Migraines can affect all aspects of life, from social and emotional health, to pursuing professional endeavors, to limiting academic productivity. They are inconvenient, painful, and debilitating. Our objective is to try and limit these migraine experiences as much as possible, and the solution could be simpler than we think! Reduce your systemic inflammation and your migraines will decrease.
Those who have experienced a migraine know that certain triggers set off a variety of symptoms. Certain foods such as msg, chocolate or red wine, stress, poor sleep, hormones, etc all have the potential to illicit a migraine and make even the simplest tasks frustrating. Because migraines are a habitual experience, the more you irritate the nervous system and trigger the migraine reflex, the more likely you are to have another one down the road… queue chronic migraine.
There are three membranes that line the skull and protect the vertebral canal. Collectively they are called the meninges. When these membranes become inflamed, they activate pain receptors and trigger all of the systems associated with migraines. An over-activated nervous system causes a release of cytokines, stimulating the release of even more inflammatory chemicals. If we can limit this neuro-inflammation, we can lessen the pain sensitivity in the nervous system and improve life quality.
Migraines and Stress
Looking at the bigger picture, there are a number of simultaneous issues experienced with migraines that seem too common to be coincidental. To name a few, chronic migraine is linked to depression, anxiety, poor sleep, and chronic pain. First and foremost, cephalgiaphobia, the fear of having a headache, is a real thing and actually drives the behavior of having a migraine. This creates a vicious cycle. If fear of a potential headache is disabling, you are less likely to workout, less likely to engage is social activities, and more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety. Individuals prone to frequent bouts of migraines may overuse prescription and over the counter medications and develop into an overactive state of brain chemistry. A big factor that drives this behavior is anxiety. It’s not surprising that migraine and anxiety both work through a hyperactive sympathetic nervous system. Being in a constant “fight or flight” state causes stress, and if we can calm that system we can improve migraine sensitivity. That being said, addressing these issues first will return the body to a more relaxed and balanced state, and decrease neuroinflammation. Mindfulness type programs such as sleep hygiene, stress release, body relaxation, and chronic pain coping all play an important role in the management of migraines.
Migraines, Inflammation, and Gut Health
Inflammation, inflammation, inflammation… I can’t place enough emphasis on the importance of keeping inflammation as low as possible in the body. Gut health and inflammation can be associated with nearly all health issues, including migraines. Along with the meninges, little cells called “mast cells” reside in the lining of the brain, but they also live in the skin, GI tract, lungs, and every other organ system in our bodies. The same things that trigger migraine also trigger mast cell activity. Exacerbated mast cells wreak havoc on the body by releasing proinflammatory substances (think histamine, cytokines). Abdominal pain/ diarrhea, food intolerances, fatigue, asthma, chronic migraines, celiac disease, and cognitive concerns are all symptoms of overactive mast cells. If this sounds like you, consider switching your attention to gut health. An elimination diet, where you eliminate potential inflammatory foods (especially gluten, eggs, dairy, and grains) and slowly bring them back in, paying close attention to any reactions, is a good place to start. Try eliminating these foods for 6 weeks and see how you feel. By decreasing inflammation in the gut, we decrease inflammation in the rest of the body- including the brain, mast cells, and surrounding meninges. As more and more research is being published, the power of a healthy gut flora is truly astounding.
Photon therapy has been successful for multiple conditions, including migraines. A medical device called the BioPhoton emits non-laser, near Infrared-light pockets known as Photons. Photons break the painful inflammatory cycle by dilating small and lymphatic vessels. This increase in circulation removes the irritating inflammatory products and results in accelerated healing and pain relief. The best part? It is a quick, painless, and non-invasive treatment (typically 10 to 20 minutes) that can provide rapid relief.
Vitamin therapy is also beneficial when it comes to migraine treatment and prevention. Magnesium is essential to nerve and muscle function and research shows that people with migraines often have low levels of magnesium. Supplementing, either orally or intravenously, is extremely helpful. Other potential therapies include Bosweilla, riboflavin, coenzyme Q10, and vitamin B12.
Last but not least, nerve blocks are tremendously effective, and the downsides are nearly negligible. Nerve blocks are essentially shutting off the pain receptors, and those with debilitating migraine pain will experience instantaneous relief after a nerve block. Nerve blocks may sound like an invasive and intense procedure, but administering a nerve block is quick and easy. Using a rubber catheter, anesthetic medicine is administered into the nasal cavity, reaching the sphenopalatine ganglion, and providing 6-8 weeks of relief. No needles, no crazy procedures, and instant relief.
The Quick and Dirty
In summary, inflammation is a primary culprit for chronic migraine. Healing your gut, focusing on mindfullness type programs, and supplementing with vitamins and interventional programs are all effective in migraine treatment and prevention. Cheers to a happy mind and body!