Excerpt from my book: The Miracle of Bio-Identical Hormones” – Chapter FIVE
Karen is a fashionable woman in her 50s who came to me to solve a post-menopausal weight problem. Her medical history indicated that she’d suffered from migraine headaches all her life. She was amazed when I told her that the migraines were curable. She’d tried to get help with them, spending a considerable amount of money, but to no avail. Readers who have been tolerating migraines should learn from her example: it’s never too late to defeat an old enemy like migraines, although the earlier you address this problem the better. I’ll let Karen tell you her story:
I’ve gotten migraine headaches about three or four times a month for my entire life. There would be this intense throbbing behind my right eyeball, in my temples, a neck ache, and nausea. Doctors didn’t diagnose these headaches as migraines because I didn’t see “auras”— the white light migraine sufferers typically see. I also was not sensitive to light and I did not need to go into a dark room. Only when I was in my 50s, was I told they were migraines. So when I was young I just called them “my headaches” and took codeine to lessen the pain. When I was 29 years old, I had one so bad that it sent me to the emergency room at the local hospital. I was vomiting, the pain was excruciating, and I thought, “Nobody has headaches like this.” I asked my friend to drive me to the emergency room. They treated me with a muscle relaxant and Valium. The next day I just soldiered on and went to work. The second time I went to the emergency room with a migraine, one of the doctors said it was a severe sinus headache, and he recommended nose surgery. I did have nose surgery and it didn’t do a thing. The third time a migraine sent me to the hospital, the doctors wouldn’t let me leave without doing a spinal tap on me. My symptoms were nearly identical to what you see in people who are about to have a stroke, an aneurysm, or who have spinal meningitis. That gives you an idea of how severe the migraines were. I was told the headaches might go away after menopause, but they didn’t. When menopause failed to give me relief, I finally went to see a neurosurgeon. My headaches were diagnosed as migraines and I was given two medications that finally helped. He gave me Inderal and Imitrex. The Inderal reduced the frequency of the headaches to once every six weeks or so, which was a blessing. Whenever I did feel a headache coming on, I would self-inject the Imitrex, which would stop the progression and leave me without pain. Naturally, I was grateful for this relief after all those years of suffering. But I would later find out that Inderal and Imitrex were just masking the pain, not getting to the cause of it. Meanwhile, I stopped smoking. The combination of stopping smoking and going through menopause caused me to gain 50 pounds. This was scary to me. I had always been pretty close to the weight I wanted to be. I was one of those Twiggy-generation people who was always trying to lose 10 pounds—you can never be quite thin enough— but, generally speaking, I didn’t have a weight problem. But once I had gained the 50 pounds I was scared. I looked matronly, felt old, and I didn’t know whether I would ever be able to lose this weight. I heard a friend talking about Dr. Platt, and she spoke so highly of him that I decided to go to him for weight loss. I went to see him and we talked for an hour. I was comfortable with him, and I was fascinated that he’s a traditionally trained M.D. who has a philosophy that crosses over into alternative medicine. He told me he could eliminate my migraine headaches and that losing the 50 pounds would be just the icing on the cake. He put me on progesterone, thyroid medication, and DHEA and started weaning me off the Inderal as well as the HRT my gynecologist had put me on at menopause. At some point during the weaning from Inderal I had a terrible, terrible night when I couldn’t put my head on a pillow because my head hurt so much. It wasn’t like a migraine; it was like every one of my hairs hurt my scalp. If I touched my hair, my scalp was in agony. I spent the night sitting up, catching whatever sleep I could, and the next morning I called Dr. Platt’s office and went to see him. He told me what was happening—that I was getting my nerve endings back. The drugs I’d been taking had numbed them, and now they were coming back to life. He told me the symptoms would be gone within 36 hours, and he was right. It is now 20 months since I first saw Dr. Platt, and I have not had a single migraine headache. It was also the easiest weight loss I have ever experienced. I stuck to the diet religiously and the pounds just melted off. I lost eight pounds the first week and about three pounds every successive week. I started in September and by Thanksgiving I had lost 32 pounds. I felt great, I wasn’t hungry, and I wasn’t getting headaches!
PROGESTERONE AND MIGRAINES
Karen was suffering from two different types of headaches – menstrual migraines and also headaches due to occipital neuritis. The latter causes excruciating headaches and are almost always mistaken for migraines. They arise from the occipital nerve sheath at the base of the skull, and often shoot into the back of the eye. It causes a lancinating type of pain, as opposed to migraines that are usually described as throbbing. They are only caused by excess adrenaline. This explains why the drug Inderal afforded her some relief because it does block adrenaline.
Menstrual migraines are a result of the adverse effect estrogen has on blood vessels. You might ask, why did Karen feel the toxicity of estrogen as migraines, while in other women it takes the form of fibroid tumors and troubled pregnancies? As I’ve explained before, there are receptor sites for hormones all over the body, and in different people different sites predominate. Thus the symptoms of estrogen dominance will vary according to where a person’s estrogen sites are located. I suppose one could say that Karen was lucky her excess estrogen didn’t eventually cause breast or ovarian cancer. However, you’d have had a hard time convincing Karen of her good luck in the middle of a migraine attack. Those are brutal. I once treated a woman who had severe menstrual migraines starting at age 14 with her first menses. On two occasions she had paralytic migraines resulting in strokes.
Everyone knows somebody who has migraines, and everyone knows how excruciating they are, so it’s quite remarkable that the medical community has missed the simple fact that natural progesterone is a cost-effective cure for menstrual migraines as well as occipital neuritis. There are millions of women out there like Karen all desperate for relief. Many of them attend pain clinics and explore every avenue they can—meditation, Botox injections, acupressure, and so on—but continue to suffer month after month. Karen went all the way from her teenage years—when her body first started producing estrogen—to menopause suffering from these headaches. At menopause, she might have hoped to get some relief since her body was reducing its production of estrogen, but doctors placed her on hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which made sure the migraines continued. All she needed to solve a lifelong problem was progesterone, the hormone that protects women from the effects of too much estrogen, and also blocks adrenaline. As long as she continues taking it, Karen won’t have any more headaches. When Karen talks about feeling as though she was losing stored-up fat and seeing her body change in a way she had not seen before, she is talking about the difference between a fat-burning weight loss program and a muscle-burning calorie restriction diet. In her youth, Karen did a lot of calorie restriction diets—those grapefruit-and-lean-meat diets that were popular in the l960s and 1970s. Those make you lose muscle. They give you a sagging look, make your skin look droopy, and impair muscle tone. To Karen, actually losing fat and seeing some muscle definition was a revelation. Would it be fair to say that Karen felt eliminating her migraine headaches with a natural bio-identical hormone was a miracle?
BY MICHAEL E. PLATT, M.D.