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.

 

 

Meal Replacement

why boost is no better than a chocolate bar pic

Why “Meal Replacement Drinks” are no Better Than Chocolate Bars

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

My mom is elderly and lives on her own and doesn’t always remember to prepare herself a nutritious meal. Her doctor recommended one of these “meal replacements”, here’s why that’s a horrible idea.

These “meal replacement” drinks are mostly composed of unhealthy fats and sugar.  If all I was concerned with was giving my mom empty calories like that, I would just give her a chocolate bar.  At least it contains real food ingredients (peanuts).  The main ingredients in these drinks are: water, sugar, corn syrup, milk protein concentrate, canola/sunflower/corn oil and soy protein isolate.

What about the vitamins and minerals in meal replacement drinks?

The quality of these vitamins and minerals is the lowest of the low, the cheapest forms for the manufacturer to put in.  Not well absorbed, not the form that the body needs.  The casein is potentially detrimental to the digestive tract and absorption of nutrients.  Caseinate forms of calcium (in these drinks), contain the protein casein which is a common food allergen and may aggravate anyone with a dairy sensitivity.

How do the nutritional facts compare?

Meal Replacement Drink:

Calories: 240/8 oz bottle

Cholesterol: 10 mg

Sodium: 150 mg

Carbohydrate: 41 g

Sugar: 20 g

Snickers:

Calories: 250/bar

Cholesterol: 5 mg

Sodium: 120 mg

Carbohydrate: 33 g

Sugar: 27 g

NesQuick:

Calories: 150/8 oz

Cholesterol: 15 mg

Sodium: 180 mg

Carbohydrate: 24 g

Sugar: 22 g

If you’re noticing some similarities between the Meal Replacement drink and NesQuik, that’s because they share the same manufacturer.

What are better alternatives to meal replacement drinks?

There are many better ways to help an aging parent or someone who is very ill meet their nutritional needs.  If they would prefer something in liquid form, purchase a high quality protein shake like Vega One or Ultra Protein Plus by Douglas Labs.  They’ll supply protein, much better quality vitamins and minerals without the sugar and canola oil.  To bump up the calories, blend these with full fat coconut milk, a banana, an avocado, some coconut oil and/or almond butter.

For mineral and protein nourishment, cook up some bone broth.  It’s easy, you just throw something with a bone in it in the slow cooker with a splash of apple cider vinegar and some chopped up veggies and leave it overnight.  A cup per day of bone broth will provide lots of readily absorbed minerals, and protein in the form of gelatin which can be used by the body to make collagen for building healthy bones, hair, skin and nails.

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