Migraines: Why Are You Still Suffering?


woman with migraines

Why Do You Get Migraines?

What Causes Migraines?

There are a number of potential causes of migraines:

  1. Excessive histamine
  2. Excessive inflammation
  3. Food allergies, intolerances or sensitivities
  4. Neurotransmitter imbalance
  5. Hormone imbalance

How Do You Know if a Headache is a Migraine?

Migraine symptoms include: nausea and/or vomiting, pain behind one eye, pain in your temples, visual changes like seeing spots or auras, sensitivity to light and/or sound, and/or temporary vision loss [see your MD ASAP if you have this symptom].

How Long Does a Migraine Last?

A typical migraine can last from 4 to 72 hours.

The Natural Treatment Approach to Migraines

  1. Reduce histamine – correct diet, increase vitamin C
  2. Support the adrenal glands – vitamin B5, B6, C, magnesium, zinc, ashwaganda, panax ginseng, rhodiola, schisandra, gotu kola.
  3. Test for and remove IgG and IgA food sensitivities.
  4. Balance neurotransmitters by providing the appropriate precursor vitamins, minerals and amino acids (B6, magnesium, tryptophan, tyrosine).
  5. Balance hormones – correct diet, provide indole-3-carbinol, 5MTHF, P5P, magnesium, B12, and glucarate for liver detoxification.

Histamine

Excessive blood histamine levels may be a factor in migraines. Histamine is a substance released by cells known as mast cells and is also present in certain foods. Histamine from food sources are normally broken down in the gut by an enzyme known as DAO or Diamine Oxidase.  Some people are genetically programmed to make inadequate levels of DAO. Stabilizing mast cells to reduce histamine release, lowering intake of high histamine foods and supplementing DAO enzyme may help histamine related migraines.

Dietary histamine: Avoid citrus fruit, stored, fermented, canned, aged and/or pickled foods.

Antihistamine: Vitamin C acts as a natural antihistamine and supports the adrenal glands and healthy, more stable blood veins and arteries.

Blood tests: tryptase and diamine oxidase (DAO).

Adrenal glands

The adrenal glands are your body’s internal corticosteroid source.  As such, they play a role in moderating inflammation and migraine prevention. Depletion of critical nutrients for adrenal function due to malabsorption, excessive excretion due to stress, or poor diet may lead to altered HPA axis function or corticosteroid production, contributing to migraines. Adrenal supportive nutrients include vitamin B5, B6, C, magnesium, and zinc.  Herbs demonstrated to support the body’s adaptation to stress include Panax ginseng, eleuthrococcus, ashwaganda and licorice root.

Blood tests that may elucidate issues with the adrenals include DHEAs, testosterone, a.m. and p.m. cortisol levels.

Test for and Remove IgG and IgA Mediated Food Sensitivities

The exclusion of IgG mediated food sensitivities has been shown to significantly improve symptoms for sufferers of migraines and IBS. An association between celiac disease (IgA antibodies to gluten) and migraine in adults has also established.

Blood test: IgG and IgA food sensitivity testing

Neurotransmitters and Migraines

Research has also suggested a connection between neurotransmitter levels such as serotonin and migraine.   SSRI type medications are often tried as a solution.  Many of the patients that I see don’t like these medications due to their side effects of weight gain, low libido and feeling emotionally flat. As an alternative to this approach, I recommend vitamin B6 and magnesium as co-factors for the production of serotonin. Magnesium may also help relax muscle tension and calm the nervous system.

Blood test: Spectracell Micronutrient Analysis

Migraines and Hormones

Hormone imbalance can influence susceptibility to migraines. Estrogen dominance in women often precipitates premenstrual migraines.  Supporting liver detoxification of estrogen, including environmental estrogens, helps relieve menstrual migraines.

Blood tests: DHEAs, testosterone, estradiol, LH, FSH, progesterone, prolactin

What other treatments help migraines?

Other effective natural medicine therapies for migraines include: chiropractic treatment, massage therapy, acupuncture and craniosacral therapy.

If you need help with migraines, click here to book an appointment.

References:

