>How do I tell the difference between a headache and a migraine?
A migraine is a common and especially debilitating type of headache, usually characterized by neurological symptoms called an aura, one sided pain and/or nausea. More than half of migraine sufferers haven’t been diagnosed and may identify simply as having headaches.
In the Global Burden of Disease Study, updated in 2013, migraines were found to be the sixth highest cause worldwide of years lost due to disability.
>>How do I know if my headaches are “chronic?”
There is a clinical definition of “chronic” (15 days per month or more) but it can simply mean headaches that are frequent, reoccurring or disruptive to your daily routine, family time and career goals. Not the once in a while headache you get from being dehydrated, but headaches that repeatedly make it hard to show up as your full, vibrant self for the things you want and need to do for the people you love.
Steps to a Cure
If I had to use one word to describe my approach to the successful treatment and elimination of migraine, that word would be “balance.” The approach involves an orchestrated and synchronized adjustment of the components and functions of several systems in the body to achieve that goal.
Those areas are as follows:
- Neurohormonal system: This area includes the activities of the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and glands that produce steroid hormones, namely the ovaries, testes, and adrenal glands. Our goal is to restore the hormones produced by these glands to levels that are appropriate for the individual.
- Pineal gland: This gland balances the cyclic production of the neurotransmitter serotonin and the hormone melatonin, both of which are key players in migraine, so our goal here is to reset the function of the pineal gland.
- Digestive system: Given that 70% of migraineurs also have some type of gastrointestinal disorder, restoration of balance within the digestive system is a critical part of the Migraine Cure.
- Magnesium balance: Another factor in this part of the program is achieving a balance between two critical minerals, magnesium and calcium, since an imbalance between these substances is a crucial factor in migraine.
- Sympathetic and parasympathetic systems: As we work to balance the four systems mentioned above, we are also simultaneously working toward a balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, which is the ultimate goal of The Migraine Cure.
Migraine headaches are recurrent, painful headaches often accompanied by nausea, photophobia (i.e., light sensitivity) and/or phonophobia (i.e., sound sensitivity). A migraine is often unilateral and pulsating, and may occur with or without an aura (Rakel 2011; Ferri 2012; NINDS 2012; Goldman 2011; NIH MedlinePlus 2012; Mayo Clinic 2011; D’Amico 2008; Univ. of Maryland Medical Center 2012).
About 23 million adults in the United States are reported to experience migraine headaches, and they are one of the most common complaints encountered by neurologists in day to day practice (Cutrer 2012; American Academy of Neurology 2012). Nonetheless, migraine disorder remains a commonly underdiagnosed and undertreated condition (Lipton 2011; Durham 2004; Moloney 2011; Diamond 2007).
Conventional pharmacologic migraine treatments often meet with limited success and may have intolerable side effects or be contraindicated with other common co-existing conditions (Chaibi 2011a; Magis 2011; Rothrock 2011; Sarchielli 2006).
On the other hand, avoiding migraine triggers such as intense emotional stress, poor sleep habits, and unbalanced hormone levels may reduce the occurrence of attacks (Shugart 2012b; Mayo Clinic 2011; Dzugan 2006). In addition, there are a variety of safe and effective natural treatment approaches available for migraine management (Schiapparelli 2010).
Upon reading this protocol, you will learn what causes migraine and how conventional medicine treats migraine headaches. You will also discover how to avoid common migraine triggers and read about natural options that can help you manage migraine headaches.
Migraine headache is often described as intense throbbing or pulsating head pain that interferes with a person’s ability to go about normal daily functioning (Rizzoli 2012; NINDS 2012). Migraine headache pain is often made worse by physical activity (Walling 2012).
Migraine sufferers frequently describe the pain as being limited to one side of the head (Digre 2011a). However, some people do experience migraines on both sides of the head (Digre 2011b). Migraine is commonly associated with nausea, as well as light and/or sound sensitivity (Cutrer 2012). Although migraine duration varies from patient to patient, a typical attack lasts for several hours, and sometimes persists for up to several (e.g. 2-3) days (Walling 2012).
