Headaches are extremely common, affecting nearly 100% of Americans at some time in their lives. Anyone who has recurrent headaches should suspect possible migraines; an estimated 28 million Americans suffer from migraines, but many are never diagnosed. Migraine headaches are characterized by recurrence, and some of the following symptoms, at least some of the time: involvement of one side of the head, throbbing, moderate to severe intensity, worsening of the throbbing and severity with activity and with bending forward or valsalva maneuver (compression of the abdominal muscles as in lifting or expelling a bowel movement), sensitivity to light and/or loud noise, nausea/vomiting, association with hormonal changes in women (especially around the time of menses), triggering by certain foods, and there is often a family history of migraine. About 15% of migraine sufferers will sometimes experience an aura, usually around the onset of the headache; auras typically involve transient loss of part of one’s vision due to flashing lights, an expanding blind spot, or loss of vision in the left or right visual field, experienced in both eyes. Less frequently, an aura can cause brief numbness or even weakness of one side of the face or body. The duration of a migraine headache is typically one to several hours to three days, and a refractory migraine can last much longer.
If your headaches are migraines, it is important that you know this, because migraine, particularly with aura, can cause stroke. Those who develop migraines with aura late in life are at six-fold risk of having a stroke, compared with the rest of the population. Additionally, migraineurs have a highter incidence of epilepsy, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and elevated homocysteine (a protein associated with inadequate utilization of the B vitamins folic acide, B12, and B6; if elevated, you have increased risks of myocardial infarction, stroke, and other disease).
The brain processes underlying an acute migraine headache include local inflammation, reduced energy production, low levels of ionic magnesium, and high levels of the amino acid glutamate. MRI spectroscopy reveals that migraineurs have lower brain levels of magnesium than do nonmigraineurs. Glutamate is a problem because it is your brain’s primary excitatory neurotransmitter, and in excess, it is able to overexcite neurons to the point that they die. (This process has been well established as the reason that an acute stroke typically involves a larger territory than would be expected, based on the size of the vascular territory that is compromised.) You are able to modify all the causative factors in migraine. Dietary changes can reduce inflammation, increase energy productions and magnesium, and lower levels of glutamate. Many sufferers have eliminated migraines simply by changing from a typical American diet to a more wholesome diet, devoid of processed foods and rich in leafy greens and other vegetables, berries, nuts, seeds, and wholesome animal products (eg grass fed or wild meats and eggs, wild fish). Such foods supply ample magnesium and B vitamins (which are needed for energy production) and reduce inflammation and glutamate. It is very important for any migraine patient to avoid dietary sources of glutamate and aspartate; in the high doeses absorbed from foods, both these neurotoxic substances can kill your brain cells! Both glutamate and aspartate are heavily used in many processed foods and their presence is disguised by euphemisms.
In my extensive experience as a neurologist, providing a well-absorbed form of magnesium, over time, greatly reduces the number and severity of migraines. One can also abort an acute migraine attack by taking a high enough dose of well-absorbed magnesium, such as powdered or liquid magnesium malate/citrate or a chelated magnesium. Intravenous magnesium sulfate has been shown, in many studies, to be a very effective intervention for acute migraine, stopping the headache in up to 80% of patients. Magnesium Sulfate can be equally effective when taken sublingually.
For prevention of migraines, use magnesium as above. Riboflavin (vitamin B-2) in doses up to 400 mg per day, coupled with COQ10, at 200-300 mg up to three times a day, has reduced the number of headache days by 50% in one study. All antioxidants and natural antiinflammatories reduce migraine severity and may also reduce the number of attacks. These include vitamin C, natural vitamin E (mixed tocopherols), curcumin plus quercetin, omega-3 fatty acids, and silymarin. Getting sufficient sleep is also important in migraine prevention, and both sleep and migraine control may be aided by nightly melatonin (a powerful natural brain antioxidant) in doses from 0.5 up to 9 mg.
At the Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine we classify migraines as a cranial neuronitis, which also includes Bells Palsy, Meniere’s Syndrome, (vertigo, tinnitus, nausea, vomiting) and Globus (lump in throat sensation). The importance is that all of these conditions may be caused by the Herepes Simplex Virus, which we have learned to turn off with one of our molecular signals.
When we combine the viral signal with Histamine and Serotonin the treatment becomes even more effective. By rushing a series of 4 separate drops under the tongue most migraines can be turned off. For patients with recurrent migraines taking one drop twice a day often prevents the headaches.
Also, remember that most migraines may be triggered by foods. If you or your loved ones suffe from migraine, schedule an appointment and let us help.
To your health,
Carol E. Benoit, D.O.
The Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine