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Migraine Triggers: Register Receipts. Soup, Soda Cans

Estrogen is one of those chemicals in our bodies we know can be a powerful Migraine trigger for many patients, and we’re coming into contact with it in some surprising places. For example: Some cash register receipts, soda and soup cans have been shown to be a problem in temporarily raising estrogen levels in those who come into contact with them. Could it be a Migraine trigger for you? Is it even something to be concerned about, or just a lot of hype? Let’s talk about the possibilities.

Hormone Soup for Girls

For some patients, the decreasing fluctuation of estrogen in our bodies can be the trigger for a nasty Migraine attack. Sometimes it’s increasing the levels. Sometimes it’s simply the fluctuations themselves that are the culprit. Knowing where you fall in this merry-go-round of hormone soup, could save many patients from some of their Migraine pain. Understanding that, through time these triggers may change, is also worth discussing. Do your best to understand your own Migraines.

Depending on how we look at things, it’s a good thing that our female reproductive hormones shift throughout the month. The good part is that sex and reproduction are two of the most primarily important instincts we possess, so having these hormones working correctly (thereby fluctuating monthly) is good. The bad part is that these fluctuations can correlate with Migraine misery for many who have menstrual Migraines or other hormonally based Migraine triggers. Patients may be surprised to learn these triggers tie into their estrogen levels behind the scenes too.

What’s Happening?

BPA is also known as Bisphenol A. It is something most patients have heard of at least in passing. It’s a chemical used in plastics. Unfortunately, it tends to leach from wherever it started and end up inside us. When inside the body, it is called an endocrine disruptor, and mimics estrogen in the body. Many companies are working to remove BPA from their products because we know it is harmful, but we have a long way to go to learn more.

Readers would likely be surprised where they’re coming into contact with BPA, and the effects it can have on our systems, including reproductive problems, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. We really don’t know what it takes to cause physical harm, and we know less about what it might take to act as a Migraine trigger. But, we’re learning.

Among many other sources, BPA may be found in:

  • Hard plastics
  • Dental sealants
  • Cosmetics
  • Electronic equipment including CD’s and DVD’s
  • Water pipe linings and home siding
  • Food packaging and can linings
  • Thermal and carbonless paper

While the estrogenic effects may not be high for any one exposure a person has in a day, most people come into contact with it throughout their days, potentially compounding the problem. To make it worse, BPA molecules like to *stick* to something called estrogen related receptor y (ERRy). Binding to ERRy protects it from metabolism and cleansing from our bodies as easily as when it is not attached. Because ERRy is found in high levels in the placenta of newly born babies, this is a concern. Another study looked at BPA’s effects on placenta and found it seemed to cause cell death. We know it also passes through the placenta into the baby.

We just don’t know enough about BPA’s effects on us.

Just how risky BPA is, is still of some controversy. Some countries have banned its use, and others consider it acceptable to use. Do a little research and you’ll be amazed at your findings. However, we’re not here to discuss the risk. We’re here to talk about hormone fluctuations we know can be significant Migraine triggers, and BPA possibly being a part of that chain.

The Study

Most BPA contamination is thought to come from an oral route. The more cans of soda or bottled water you drink, the more BPA you’ll likely ingest. This is increased if the product has been exposed to extreme temperatures, whether you are aware it has happened or not.

A significant finding was just published that suggests that males and females who handle thermal paper receipts as a part of their job throughout the day, seem to be absorbing it in easily measurable levels. We’ve been aware of this for years, but now we have a few more specifics.

In the study, 24 volunteers gave urine for a baseline BPH level for comparison later. Then they began to handle the thermal receipt paper. Another group used gloves while handling the receipts. Whey then handled thermal paper receipts, their urine levels for BPA were examined at specific intervals over 24 hours.

The research showed that there were increased BPA levels after just two hours of handling the receipts without gloves. 100% of gloveless participants had increased levels. Many Migraine patients will be shocked to learn that this exposure still didn’t measure up to the significant levels found after a person eats a can of soup, or drinks a soda.

Real Life Shockers and Considerations

I want to add here, that the study specifically mentions having to dismiss one participant because they admitted to consuming four canned cold beverages during the 24 hour test, rendering the results unusable. The resultant statistics of which you should be aware, shocked me. The dismissed participant’s BPA level was found to be 25 times higher than currently allowed safe levels. Yes…

25 times the levels allowed as safe by the National Health and Nutrition Survey 2009-2010.

So let’s think about those with Migraine who stand at a register all day long, handling receipts and packaging materials that may also contain BPA. Probably drinking soda from a BPA lined can or bottle, and eating from a BPA lined meal wrapper. Should they be worried about BPA as a Migraine trigger?

There was enlightening research done with rats that is important to consider in our discussion too. A quote from the abstract says:

“These results show that BPA, an environmentally pervasive xenoestrogen, exacerbates migraine-like behavior in a rat model and alters expression of estrogen and nociception-related genes.”

It’s clear, more work needs to be done. Until we know more about BPA caused estrogen-mimic fluctuations, they may want to consider wearing gloves while working with known sources of BPA and see if, over time, it may make even a small difference in their ability to manage their Migraines. Sometimes it’s not the really big things we do that make us better, but adding up all the little things we do every day that begin to make the difference.

Make sure the gloves you wear don’t contain BPA! (Mine are grippy leather with natural fiber inside which I actually wear double-duty for warmth) It seems a very small price to pay to help assure you’re maximizing your good days and minimizing the miserable ones!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Ehrlich, Shelley, MD, ScD, MPh; Calafat, Antonia, PhD; Humblet, Olivier, ScD; Smith, Thomas, PhD; Hauser, Russ, MD, ScD, MPH. "Handling Thermal Receipts as a Source of Exposure to Bisphenol A." JAMA. 2014;311(8):859-860. * *
  2. Bisphenol A “Questions and answers about Bisphenol A” National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. July 18, 2013. * *
  3. Vermeer, LM; Gregory, E; Winter, MK; McCarson, KE; Berman, NE. "Exposure to bisphenol a exacerbates migraine-like behaviors in a multibehavioral model of rat migraine." Toxicol Sci. 2014 Feb;137(2):416-27 * *
  4. Hessler, Wendy; Patisaul, Heather, PhD. “Human Placental Cells Die After BPA Exposure." Environmental Health News.© 2013 *


  • cancan
    5 years ago

    From Cancan….hi Ellen.
    I really need to write on……so much I agree with!! You are marvelous to do all the research…I totally agree with the info on BPA. Actually, I have not been able to use anything from cans…and cringe at plastic bottles. I want glass containers back so badly, I limit my plastic use, people think I am crazy!!!! Just a crazy migraineur!!! It was great meeting you at the Inn in Scottsdale….really would like to tell you of my experiences since then, not all good. Thanks for all you do…❤

  • Nancy Harris Bonk moderator
    5 years ago

    OH MY!


  • kateymac
    5 years ago

    Wow. All I can say is HOW FRIGHTENING!

    Great info! Thanks!

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