We all know we need to reduce our stress, get more rest, and exercise. But how do we break the cycle of overextending ourselves and prioritize our healing above all else? It’s tempting to just focus on diet as the key leverage point in healing, but it is still hard to heal if we are unable implement other important lifestyle changes that reduce stress and give our bodies a chance to repair. In the video below I share my personal explorations with sleep hygiene, exercise, and how to make these a priority.
Despite much research and knowledge that has been gleaned over the years about migraine, it is still a stubborn and formidable beast of a condition that confounds many of medicine’s best practitioners. I coach people with migraine headaches who have seen some of the most accomplished migraine experts in the world and have tried very sophisticated treatments and medications for migraine – and yet they still suffer.
Because migraine headaches are a manifestation of a serious chronic systemic inflammatory process affecting every major organ of the body, there are infinite angles and lenses through which we can try to understand migraine. Migraine is associated with:
- food sensitivities and digestive problems
- environmental chemical sensitivities
- reduced thyroid function (hypothyroid)
- congested liver and gallbladder
- adrenal/pituitary axis imbalances and kidney problems
- neurotransmitter imbalances with attendant mood “disorders” such as anxiety and depression
- cranial nerve activation and cortical spreading depression
- hormonal imbalances (low progesterone to estrogen ratios)
- low antioxidant status (especially glutathione)
- electrolyte and consequent blood pressure imbalances (caused mostly by compromised kidney function)
- beta-amyloid plaque/lesions
- low blood pressure
- blood sugar imbalances
- blood platelet aggregation (“sticky blood”)
- lymphatic congestion
- compromised mitochondrial function
- peripheral neuropathies
- increased risk of stroke
- hypermobile joints and lax connective tissue around blood vessels (Ehlers Danlos Syndrome)
- Light sensitivities
- neck and muscular tension
- unresolved trauma
- chronic stress
- Chronic viral and fungal infections
- Comorbities like cataracts and arthritis
- And the list goes on and on
What could possibly explain this wide range of problems? Where would we even start?
If you ask the experts, you’ll see that they are still debating whether migraine starts in the gut as a digestive and enzymatic problem, is caused by circulatory issues (dilated or constricted blood vessels), or originates in the brain itself (cortical spreading depression).
Let’s not lose sight of the fact that it’s all one integrated system. Since the vagus nerve connecting gut and brain is a two-way circuit (with 80% of the nerve transmission going from gut to head), I’m not sure why these differing perspectives on the root cause are seen as mutually exclusive. What if ALL of these perspectives are right? And what if, despite being right, these experts are overlooking something crucial?
No matter what the experts say about migraine starting in the brain, we know that migraine in a large number of people is triggered by foods and improved when these foods are eliminated. We also know that other factors like sleep deprivation and stress can cause migraine without a food trigger. These are not incompatible viewpoints (or even different types of migraine, necessarily) because as we know, migraine is a systemic inflammatory condition. In a constant state of inflammation, triggers can and do come from any number of directions and reinforce each other through infinite nonlinear feedback loops.
There does seem to be quite a bit of agreement that alterations in the microbiome play a big role in not only migraine but most chronic inflammatory diseases. The problem is that so much of the research has been exclusively focused on the gut microbiome, and that is what comes to mind when someone says “microbiome”. As it turns out, every individual part of our body has a microbiome – and that includes our blood and our brain.
Our Microbiome Includes Viruses
Awhile back, I used to think primarily of bacteria when I considered that people who have had antibiotics have an altered microbiome. I focused on the problem that many bacteria produce histamine and glutamate, two molecules that, when present in excess, can overwhelm a person’s body with inflammation and pain. These bacteria can even get infected by viruses, which also make up the microbiome.
New viruses in the human microbiome are being discovered in droves as we speak.
. . . [W]e cannot study human chronic inflammatory disease without understanding that viruses we have not yet identified may play a role in many human disease processes. To do so would be like going to the rainforest, studying only 2% of the animals, and coming to conclusions about how the entire rainforest functions off that information alone.
Despite this fact many doctors have been taught to test for only 10-20 well-known viruses in their human patients. If these viruses are not identified in the patient, it is assumed that a virus (or group of viruses) cannot be driving or contributing to the patient’s disease. We must work hard to change this assumption, because it greatly prevents the medical/research communities from looking at a much broader picture of what might be going on. (Source)
Researchers at Harvard Medical School have found that:
. . . even “non-sick” humans harbor over 200 organisms in the brain. Those numbers don’t even include the virome (viruses). And we know that a bunch of herpes viruses can also survive in the brain . . . the gut microbiome and the brain microbiome communicate a lot via the vagus nerve. There’s lots of traffic, with bacteria in the brain/gut talking to one another via this highway all the time. Some products of gut fermentation like Short Chain Fatty Acids (SCFAs) literally travel the Vagus Nerve (physical translocation). . . . Conversely, certain bacteria in the gut live exclusively off chemicals generated in the brain that are transported to the gut (Source).
If you’re like me, you probably read that statement and thought about what an amazing organism the body is to be able to communicate between different systems so well – and marvel at the fact that bacteria and viruses live in the brain. But if you’re like me (especially if you don’t have active herpes infections or any history of that) you probably didn’t really make much of the fact that herpes viruses live in our brains, or wonder if they could be the cause of your migraine headache.
