Vegan_Gardein_Tofu_Foods_Display_(cropped1)-Small Diet may affect migraines for a variety of reasons, and a group of Washington, D.C. researchers recently found that a low-fat, plant-based diet may be beneficial to migraineurs. The researchers, generally affiliated with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), randomly selected 42 migraineurs, who either received a placebo supplement for 16 weeks or ate a vegan diet (a diet with no animal products) for the same time period. A several-week phase was included in which the subjects eliminated common dietary triggers. After a 4-week period of no treatment, the groups switched to the other treatment modality.

When treated with a low-dose of hormones from a contraceptive device, women with migraine with aura and menstrual-related migraine experienced significant improvement in both disorders. These results in a recent study bring potentially good news for many women, but the lead author of the study, Anne Calhoun, MD, of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, tempered her enthusiasm. “I first urge caution,” she told Reuters Health, stressing that the study was small—just 23 subjects—and intended to guide future research. “Good science requires larger and more rigorous trials before definitive conclusions can be gained.”

The hormonal activity that makes some women more susceptible to migraine may also protect them from breast cancer. A new study has found that women with migraine have a significantly reduced risk for breast cancer compared to women without migraine. The risk of both ductal and lobular breast cancer was 21% lower in premenopausal migraineurs and 26% lower in postmenopausal migraineurs.

Migraine occurs approximately three times more often in women than in men, and research has determined that menstrual hormone changes are one of many potential triggers. Menstruation is one of the main factors that places women at risk for migraine. Although migraine headaches are equally common in young girls and boys, the number of girls affected increases sharply after the onset of menstruation. About 60% of female migraine sufferers experience menstrual migraine that occurs before, during, or immediately after the period or during ovulation. Estrogen, the female sex hormone that specifically regulates the menstrual cycle, generally causes menstrual migraine. Changes in the hormone levels of estrogen and progesterone during the menstrual cycle can trigger migraine in sufferers. Women on birth control pills may experience menstrual migraines more frequently because of the influence that oral contraceptives have on estrogen levels.

A silver lining for women who suffer from migraine has been discovered—researchers have determined that female migraineurs have a significantly lower chance of developing breast cancer than women who do not have migraines. Overall, women with a history of migraine showed a 30% decrease in the incidence of the most common types of breast cancer. These tumors, called ductal and lobular carcinomas, have receptors for the hormones estrogen or progesterone.

Migraine occurs more often in women than in men. Although migraine headaches are equally common in young girls and boys, the number of girls affected increases sharply after the onset of menstruation. It seems clear that certain hormonal changes that occur during puberty in girls, and remain throughout adulthood, are implicated in the triggering and frequency of migraine attacks in women. The finding that 60% of women sufferers related attacks to their menstrual cycle supports this link between female hormone changes and migraine headaches. Attacks may occur several days before or during the woman's menstrual period. There are women who also get the headache mid-cycle, at the time of ovulation. Estrogen levels fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle. The headaches typically occur in association with drops in the estrogen level. Few women (less than 10%) have headaches only with menses. Therefore, in most women, hormones are just one of many migraine triggers.