Various physical and/or psychological changes sometimes precede the onset of a migraine headache by a few hours to a few days. This phase of a migraine is called prodrome. The experience of prodrome varies from person to person but can include such things as appetite changes, loss of balance, mood changes, tiredness, neck stiffness, and changes in alertness. The prevalence of a distinct prodrome phase is not entirely clear because studies have reported differing rates, but a significant portion of migraineurs indicate that they experience symptoms that predict the onset of migraine. Individuals who have experienced migraine preceded by prodrome in the past may be able to recognize an impending headache based upon their prodrome symptoms and plan accordingly for the next hours or few days by taking steps such as avoiding rigorous or stressful activity and ensuring that they have adequate stock of migraine relief medication (Rossi 2005).
Approximately 25% of migraineurs will experience a pre-migraine phenomena called aura, which is a neurologic abnormality causing mostly visual, but also other sensory and/or movement disturbances that manifests within a few hours of a migraine headache (Cutrer 2012; Digre 2011c). Most experts believe that migraine aura is caused by a phenomena in the brain called cortical spreading depression (CSD), a slowly progressing wave of excitability followed by long-lasting neuronal inhibition (Bogdanov 2011a).
Scientists have recently uncovered an alarming discovery: Migraines cause lasting brain damage that is closely related to the changes seen in seizures, strokes, and dementia.2,3 Indeed, having a history of migraines is turning out to be a risk factor for some of the most-feared chronic brain disorders.2,4-6
Current migraine treatments include drugs originally developed for treating epilepsy.7-9 Although these drugs are effective in the short term, they were never meant for long-term use, they are fraught with side effects, and they fail to address the underlying cause.7,9
As scientists searched for treatment alternatives to anti-epileptic drugs, they uncovered two ingredients that provide a therapeutic dual-action against the changes in the brain that lead to migraines.
By restoring chemical balance to the brain and improving brain blood flow, gastrodin and magnesium target the underlying mechanisms behind crippling migraine pain, providing safe and effective relief for crippling migraine pain.10-14
Getting to the Root of Migraine Pain
Brain imaging studies show that people with migraines have visible abnormalities that are similar to those seen in stroke victims and in people with dementia.15,16 And some large-scale epidemiological studies suggest that people with chronic migraines are at increased risk for strokes and dementia.17,18
An abrupt reduction in brain blood flow occurs during an ischemic stroke, and more gradually in the condition known as vascular dementia.19,20 Similarly, before and during a migraine attack, blood flow in specific brain regions begins to drop.21-23 In all three cases—stroke, vascular dementia, and migraines—the result is increased vulnerability of brain cells to dysfunction, degeneration, and eventually death.19-23
But brain blood flow disturbances are just part of the picture in migraine headaches. In addition to (and perhaps as a result of) those disruptions, people with migraines show a harmful imbalance in the brain’s excitatory and inhibitory chemical activity.4,24,25
The Migraine/Seizure Connection
Normally, your brain maintains a healthy balance between excitatory and inhibitory activity by modulating neurotransmitters such as GABA.
When you do not have enough GABA, you can end up with the uncoordinated electrical “storm” that presents itself as an epileptic seizure. We now know that a milder version of this process occurs during a migraine.3,26
Because the imbalance between excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters is common to both migraines and to seizures, anti-epileptic drugs might appear to be a promising treatment option for migraine sufferers. Such drugs generally elevate the GABA-related activity in the brain, which has a calming, inhibitory effect.8,9 They also reduce concentrations of excitatory neurotransmitters, further restoring a normal balance.
