Migraines Headache Relief: An Epic Tale of the Body's Civil War
What is a migraine headache?
Migraine headaches are a well known phenomenon experienced on a regular basis by many people. On one level, every headache involves some sort of limitation of space in the head, or skull so the blood vessels, or nerves around the brain get compressed. Some people even experience “visual migraines” which can make them temporarily blind, or just create clouds, or glitches in their field of vision. Many times in my practice I’ve encountered people who have tried everything that modern medicine has at its disposal, and nothing has worked. There are even cases where clients have had a new wave of migraine headaches occur after taking pain medication. Well, I am here to tell you that there is a potential answer for these problems.Read on to learn how to take power over your migraines by confronting their source.
What causes migraine headaches, and how can you treat them?
First we’ll talk about two physical causes of this highly misunderstood phenomenon. Migraine headaches, like every other noncommunicable condition known to humankind, are caused by a combination of physical, chemical, and emotional stress. From stories shared by clients, I’ve heard that the origin of their migraines started from a plethora of different situations. For some, it was a series of concussions, for others it was a traumatic birth, a divorce, puberty, or only triggered by certain foods (more on that soon). Dr. Robert Fulford had a theory that trauma, no matter the kind, happens to individuals at some point in their life, and interrupts what’s called the craniosacral rhythm. This rhythm is a flow of cerebrospinal fluid from the brain (more specifically the pineal gland) to the spinal cord. We once believed that after we are infants and have a “soft spot” on our head, our skull bones fuse together to form one solid, non-moving skull apparatus. This is no longer understood to be true. The bones of the skull only come together and form a suture joint. This joint comes together much like how we interlace our fingers in a prayer gesture. Then scientists observed that there is a very subtle expansion and contraction of the skull three to five times a minute. That is caused by the returning, and exiting of cerebrospinal fluid from the brain, down the spinal cord, to the sacrum (the vertebrae right above the tailbone). This could also explain why migraine headaches tend to eb and flow in a very subtle manner, where for a few moments it’s more intense, and for a few moments it then subsides a very small amount in most cases.
I have my own theory that both of these causes can also be related to proper growth through childhood, and early adulthood. Proper growth in the face and head are very important and come from lots of chewing, and a limited amount of polyunsaturated fatty acids (which limit the cell mitochondria’s ability to produce energy).
What about tension headaches?
In my experience headaches are never caused by just one physical factor. A percentage of cause is always partly from the craniosacral rhythm, and partly from tension. Just like the migraine headache, tension headaches are caused by a lack of space in the head due to patterns in the fascia that restrict space and movement in the front of the neck and the back of the skull. Most importantly, if craniosacral therapy doesn’t work, that’s a sign that the tension aspect of the headache is heavily affecting the dura mater. The dura mater is a membrane that surrounds the brain and attaches to a few of the muscles in the occipital region. It also lies between the brain and the skull, so if that’s stuck and you open up space in the skull, it may still be restricted on the deeper level. Working with the dura mater can take a lot of frequent soft tissue manipulation sessions to coax free. I would recommend around once every 72 hours, or twice a week until the headaches are gone.
If that doesn’t work… Then you’ve exhausted your options for the potential physical causes of the headache. But, it’s likely you will have enjoyed the experience and will have made some improvements.
What are some other potential causes of headaches that are not physical?
#1 The Liver!
The liver has many functions and sometimes a few supplements, like milk thistle, can help liver function improve as long as one also stops the behavior that is causing the liver to malfunction. Sometimes a duct doesn’t drain properly and that can be a large cause of migraines too. I am a big fan of Dr. Eric Berg’s supplement: Gallbladder Formula. Gymini Lifestyle is not affiliated with Dr. Eric Berg. We’re just big fans.