  1. Johnston CS, Martin LJ, Cai X. Antihistamine effect of supplemental ascorbic acid and neutrophil chemotaxis. J Am Coll Nutr. 1992 Apr;11(2):172-6.
  2. Alstadhaug KB. Histamine in migraine and brain. Headache. 2014 Feb;54(2):246-59.
  3. Aydinlar EI, Dikmen PY, Tiftikci A, Saruc M, Aksu M, Gunsoy HG, Tozun N. IgG-based elimination diet in migraine plus irritable bowel syndrome. Headache. 2013 Mar;53(3):514-25.
  4. Cristofori F, Fontana C, Magistà A, Capriati T, Indrio F, Castellaneta S, Cavallo L, Francavilla R. Increased prevalence of celiac disease among pediatric patients with irritable bowel syndrome: a 6-year prospective cohort study. JAMA Pediatr. 2014 Jun;168(6):555-60.
  5. Gabrielli M, Cremonini F, Fiore G, Addolorato G, Padalino C, Candelli M, De Leo ME, Santarelli L, Giacovazzo M, Gasbarrini A, Pola P, Gasbarrini A. Association between migraine and Celiac disease: results from a preliminary case-control and therapeutic study. Am J Gastroenterol. 2003 Mar;98(3):625-9.
  6. Woldeamanuel Y, Rapoport A, Cowan R. The place of corticosteroids in migraine attack management: A 65-year systematic review with pooled analysis and critical appraisal. Cephalalgia. 2015 Jan 9.
  7. McMullen MK, Whitehouse JM, Towell A. Bitters: Time for a New Paradigm. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015;2015:670504.
  8. Dakshinamurti S, Dakshinamurti K Antihypertensive and neuroprotective actions of pyridoxine and its derivatives. Can J Physiol Pharmacol. 2015 May 11:1-8.
  9. Mauskop A, Varughese J. Why all migraine patients should be treated with magnesium. J Neural Transm. 2012 May;119(5):575-9.
  10. Patacchioli FR, Monnazzi P, Simeoni S, De Filippis S, Salvatori E, Coloprisco G, Martelletti P. Salivary cortisol, dehydroepiandrosterone-sulphate (DHEA-S) and testosterone in women with chronic migraine. J Headache Pain. 2006 Apr;7(2):90-4. Epub 2006 Mar 31.

 

 

Traditional Chinese Medicine Eating Habits

how to eat according to TCM: child eating an apple

Healthy Eating Habits: How to Eat According to TCM

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), food is heavily relied upon as medicine. What, when, the temperature of the food and how you eat it affects the function of your digestive organs (your spleen and stomach in Chinese medicine) which in turn influences the qi (energy) and function of all the other organs.

The four key rules for eating habits according to Chinese medicine principles are:

  • Timing – best to eat at the same time every day.  In TCM, the spleen and stomach are the organs most involved in digestion and they work best at certain times of the day. The stomach time is from 7-9 a.m., which is the best time of day to consume a good hearty breakfast.  The spleen time follows the stomach, from 9-11 a.m., here you are digesting that hearty breakfast and turning it into energy for your body to use.   These organs are weakest 12 hours later, so you want to avoid eating from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. to avoid damaging them.
  • Weather temperature – External cold temperatures dictate the consumption of warmer foods like soups and stews, external heat calls for
    colder foods like salads. Excessive consumption of cold, raw foods can damage the spleen, so ease up on the salads in winter, switch to lightly stir-fried or steamed foods.
  • Be mindful of what you are doing while eating – You should be focused on eating, not watching TV, talking on the phone, surfing the internet, driving, walking etc.  Being attentive to the task of eating, helps improve digestion, increases awareness of how much you are eating and helps you recognize when you are full.  The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for digestion, being overstimulated or stressed while eating decreases parasympathetic nervous system activity and increases sympatheic nervous system which directs resources away from your digestive tract.
  • Quantity – You should eat to the point of 2/3 satiety, to allow some reserves in the digestive tract for the process of digestion

5 Factors Affecting Your Kidneys

picture of kidneys, for kidney health

Maintaining the Health of Your Kidneys

Your kidneys sit close to your back, just beneath (protected by) the ribs in the midback. They are just under the red blobs in the diagram above (the red blobs are your adrenal glands). They filter about 140 liters of blood each day and produce about 1-2 liters of urine.  Their job is to remove waste products from the blood for excretion in the urine.

Factors that influence kidney health:

  1. Diet – inflammatory foods and high blood sugars will damage the kidneys.  Studies have shown that removing inflammatory foods and better managing blood sugar (especially for diabetics), can improve kidney function.  Foods that tend to provoke inflammation include: sugars, cooking oils, trans fats, red meat, processed meat, refined grains, additives like MSG plus any foods that you are sensitive to such as dairy, gluten, eggs, nuts or beans.
  2. Fiber intake – higher dietary fiber intake improves kidney function.
  3. Sugar and artificial sweetener intake – a recent study found that intake of greater than 2 artificially sweetened sodas per day lead to a decline in kidney function.
  4. Protein intake – high protein diets have been discouraged in the past as putting too much strain on the kidneys.  In healthy kidneys, protein consumption is not of concern.  In fact, one recent study showed that pregnant women with higher protein intake, produced children with better functioning kidneys. The only people who need be concerned with limiting protein intake, are those with kidney disease.
  5. Caffeine – there appears to be no association between caffeine intake and kidney disease.  In fact, one study found a lower risk for kidney stones in those who consumed more caffeine.

