bandMy period never just sneaks up on me. It barges in with a marching band and full drum corps.

That’s because–without fail–I get a brain-pounding migraine with every new cycle.

The cause is estrogen fluctuations that occur in the days before and after menstruation. Due to my age and health background, I’m not able to take estrogen to level out these fluctuations. And I’ve already done damage to my stomach taking anti-inflammatories for migraines over the years (I can attest that the risks of NSAIDs are real), so I can’t use those anymore.

As a result, I rely primarily on study-proven natural remedies–and not just for my migraines, but for other menstrual woes, too, such as period cramps, insomnia and constipation.

I’m a big fan of natural remedies because, as a longtime health journalist, I’ve had the opportunity to pore over the research and interview scientists about them. And, in many cases, the results can be astonishing.

Take calcium and vitamin D, for example. Getting 1,200 mg. of calcium and 400 IU vitamin D daily (the equivalent of about four servings of skim or low-fat milk, fortified orange juice or low-fat yogurt) can reduce premenstrual symptoms by as much as 40%. For someone struggling with premenstrual anxiety, down moods, irritability, aches and insomnia, this could make all the difference in their quality of life.

However, before you begin a natural remedy treatment or if you’re using one or more now, I’d like to point out two key facts that are important to keep in mind:

1. It can take as long as three cycles to experience their full effects.

That’s because it can take this long for certain nutrients to build up in your system or for the brain chemicals or hormone levels to change enough to feel a difference. The calcium and vitamin D combo I just mentioned is one of these treatments that takes three cycles to fully kick in.

2. You could forget how bad you had it before you began your natural treatment–then be tempted to give it up.

I was reminded of this fact this morning as I was taking my co-enzyme Q10 and magnesium supplements to help prevent migraines…while I was currently struggling with a migraine. I thought to myself, “Why am I bothering with this if it’s not working?” And then I remembered what happened when I stopped taking my anti-migraine supplements in January, which was a requirement for my spine surgery: My migraines got twice as frequent and twice as intense. And then I thought back to how severe and frequent my migraines were before I started using natural treatments–and how the pain would literally reduce me to tears.

I then instantly felt enormously grateful for the natural remedies I’m using for reducing how often I get these headaches and significantly curbing the intensity when they do strike.

Migraines happen to be a particularly difficult condition to manage. So, I plan to add another migraine-fighting treatment to my arsenal to see if I can ratchet these head-throbbers down another notch to find even more relief. But, I won’t be giving up the treatments I’ve been using so far. I know how much worse they’ll get if I do.

I’ve written about dozens of study-proven natural remedies you can try for all sorts of cycle-related issues in this blog, which you can read about here.

If you try one or more (sometimes it takes the right combination to ease your issue), I recommend being patient, then sticking with it when you notice it working. I’m glad I have.

[Photo: Mike Morbeck]