#2 Hydration & Minerals
If you get dehydrated you will get a headache. That’s a pretty well known fact. Deficiencies in minerals like magnesium, potassium, sodium, manganese, etc. can also lead to headaches. These are great things to supplement due to the fact that the agricultural practices of the last century have degraded the soil quality in the world, so in order to get the same amount of minerals from an orange in the 1940’s you would have to eat 12 oranges. Do not get your electrolytes from Gatorade or some sugary drink at the convenience store. Take mineral supplements that are in powder form and have zero sugar. Glucose and many vitamins and minerals compete for cell receptor sites, so the more sugar you have, the less likely you are to absorb vitamins and minerals (particularly vitamin C). Minerals taste salty. Everybody likes salty flavors.
Incidentally, many people who begin a ketogenic diet also encounter mineral deficiencies, because they lose water weight quickly and a lot of the minerals are washed out with the water.
This is by far my favorite topic. For the sake of brevity, I will not go into gratuitous detail. If you hurt your foot, it will swell. That swelling is the body’s immune system healing the area. The immune system is also responsible for construction in the body. More and more in the last decade researchers are learning about common foods that we consume regularly in the standard American diet that are potentially more harmful, and less essential than we originally thought. These are now being referred to as antinutrients. As far as we know, different individuals have better, or worse tolerances to these categories of foods, but all people have some level of reaction to them which can cause subtle, to severe autoimmune reactions from achy joints to full blown lupus. The mechanisms of these foods are not fully understood, but most of them lead to something called “leaky gut syndrome” or even “leaky brain syndrome”. For example, gliadins (glutenin+alpha gliadin = gluten) have a magnetic bond with something called zonlulin. Zonulin’s job in our body is to maintain the tight junctions between gut epithelial cells. When alpha gliadin waltzes through our G.I. tract, zonulin says “hey sexy” and vacates its post, leaving the gut cells separated. If this happens over and over, the gaps between cells become more frequent, and we have a breach in our body’s first line of defence. (This can also happen at the blood brain barrier.) The body’s response to this clever invasion is to line up soldiers (white blood cells) at the breaches all along our gut wall. Remember what happens when white blood cells show up? We get inflammation. However this inflammation isn’t local, it’s systemic. Now if you can fathom this metaphor, our body only has a limited amount of white blood cells. A war is waging. Gliadin is clever at the art of deception and disguise. The white blood cells are no longer certain who is the enemy, and begin killing each other by mistake. Oh the agony, oh the autoimmunity! On top of that your body still needs to repair its injured foot. That takes longer. You can see how if you’re systemically inflamed, that might contribute to a limited amount of space in your head as well. Hence we have a chemical cause, leading to a physical restriction, creating emotional distress.. Okay that was fun. But now I'll give you a list of all of these “antinutrients” and if you’re serious, you can experiment with eating other things. This stuff hasn’t reached academia yet, and probably won’t because there’s little profit in healthy people.
Phytic Acid (Phytate): Grains: whole wheat, oats, and rice. Legumes: black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, soy beans, peanuts, and lentils. Nuts and seeds: Such as walnuts, pine nuts, almonds, and sesame seeds. Tubers: Such as potatoes, turnips, beets, and carrots. Phytic Acid Interferes with absorption of minerals.
Gliadins (Gluten): Bread, noodles, oats, brown rice, miso, supplements, crackers, tortillas, cookies, alfredo sauce, soy sauce, many dressings, read the label for wheat. Gliadins are the most difficult to digest plant protein, causing gastrointestinal stress.
Tannins (Tannic Acid): Wine, coffee, some tea, grapes, cranberries, strawberries, blueberries, apples, apricots, barley, peaches, dry fruits, mint, basil, rosemary. Tannins are an enzyme inhibitor that prevents adequate digestion and can cause protein deficiency and gastrointestinal problems.
Oxalates: Beans, beer, beets, berries, chocolate, coffee, cranberries, cruciferous vegetables, spinach, dark leafy greens, nuts, oranges, rhubarb, cola, soy, sweet potatoes, black tea, tofu, wheat bran. Similar to tannins,oxalates are found in highest quantities in sesame seeds, black and brown varieties of millet.
Lectins: Lentils, beans, peanuts, cashews, nightshades (goji berries, potatoes, eggplant, tomatoes, peppers), wheat and grains, corn, and soybeans. Lectins are found in large quantities in wheat and beans, which also mess with absorption and can cause bloating, gas, and indigestion. Raw grains, dairy and legumes that are improperly prepared can have particularly high levels of lectins
Saponins: I’ll just say beans. Similar to lectins and gliadins, saponins also damage the gastrointestinal lining, a cause of leaky gut and autoimmune disorders.
