As a former chronic migraine sufferer I know how painful and debilitating these headaches are.
Before vasoconstricting migraine medication was developed I was put on Vicodin which never worked and just made me incapacitated. Years later an insurance underwriter told me the reason my rates were being increased was because my vasoconstricting migraine medications put me at higher risk for stroke! This is when I decided I had to find a way off the prescription medication merry-go-round.
Once I figured out what was causing my migraines I stopped having them. I have not had a migraine headache in almost five years!
What causes a migraine headache?
Migraine headache pathophysiology is complex. Migraines can be triggered by any combination of environmental, physical and emotional factors. In as much as these factors can be controlled migraines may also be minimized and potentially eliminated – as mine have been.
Stress is a common condition most migraine sufferers know are a driving factor in the on-set of a migraine. One of the most common mistakes that migraine suffers all seem to make is that of over committing themselves which certainly increases stress. Not letting go and being a perfectionist or a “control freak” is another common trait. Scheduling in time for yourself every day and practicing relaxation techniques such as guided imaginary or meditation does work and there is a great deal of evidence to support this. If you are in a toxic relationship whether personal or professional develop and implement a plan to change your situation. Here is a a handout I created that can get you started Work Life Balance Handout 2 Work Life Balance Handout 2 pg 2
Other migraine triggering habits are lack of sleep or inconsistent sleep schedule, shift work, and inconsistent meals times or skipped meals.
Check your diet
Many people have hidden or undetected food intolerance’s and are eating foods that feed migraines. Remember food intolerance’s are a bit like an addiction – we feed the addiction and experience temporary relief – only to have symptoms flare up later.
- Removing common food allergens such as gluten, dairy, soy, corn and eggs for a period of 6 weeks to 6 months and then reintroducing these one at a time using a foods diary to see which foods may cause reactivity.
- Removing or avoiding all foods containing vasoactive amines; chocolate, red wine, citrus, cheese, shellfish – do this for 6 weeks and then re-introduce keeping a log of any symptoms.
- Do not use artificial sweeteners as these are excitotoxins and these are known triggers and kill brain cells.
- Removal of gluten containing grains also helps many people reduce or eliminate their migraines altogether.
- Avoid sugar and high sugar containing products – sugar is very high in almost all commercially available condiments.
The best test I’ve found to flag migraine food and chemical triggers is Mediator Responds Testing. It’s much more reliable than IgG testing and I offer this testing and have been trained in how to implement the immune calming dietary process. Read more at this link: MRT Testing – Get Tested!
Try eliminating these Gluten containing grains
- Wheat – including wheat germ and wheat bran
- Barley including barley malt
Poor digestion of proteins is also another contributing condition. Low stomach acid either from use of PPI medications or brought about naturally can lead to these undigested or incompletely digested proteins leaking through the intestinal walls (aka Leaky GUT). When this happens it triggers the secondary immune response causing reactivity which can manifest in migraine headaches. Increasing stomach acid through Betanine HCL, or apple cider vinegar usually takes care of this problem nicely.
Poor or incomplete digestion of foods from lack of digestive enzymes and friendly bacteria can also lead to dysbiosis a condition where these food particles putrefy and are welcome food for pathogenic bacteria such as h.pylori and yeast to feed on.
Consider your cravings as a clue
If you crave sugar and carbohydrate foods you probably have candida/yeast overgrowth which is a type of bacteria that can cause many problems including headaches. Yeast overgrowth testing from a specialized lab should be done and a complete yeast eradication program of dietary changes and yeast killing herbal supplements should be followed.
Adding more leafy green vegetables and fresh fruits is the first step as these have built in digestive enzymes. Apple cider vinegar, pro-biotic rich foods such as yogurt, kefir and other cultured vegetables such as sauerkraut, kimchee etc…help alkalize and assist in proper digestion of foods.
Good quality full spectrum digestive enzymes are also a good way to quickly assist the digestive process. Adding a high quality pro-biotic supplement is also advised as this type of nutrient needs to be constantly replenished and it is difficult to keep healthy ratios in tact through diet alone.
Since most people consume commercially farmed / raised livestock they are subjected to many unhealthy genetically modified grains; corn, wheat, soy. New research is linking these genetically modified products to changes in GUT etiology and increased disease.
It’s all about the right fatty acids
Increasing essential fatty acids from healthy sources such as raw and sprouted nuts and seeds, avocados, flax seeds and oil, virgin coconut oil and coconut products and virgin olive oils goes a long way in helping improve neurological health. Eating oils raw also preserves the integrity of the nutritional and healing properties. And as an added benefit flax-seed oil helps re-balance hormones. Besides eating wild caught fish and seafood, adding a high quality EPA/DHA product helps ensure your brain has the right kind of fats. And if you dine out frequently this helps off set some of the poor quality fats you are consuming.
Those pesky hormones
Many women experience an increase of migraines near or around, the time of their monthly menses. Get your hormone levels checked through salivary or specialized blood panel testing. Work with a trained clinician in anti-aging or functional medicine.
