches in women with PCOS.
Caffeine consumption can raise your heart rate and blood pressure, leading to increased feelings of stress and tension. Too much caffeine can lead to dysregulation your adrenal glands, which are the glands that produce your stress hormones.
When your adrenal system is weak, your body can remain in a perpetual state of “fight or flight,” and excessive stress can lead to increased headaches. Caffeine may also have an effect on your body’s estrogen levels, possibly causing estrogen metabolism issues similar to that of alcohol consumption. Caffeine withdrawal can also lead to headaches.
Because women with PCOS have a higher risk of becoming insulin resistant, carbohydrate-rich diets can exacerbate headaches.
Simple carbohydrates often found in processed foods can raise your blood glucose levels fast and quickly. Carbohydrates and sugars cannot be properly metabolized in your body when you are not utilizing your insulin, which increases the likelihood of prolonged headaches.
While limiting your carbohydrate and sugar intake may help prevent headaches, it can also be beneficial for promoting healthy hormone levels and alleviating other symptoms associated with PCOS.
What Can You Do If You Have PCOS and Headaches?
As unpleasant and frustrating as headaches may be, there is still hope! Numerous treatments and remedies are available to help combat the onset of a headache before they begin.
Keep a Journal
Tracking and documenting your PCOS headaches and what you did or ate beforehand can help you determine what factors contribute to your headaches.
In addition to your sleeping patterns, it is important to document key details, especially the following:
- How often do you wake up during the night?
- How much sleep are you getting?
- What are the foods you eat throughout the day?
- What times do you eat?
- How much water are you drinking?
- How is your weight fluctuating or remaining consistent?
- What other PCOS symptoms are you experiencing?
- Do changes in weather affect your PCOS symptoms?
- Does physical activity cause headaches?
Gathering this information can help you and your doctor find a solution for your specific needs and headache triggers.
Consider Your Medication
Many women with PCOS take hormonal birth control, blood sugar medications, and/or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to help manage their PCOS-related symptoms.
While these medications can benefit some women, your headaches may begin when you start taking medication or worsen after you’ve stopped using them. In that case, you may want to consult your doctor or healthcare provider to determine if medications could be the cause of your headaches.
Check Your Hormones
As we mentioned, one of the main characteristics of PCOS is hormonal imbalance. Getting your hormone levels checked can help determine if unbalanced hormones are contributing to your headaches.
Our Hormone Test Kit offers a comprehensive evaluation of your various hormone levels and insight into what’s going on with your body.
In addition, our team of medical professionals can help you make sense of your results and offer advice on how to support healthy hormone levels and prevent migraines and minor headaches alike.
Talk to Your Doctor
Most importantly, speak to your doctor or healthcare provider about any questions or concerns that may come up when dealing with PCOS headaches. They can help you determine what may be causing your headaches, how to help prevent them, and offer additional support.
You don’t have to handle PCOS symptoms and issues on your own. Talk to your doctor about your symptoms and what you can do to help regulate your hormones.
PCOS can be a frustrating and isolating condition for those who experience it, and PCOS-related headaches shouldn’t take control over your life.
If you suspect you have PCOS-related headaches, talk with your doctor about certain treatment options that take both conditions into account.
Our goal at Feminade is to empower you to take back control of your body and live the life you want, as healthy and happy as possible. We’re here to support you on your journey to a healthy life and make hormones your superpower.