The problem is that seizure drugs are loaded with adverse effects and were never meant to be used on a long-term basis for the prevention of something like a migraine.7,9 In fact, the US Food and Drug Administration has issued a warning that all anti-epileptic drugs are associated with increased risk of suicidal ideation and behavior.7
Fortunately, magnesium formulations and gastrodin work to improve cerebral blood flow and restore neurotransmitter input as do anti-epileptic drugs…but with a much better safety profile.11-13,27-32 The result is a natural treatment that has been proven to reduce the number and severity of migraine attacks.30
Reduce the Number and Duration of Migraine Attacks
Gastrodin, originally extracted from the root of the orchid Gastrodia elata, has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine, especially for disorders involving the central nervous system such as headaches and seizures as well as stroke and dementia.33 Now, these effects have been validated by modern science.
In one clinical trial, gastrodin was found to reduce the total number and the duration of migraine attacks—and was even more effective than the leading drug flunarizine.30Other studies have also shown that gastrodin has a higher overall effective rate when compared to flunarizine.34-36
How it Works
Studies show that gastrodin-based formulas improve brain blood flow, which is commonly reduced during migraines.12,29 In fact, due to gastrodin’s powerful effect on blood flow, doctors in China use it to treat stroke victims, whose decrease in brain blood flow is life-threatening.37,38
But perhaps gastrodin’s most exciting mechanism of action stems from its ability to modulate both excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters: It raises GABA levels to normal by blocking the enzymes that break it down,11,27 and it decreases levels of excitatory neurotransmitters.28,39,40
Restoring this balance has been shown to be neuro-protective, even against the massive decrease in brain blood flow seen in strokes.28,33,39
Clearly, gastrodin’s multiple mechanisms of action make it an effective choice in the treatment and prevention of migraine headaches. But as we’re about to see, adding magnesium enhances the benefits of gastrodin for comprehensive migraine prevention.
Magnesium for Migraine Relief
Magnesium supplementation has been proven to be effective at preventing and reducing the duration of migraine headaches—with one dramatic study demonstrating a complete disappearance of pain in 87% of those given intravenous magnesium sulfate—and 100% of patients responding to treatment.41
And in another impressive study, 80% of patients receiving intravenous magnesium sulfate experienced complete pain relief within 15 minutes of the injection, along with complete elimination of hypersensitivity to light or sound.42
Doctors in hospitals and clinics have even started using intravenous magnesium sulfate to treat an existing migraine headache.41-44
Clinical trials have demonstrated the benefits of oral magnesium as well. One study found that 360 mg of magnesium reduced the number of days women experienced headaches during their menstrual cycles,45 a study of both male and female migraine patients found that 600 mg/day of magnesium in the form of trimagnesium dicitrate significantly reduced the incidence of migraine headaches,46 and another study found that magnesium supplementation reduced the irritation of facial and neck muscles that is common in migraines.47
In total, more than a half a dozen solid clinical trials have now demonstrated the utility of oral magnesium for preventing migraines and reducing their severity.45-51
How it Works
Magnesium is increasingly being recommended for migraine prevention—and for good reason.13,50,51 When it comes to treating and preventing migraines, the mineral magnesium is able to work hand-in-hand with gastrodin to improve brain blood flow and to help balance the brain’s neurotransmitters.
Studies show that up to 50% of migraine patients are deficient in magnesium during an attack, and that they have a high ratio of calcium to magnesium.13,52 This imbalance sets the stage for the contraction of brain blood vessels resulting in a reduction of blood flow.52
Researchers using high-tech Doppler ultrasound to measure blood flow velocity in a major brain artery have definitively proven that supplementation with magnesium does increase both brain blood flow and its velocity.48,53
Like gastrodin, magnesium also has beneficial effects on the balance of excitatory to inhibitory neurotransmitters. Magnesium is a natural blocker of the excitatory receptor on brain cells, so when ample magnesium is available those receptors don’t trigger the excitatory electrical impulse.54-56 This allows the brain to move into its more balanced, calm mode.
Despite the fact that migraine headaches affect around 18% of American women and 6% of men, mainstream medicine has yet to find a safe, long-term way to prevent this debilitating condition.1
Connie’s comments: When I have a headache, it usually goes away after I eat a healthy meal. My brother has a migraine when he turned 17 and from then on, he started to have mild dementia.