Trypsin Inhibitors: (Also including chymotrypsin inhibitors) are found in most grain products, cereals, breads, baby foods, and porridge. Green beans, sweet peas, black-eyed peas and all other beans. Are you seeing a pattern?
Isoflavones: These involve the topic of polyphenols. They’re in the highest levels in soybeans and create changes to hormones, and issues with digestion. In particular it can raise estrogen levels.
Solanine: Also found heavily in nightshades. This can create a positive hormetic effect in small doses, but to most who are sensitive to nightshades, it’s just a poisoning effect.
Chaconine: Present in corn, and the nightshade family (solanaceae). This can also be beneficial in ways related to hormesis, but it’s not worth the risk for most people because of the potential for causing digestive issues.
I would start with eliminating the foods that contain multiple categories of antinutrients like legumes, grains, and nightshades. The hormesis effect, as mentioned above, can also be achieved with hypothermic (cold exposure) and hyperthermic conditioning (heat exposure). So a trip to a cryochamber, laying in the snow, jumping in a cold lake or river, sitting in a sauna, going from the hot tub to the pool, can all create this positive health benefit. Saunas and cold exposure also have many benefits besides the hormetic effect.
Cold exposure benefits: aids fat burning, fights inflammation, may support longevity, improves lymphatic function, strengthens the nervous system, supports and speeds recovery, regulates blood sugar levels, improves sleep quality, strengthens the immune system, combats oxidative stress, and reduces pain.
Heat exposure benefits (specifically infrared sauna): improves sleep, relaxes muscles, detoxification of the body through sweating, weight loss, relieves sore muscles and joint pain, purifies skin, improves circulation, improves cell health and mitochondria function, and reduces blood pressure
Hormesis is defined as a phenomenon in which a harmful substance, or environment gives stimulating and beneficial effects to living organisms when the quantity of the harmful substance, or event is small.
Alcohol is an obvious element to mention briefly. My own personal experience with migraines was only related to this topic. A hangover headache is considered a migraine. I stopped drinking, so I stopped having headaches. Lots of alcoholic beverages are also high in tannins like mentioned above. I recommend that if you have a problem with your alcohol consumption, read “The Cure for Alcoholism”, by Dr. Roy Eskapa; or “Easy Way to Control Alcohol” by Alan Carr... Or both!
I hope you’re beginning to see how there’s a good reason the medical community has not been able to find consistent answers for people who have migraine headaches. My intention with this blog is to create a bigger picture of wellness and how it relates to migraine headaches so you leave with all the answers you might need, and can go and try all of these things. I will leave the comment section open on this blog, so please tell us all your story, so we can get a nice little community talking about this stuff. Now I will briefly touch on emotional stress.
What’s the deal with emotional stress?
I always like to refer to the power pose Tedx talk I saw years ago. They speak about how your posture can improve your mindset. But the relationship between physical, chemical, and emotional stress is always cycling through in loops that maintain health, diminish health, or improve health. If you stand up straight, your chemistry changes in your brain, then emotionally you feel better. If you are stressed out and in a startle response (read my first blog on ego for more information), you will hunch down to protect your vitals, and if this happens over and over, your fascia will reinforce that pattern, and you will become more permanently slouched. So the recommendation I always like to make is to influence your mind with good chemicals going in, and good movement signals. But the only specifically mind related activities I would recommend that exist are guided meditation, guided hypnosis, sensory deprivation float tanks, and energy work (Reiki).
Benefits of Meditation:
- Reduce stress (BAM there you go!)
- Reduce anxiety
- Promotes emotional healing
- Enhances self-awareness
- Lengthens attention span
- Improves memory
- Improves temperament
- Can improve addictions
- Improves sleep
- Helps change relationship to pain
- Decreases blood pressure (I forgot to mention blood pressure as a potential cause of migraines).
- It’s FREE