This includes checking thyroid, fasting and A1C blood sugar levels because both of these frequently present as co-conditions in migraine suffers. Bio-identical hormone replacement frequently helps minimize or alleviate some people’s migraines.
Be aware that proper testing and diagnosis of thyroid status is something that is not generally done by most doctors and is one of the most under diagnosed conditions. Supplementing with iodine and a good colloidal mineral product will help the thyroid however, for many people; natural thyroid hormone replacement makes a noticeable difference.
Zinc and magnesium are also important and usually lacking minerals that help migraine suffers. Dr.’s. Murray and Pizzorono N.D.’s, recommend magnesium titrate 250-800 mg 3 x day (dosing is dependent upon individual needs as determined by a clinician.)
Poor, weakened or exhausted adrenal function is another reason contributing to frequency of migraine headaches. This should not be a surprise since people who get frequent migraines must realize these are very often triggered by schedules that are too full and too little down time.
Foods to eat to improve hormonal balance
- Every day eat ½ sweet apple; ½ raw beet and 1 raw carrot. You can add these to a salad, or make them into a slaw.
- Take 2 tablespoons of flax-seed oil per day & eat raw olive oil.
- Increase leafy greens – aim for 4-5 servings a day.
- Eat raw beets.
- Eat wild caught pasture raised animal products – avoid commercially farmed/raised animal products.
- Eat as much organic as you can.
B Vitamins may be low
Low B5 (pantothenic acid), B12 and folic acid status are all very common in adrenal fatigue situations so these need to be addressed.
The B vitamins are unique in that they are responsible for many conversions known as methylation and should you have the inability to make these conversions it can create many health issue.
If you are a person who has a family history of spinal bifida, depression, migraines, thyroid disorders, stroke, dementia and angina, high blood pressure or elevated homocysteiene or cardiovascular disease strongly consider being tested for a genetic variance (MTHFR) that is easily detected and corrected by correct methyfolate supplementation. SpectraCell Labs offers such a test.
Evaluation of micro nutrient status and organic acids can be a very useful tool in determining where specific imbalances are. This is something best done by a specialized lab test and not typically done by most MD’s.
Clean up a clogged liver
Liver health cannot be overlooked as this organ is both a cleansing and detoxification organ and a digestive organ. These days most people have very overburdened livers that need extra help. Reducing your toxic load by careful inventory of daily exposures to environmental toxins in the home, work and your surroundings is the first step. Replacing chemical household cleaning products, personal care items and garden products with plant-based and eco-friendly products is a must. Minimize your exposure to off gassing from new furniture and carpets and consider if you are exposed to solvents or heavy metals at work or in the home. A water filtration system to remove at least some of the metals, fluoride and chlorine in your drinking, cooking and bathing water is a must. Remember anything you put on your skin goes directly into your body.
Your daily schedule
The body wants to have a natural rhythm; sleeping when it’s dark and waking when the sun is up. Establishing and maintaining a schedule where by you go to sleep and waking up at about the same time each day is enormously helpful.
Eating meals at the same time each day also dramatically helps prevent migraines since many people who have migraines also have hypoglycemic tendencies whether they have been diagnosed or not.
A note for those who work the night shift – get off this schedule as soon as you possibly can. Shift workers have increased risks for many serious health conditions because this schedule is both unnatural and damaging to the body.
Increase serotonin production and relaxation
Standard medical treatment of complex, frequent migraines includes both drugs that decrease vasodilation and SSRI’s. Factors contributing to vasodilation are multifactorial and some have been covered here.
SSRI’s do not help the body manufacture more serotonin; therefore a holistic approach provides foods and nutrients that do help a person increase serotonin. 5-HTP is an amino acid supplement that increases both serotonin and endorphins. According to Dr’s. Michael Murray, and Joseph Pizzorno, N.D.’ a dosage of 200- 600 mg four times a day has shown good results.
GABA may also be helpful as this amino acid promotes relaxation. Melatonin has also been used with good results to aid in inducing sleep.
It’s important to work with a trained practitioner in amino acid therapy. Do not take 5HTP while you are concurrently taking an SSRI as this may result in serotonin syndrome.
Herbal combinations show good promise too. Feverfew, ginger, peppermint, lavender, and butterbur, Black Cohosh, Blue Vervain, Eleuthro Ginseng and many others have been used in traditional formulations. Herbs can be used to support liver cleansing and overall tone and health .
Adaptogens are a special classification of herbs that are very nurturing to the adrenal, thyroid and parathyroids glands. They can help us in times of stress and adrenal fatigue. Adaptogens also help support health hormone balance. Depending on causal factors different combinations of these herbs can work wonders to help minimize and prevent migraines.
~ see my post on Adaptogens
Essential oils such as lavender, rose, German chamomile, clove, blue yarrow, sandalwood, and blue tansy are very relaxing. Flower Essences are also helpful during times of high stress.
Keeping a written log of your migraines that includes on-set environmental, physical, dietary and emotional information can help you determine what your individualized triggers are to.
Do you struggle with migraines? If you do I can help you.Are you ready to stop feeling like your body is working against you and reclaim vibrant health?
Take the next step and contact me to see if we are a fit: