Brain Matters

Migraine Headaches

Everyone probably knows someone who suffers from migraines, or experiences migraines themselves. A migraine is not just a bad headache, but a neurological disorder involving nerve pathways and brain chemicals. It is the 3rd most prevalent and the 6th most disabling illness in the world.

1 in 7 people struggle with these headaches, and the annual cost to treat them is over 17 billion in the US alone.  Migraine sufferers, which include men, women, and children, are unable to work, attend school, or function normally due to the severity of the illness.  Unfortunately, migraines remain a poorly understood disease that is often treated with prescription medications without identifying the root cause.

What Causes a Migraine?

Triggers for migraine sufferers includes genetic, hormonal and environmental factors. Headaches can come in many forms (tension, migraine, cluster, sinus, menstrual) and have many different causes. Some stem from postural imbalances, stress, muscle spasms, hormone disruption and some from environmental allergies and sinus congestion. There are also many foods and additives that can trigger migraines. Gluten, MSG, chocolate, alcohol, caffeine, dairy, processed foods, sugar, artificial sweeteners, and pesticides are common triggers.

Does gluten cause migraines?

Gluten is considered a neurotoxin that can cause nerve damage in addition to inflammatory responses in the body. In recent studies, gluten was shown to be positively associated with neurological dysfunction in those with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivities.

Those with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease already have a genetically sensitive nervous system. Overtime, this hypersensitive nervous system can develop into neurological problems to include migraines.

If we look at the prevalence of migraines in those with celiac or IBD versus a normal population, migraines are more common in those with celiac disease. This suggests that migraine sufferers should be screened for celiac disease and adopt a gluten free diet.  In studies, eliminating gluten from the diet decreased the frequency of both headaches and migraines.

In a similar study, a correlation was found between patients with idiopathic neuropathy (nerve damage of an unknown cause) and the presence of gluten sensitive HLA-DQ genes.

Leaky Brain?

Leaky gut is common in those with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease.  Many studies have shown that people with leaky gut also have something called leaky brain. Like leaky gut, leaky brain occurs when unwanted substances penetrate the blood-brain barrier. It can lead to potential symptoms in many areas of the body, including the nervous system, where it can cause migraines, anxiety, or depression.

Nutrient Deficiencies and Migraines

Many studies have shown that an increase in homocysteine levels along with lower mitochondrial energy can lead to migraine headaches. A deficiency in specific vitamins and minerals can cause elevated homocysteine and decreased energy metabolism levels. Vitamins involved in this process are Riboflavin (B2), Pyroxidine (B6), Folate (B9), and Cobalamin (B12).  Other nutrients that may be deficient with migraine sufferers are vitamin C, vitamin E, calcium, Co Q10, magnesium, and iron.

When taken on a regular basis, many headache medicines can cause deficiencies of these nutrients. Long term medication use for the treatment of chronic headaches is rarely necessary if a thorough nutritional deficiencies evaluation is performed.

Electrolyte Imbalance

Low dietary intakes of electrolytes, calcium and magnesium, can lead to dehydration, low blood pressure, and migraines. Calcium and magnesium help regulate healthy nerve and muscle functions in the body. When they are deficient, muscle cramps and pain sensitivity can increase and may lead to increased migraine susceptibility.   Nerve cells without proper levels of electrolytes in their environment will not function normally, therefore leading to altered nerve pathways and the formation of migraines.

Natural & Simple Solutions for Migraine Headaches?

• Stop eating grain –  Read No Grain No Pain and follow the 30 day protocol.

• Rule out additional food triggers for the headache: Have your doctor test you for allergies.

• Get tested for vitamin and mineral deficiencies – Vitamin B2, B6, B9, B-12, C, E, magnesium, calcium, CoQ10

• Check your medications – Many medicines can cause vitamin and mineral and may contain harmful fillers.

• Rule out chronic mold exposure – Home and work place environments can harbor toxic molds that release mycotoxins known to trigger headache problems. If you home has a history of water damage, or if you smell mildew or a musty smell, suspect mold, and take action to have it removed or cleaned.

• Rule out chronic sinus infections – chronic infections can of the sinuses can typically be evaluated by a nasal swab test.  Make sure your doctor checks for bacteria and mold.

• Avoid the use of perfumes and scented soaps – Many of the chemicals in these items can trigger migraines directly.