Alternative Weight Loss | Natural Health Blog

Date: 02/28/2009    Written by: Jon Barron

Belly Fat and Migraines


Here's another reason to hit the stair-master: A new study from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) has determined that extra belly fat may be a factor in the development of migraines. Although earlier studies found that extra body weight increased the volume and severity of migraines in people who already had them, this study shows a clear link between the onset of the headaches and waist circumference. Also, it indicates that belly fat is more closely linked to migraines than is overall obesity. After reviewing data on 22,000 subjects, researchers at Drexel University in Pennsylvania concluded that indeed, belly fat and migraines were linked. In subjects under the age of 55, women with the extra waist bulge experienced 30 percent more migraines than their trimmer peers.

So there you have it! When looking at the data, it seems like an easy conclusion that belly fat leads to migraines; but look a little closer and another picture comes into focus. The thing is that seventy percent of migraine sufferers are women. Also, the researchers found that the story changes for post-menopausal women. In fact, according to researcher Lee Peterlin, "It appears that there is an impact at every age, but it changes [through the years]. In women under 55, belly fat is bad. But over 55, having belly fat may actually be mildly protective against migraine."

Suddenly, the obvious may not be so obvious.

And in fact, some scientists have assumed that the gender skew in migraine incidence may have to do with the fact that women experience fluctuations in estrogen levels once they begin menstruating. This theory has to do with the fact that half of all women who suffer from migraines report headaches associated with their menstrual cycles. Also, migraines seem to increase during the first trimester of pregnancy among women who suffer from them. Now here we see that post-menopause, when estrogen levels change, migraines become less of an issue.

All of which points to the fact that belly fat in itself may not be the cause of migraines -- that estrogen is, with belly fat being a side effect of excess estrogen. Keep in mind, extra estrogen causes increases in fat production and storage, and particularly increases of adipose fat cells stored in the midsection. This obviously would be more of a factor for women than men. And so, the spike in migraines among pre-menopausal women with big bellies may simply reflect the fact that these women are experiencing estrogen-related weight gain. When estrogen levels change after menopause, the migraine connection diminishes, which would explain why post-menopausal women in the study saw decreases in migraine rates.

On another note, since belly-fat in women also has been linked to heart disease, diabetes, and even some types of cancer, it makes good sense to address the underlying cause -- estrogen dominance. And as I've written before, it's a difficult problem to avoid given our constant exposure to the petrochemical-derived synthetic estrogens known as xenoestrogens. We get this exposure through polluted water, food, and environmental sources. Because our diets have become stripped of natural low-intensity phytoestrogens from plants, the body's estrogen receptors remain wide open to the extremely potent xenoestrogens -- potent in amounts as small as a billionth of a gram. And thus, estrogen overload results, with all the concomitant problems: extra weight, cancers, and migraines.

That's why it's important to balance estrogen by minimizing as many sources as possible in your water and food, incorporating foods in your diet that have healthy levels of natural phytoestrogens, and using natural progesterone creams. Natural progesterone is your body's preferred counterbalance to excessive estrogen. Regular use of a natural progesterone crème can not only help resolve belly fat issues and normalize weight, but also can provide some protection against breast, uterine, and ovarian cancer, against menstrual and menopausal symptoms, against sleep disorders and low libido, and yes -- against migraines.

In fact, if you find that you have a migraine, a small dab of progesterone crème applied to the back of your neck, temples, and forehead often can relieve all symptoms in one to two minutes. See if you can find a medication that does that!

Take note that natural progesterone is not the same as synthetic progesterones (progestins) such as Provera, which come with side effects ranging from annoying to dangerous. For more information on what to look for when choosing a supplement, see my Special Report on Progesterone Creme.

By the way, this whole belly fat issue makes you wonder why the mainstream media that reported so gleefully on the belly fat study never picked up on the estrogen connection. But then again, the days of the curious investigative reporter seem to be far in the past.


Click for Related Articles


    Submitted by Carol on
    April 17, 2009 - 4:27am

    Erin -- I agree. Can we get an answer on the soy issue? I am on the Medifast program, which is soy based, and am getting more migraines. I NEED to lose weight. Can you site studies which indicate that soy increases or decreases the number of migraines? thanks

    Submitted by Colleen on
    August 11, 2009 - 2:16pm

    I'm 54, and am just reaching the far end of menopause (yay!). I've been taking soy isoflavones (phytoestrogen) for 2+ years now to counteract migraines which began 3-4 years ago, almost always occuring at ovulation and menstruation. I started taking soy after reading that migraines can be triggered by estrogen fluctuations, such as occur at those times. I tried all sorts of migraine remedies such as feverfew and bromelain, and eliminating food triggers etc, but taking soy has made by far the biggest difference. Plant estrogens are milder than our own estrogen and can occupy receptors, preventing our own estrogen from excessive activity while also filling in during times of estrogen depletion. The soy hasn't eliminated my headaches, but it's greatly diminished their quantity and severity. I'm also happy to report that now that I've finally stopped menstruating, the migraines seem to have pretty well stopped too. I feel like I've been let out of estrogen jail.

    Submitted by Erin on
    April 1, 2009 - 1:28pm

    The study is interesting, and also unfortunate for women. I have read though that soy is known to increase estrogen in both men and women. So would the consumption of soy products increase your risk to develop migraines? If so, perhaps the men in this project had elevated intake of soy or another similar food, thus having the same kind of reaction that a woman would.

    Submitted by Jan Grossberg on
    March 4, 2009 - 5:29am

    Can you send or post any research that confirms the effectiveness of progesterone creams or ingested products for migraine? Also, do you have any information about the role of insulin in migraine occurrence? I would appreciate any resources you could post or send. Both I and my 25 year old daughter have migraine and other hormonally related health issues. Thanks for your column!

Add New Comment