Medicine has made great strides in recent years to assist migraine sufferers. The headache-stopping medications are truly remarkable in their ability to stop a migraine in its tracks. The area of greatest concern to migraineurs, how to prevent the onset of a migraine, remains an unsolved mystery.
This is where medical scientists who have studied the role of digestion and nutrition and migraines may offer some possible answers in preventing migraine headaches from occurring.
Many medical researchers who study the role of nutrition and digestion in disease formation believe that most disease states begin with or are complicated by some level of digestive dysfunction. When the body is not efficient in digesting and absorbing the nutrients it needs, it does not have all the essential building blocks at its disposal, and some level of dysfunction may occur. This dysfunction may effect circulation, tissue repair, respiration, liver function, potentially any system or organ within the body.
Digestive allergies and migraine headache
The most common explanation of the cause of migraine in the medical community is that it is the result of changes in the blood vessels in the area of the brain. Therefore, researchers concentrate on ways to interfere with the process of vascular constriction and dilation and thereby reduce or eliminate the pain. This theory does not explain why the changes in the blood vessels occur. This approach is useful in treating headaches, but physicians and researchers are also seeking to understand and treat the cause of the blood vessel constriction that afflicts migraine sufferers.
One of the prevailing theories in nutritional circles is that the vascular changes may be the result of a food allergy. This is an allergy of incomplete digestion, rather than skin rashes and respiratory concerns. A breakdown in the process of intestinal absorption can occur for any number of reasons. Because this function is absolutely critical within the body even minimal digestive dysfunction may cause problems.
Food absorption and brain chemistry in migraine headache
The debate has continued for a long time. Is migraine a vascular/circulatory disease or is it a neurological disease? While there is no conclusion as to the root cause of the problem, the research increasingly leans in the direction of a neurological disorder.
Some recent research findings that show promise for preventing migraine headaches with nutrition include:
- 95% of the body's serotonin is made in the bowel
- There are more than a hundred million nerve cells in the human small intestine, a number roughly equal to the number of nerve cells in the spinal cord. Add on the nerve cells of the esophagus, stomach, and large intestine and you find we have more nerve cells in our digestive system than in our spine.
- The digestive nervous system contains every one of the classes of neurotransmitter found in the brain.
- The multiplicity of neurotransmitters in the bowel suggests that there is a strong connection between the brain and the digestive system.
- The same type of tissue damage that is found in the brain of patients with Parkinson's disease has also been found in their digestive nervous system. * Serotonin regulation in the digestive system and brain is accomplished by cells that re-uptake excess serotonin when its job is complete. The drugs developed to treat depression such as Prozac inhibit the re-uptake of serotonin. While it is not clear why this lifts depression, the drugs exert a similar effect on the re-uptake of serotonin in the digestive tract, which seems to be responsible for the gastrointestinal disturbance suffered by many who use anti-depressants.
Nutrition for preventing migraine headaches
- Digestive enzymes taken with meals increases absorption and reduces the work of the liver
- Probioticstaken with meals enhance immunity and can reduce inflammation in the blood vessels
- Vitamins B2 and B3 have been shown to dramatically reduce the frequency of migraine headaches in European studies
- Magnesium has been shown to dramatically reduce the frequency and severity of migraine headaches in European studies
- Zinc has been shown to reduce the abnormal blood vessel contractions associated with migraine, as well as reduce inflammation in the digestive tract, which may be a trigger of migraine in sensitive individuals.
One landmark nutritional study tested a pre-digested fish protein and liver enhancement herbal formula that included the nutrients mentioned above with 60% of the 40 participants no longer getting headaches, and 20% experiencing a reduction in duration and frequency, while 20% saw no improvement in a 90-day, placebo-controlled, double-blind study.
James Sensenig, MD. 2001. Migraine Study (Online) http://www.foreverwell.com/study.html.
Non-drug Alternatives to Preventative Treatment of Migraines (Online)
http://www.migraines.org/treatment/treatctm.htm accessed 03.01.2010
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