By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND

References:

Xu H, Huang X, Risérus U, Krishnamurthy VM, Cederholm T, Arnlöv J, Lindholm B, Sjögren P, Carrero JJ. Dietary fiber, kidney function, inflammation, and mortality risk. Clin J Am Soc Nephrol. 2014 Dec 5;9(12):2104-10. doi: 10.2215/CJN.02260314. Epub 2014 Oct 3.

Xu H1, Sjögren P, Ärnlöv J, Banerjee T, Cederholm T, Risérus U, Lindholm B, Lind L, Carrero JJ. A proinflammatory diet is associated with systemic inflammation and reduced kidney function in elderly adults. J Nutr. 2015 Apr;145(4):729-35. doi: 10.3945/jn.114.205187. Epub 2015 Jan 28.

Lin J1, Curhan GC. Associations of sugar and artificially sweetened soda with albuminuria and kidney function decline in women. Clin J Am Soc Nephrol. 2011 Jan;6(1):160-6. doi: 10.2215/CJN.03260410. Epub 2010 Sep 30.

Miliku K, Voortman T, van den Hooven EH, Hofman A, Franco OH, Jaddoe VW. First-trimester maternal protein intake and childhood kidney outcomes: the Generation R Study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Jul;102(1):123-9. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.114.102228. Epub 2015 May 13.

Ferraro PM, Taylor EN, Gambaro G, Curhan GC. Caffeine intake and the risk of kidney stones. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014 Dec;100(6):1596-603. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.114.089987. Epub 2014 Oct 1.

Food Addiction: Eatertainment

Woman overeating because of a food addiction

Food Addiction, it’s a Thing

Patients often tell me that they eat when they are either bored or lonely. They can be very structured and disciplined with their diet otherwise, but this emotional eating is their dietary undoing. It doesn’t help that food manufacturers strive to make foods as addictive as possible. There was an excellent book review on eating as entertainment and food addiction in the New Yorker several years ago. I’ve borrowed this excerpt from it because I couldn’t have written it better:

“David A. Kessler, a former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, says that it’s not that sweet and oily foods have become less expensive; it’s that they’ve been re-engineered while we weren’t looking.  Kessler spends a lot of time meeting with (often anonymous) consultants who describe how they are trying to fashion products that offer what has become known in the food industry as “eatertainment.” Fat, sugar, and salt turn out to be the crucial elements in this quest: different“eatertaining” items mix these ingredients in different but invariably highly caloric combinations. A food scientist for Frito-Lay relates how the company is seeking to create “a lot of fun in your mouth” with products like Nacho Cheese Doritos, which meld “three different cheese notes” with lots of salt and oil. Another product-development expert talks about how she is trying to “unlock the code of craveability,” and a third about the effort to “cram as much hedonism as you can in one dish.”

Kessler invents his own term—“conditioned hypereating”—to describe how people respond to these laboratory-designed concoctions. Foods like Cinnabons and Starbucks’ Strawberries & Crème Frappuccinos are, he maintains, like drugs: “Conditioned hypereating works the same way as other ‘stimulus response’ disorders in which reward is involved, such as compulsive gambling and substance abuse.” For Kessler, the analogy is not merely rhetorical: research on rats, he maintains, proves that the animals’ brains react to sweet, fatty foods the same way that addicts’ respond to cocaine.”

If you would like to read the whole article, which is excellent, here’s the
link:

XXXL: Why are we so fat? By

If you are struggling with food addiction, get healthy eating advice from our naturopathic doctors. Book now.

Chinese Medicine & Food

how to eat healthy according to chinese medicine

Eating Well According to Chinese Medicine

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, food is heavily relied upon as medicine. What and how you eat affects the function of your digestive organs which in turn influences the qi (energy) and function of all of the organs.

Here are the key rules for eating according to Chinese medicine principles:

  1. Timing – it is best to eat at the same time every day.  7-9 a.m. is considered to be the “stomach” time, while 9-11 a.m. is the “spleen” time.  Both organs are essential to digestion in Chinese medicine.  Eating a hearty breakfast between 7-9 a.m. works with the timing of the internal organs.
  2. Weather temperature – External cold temperatures dictate the consumption of warmer foods like soups and stews, external heat calls for colder foods like salads
  3. What you are doing while eating – You should be focused on eating, not watching TV, talking on the phone, surfing the internet, driving, walking etc.
  4. Quantity – You should eat to the point of 2/3 satiety, to allow some reserves in the digestive tract for the process of digestion.
  5. Cooked vs Raw – in Chinese medicine, consumption of too  many raw foods (lots of salads and raw fruit) is damaging to the spleen (considered one of the organs of digestion in Chinese medicine).  This is why salads aren’t on the menu much in Chinese restaurants.  It’s better to eat foods lightly cooked like steamed or stir-fried to avoid damaging digestion.