OR, maybe you are someone like the many chronic migraine sufferers I see who “just happen” to also deal with chronic recurring herpes infections, from blisters on your mouth to your butt. If so, you may have had a little aha moment reading that statement above, and wondered if having herpes in your brain might be related to your migraines.
Like most people (at least, “older” people who grew up prior to the chicken-pox vaccine), I got chicken pox as a kid and mono as a teenager. It wasn’t until I was in my late twenties, having experienced the negative effects of industrial medicine and antibiotics, that my microbiome started to get seriously out of whack. The c-section operation that I had with the birth of my first son tipped me over into migraine hell. Five years later now I believe the sheer stress of that event, coupled with the mineral deficiencies that resulted from it, triggered latent herpes virus to get a stronghold in my brain (and perhaps my gut and sinus).
Two and a half years after that c-section operation (after suffering from about 3 migraines per week and other countless headaches during that time), I found a way to manage my symtoms wih what I now call the SimplyWell Protocol. As elated as I was to have a clear brain again, I was also puzzled by the fact that the migraines would return when I stopped the Protocol. I was also mystified as to why it was that after I was able to eat every other food that had previously triggered me, I could not eat even the slightest amount of spicy chilli food without getting some kind of brain fog or headache.
Even after five years of researching migraine, I didn’t think herpes played a role in migraine pathology – until I set out to answer a simple question that kept bugging me. I realized there was a clue here that could potentially hack the mystery of migraine headaches if I could unravel why capsaicin was such a trigger.
Why is it that capsaicin in chilli remains my only food trigger for headache after years on my Protocol which otherwise works to allow me to eat hard cheese, wine, chocolate, beer, etc without any problems?
Little did I know this question would lead me to believe that herpes virus infection is the underlying root cause of most migraine headaches.
How Deficiencies Contribute to Viral Overload
As you may know from my last blog post, “Bioavailable Copper for Healing Migraine, Histamine, Herpes, and Hormones (Video)“, I’ve been obsessed with copper recently.
I’ve been studying Morley Robbin’s Root Cause Protocol, a series of steps designed to help copper become bioavailable and thereby able to perform its numerous critical enzymatic functions (including the breakdown of histamine by DAO).
Ceruloplasm is a protein made in the liver that transports copper making it bioavailable, and requires vitamin A and C and some other nutrients. Incidentally, ceruloplasm also helps carry iron to the cells. Without it, these metals in unbound form accumulate in organs and tissues, including the brain but also the liver. Iron buildup is a key feature of amyloid plaque present in migraineurs. And heavy metal toxicity in general is a known comorbidity in those with migraine. As it turns out, viral infections get triggered by heavy metal toxicity – yet very few people believe that migraine is caused by a virus (or two, or more). Viruses thrive in the lowered acidic pH caused by metals especially iron.
Harvard neurologist Robert Moir stated in an interview that herpes virus was discovered in amyloid plaque of many people beyond those with Alzheimers – and that (contrary to what was previously assumed), amyloid-beta plaque may serve an intelligent adaptive function . . . “our studies have found that amyloid-beta has strong antimicrobial activity against the herpes viruses and these viruses are linked to increased plaque deposition.” (Source). Other researchers have found confirmation that “infection of cultured neuronal and glial cells with HSV1 leads to a dramatic increase in the intracellular levels of beta-amyloid (Abeta) 1-40 and 1-42 . . . “ (Source).
There are 9 herpes virus types that infect humans: herpes simplex viruses 1 and 2; varicella-zoster virus, Epstein–Barr virus, human cytomegalovirus, human herpesvirus 6A and 6B, human herpesvirus 7, and Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus.
Another 130 herpes types infect other animal species – such as ocean turtles, who develop tumors when their herpes virus gets out of control because of exposure to excessive nitrogen compounds in the ocean (hmmmm, migraines get triggered with nitrogen too!).
Knowing that a mineral imbalance of copper would contribute to heavy metal buildup and opportunistic infection of herpes (and other) viruses in the brain, I started to wonder how capsaicin (my one remaining trigger for headache) might affect herpes. This single question has led me down a path of many questions as I cross-check the validity of the idea that capsaicin is a potent trigger for migraine because it is actually triggering herpes.
Some Research Notes
I have found plenty of evidence to support the hypothesis that what many people believe is migraine may instead be a type of herpesvirus meningoencephalitis. I am not sure which herpes viruses are implicated though it appears different types trigger encephalitis. I also found out that excess sulfur in the body (which causes sulfur sensitivity issues in many with migraine) robs the body of copper, further exacerbating the problem.
The inquiry and research notes I found along the way looked something like what is outlined below.
I wonder if a connection between herpes and migraine has already been proposed or established? Looks like it has, with the majority of the evidence summarized by NaPier and Morimoto in their 2018 paper “Migraine Headache Treated with Famciclovir and Celecoxib: A Case Report”:
“A previously healthy 21-year-old white woman presented with a severe headache and was diagnosed with severe migraine headache disorder. She initially was treated with standard migraine headache medications without symptomatic improvement. She was then given famciclovir and celecoxib. The patient fully recovered within days and continues to enjoy significant reduction in severity and frequency of symptoms. Famciclovir and celecoxib may work synergistically against HSV. The virus may play a role in the pathophysiology of migraine headaches, and this is the first case report of successful migraine headache treatment with these medications. . . It appears that a triggering event in a genetically predisposed patient can initiate a cascade resulting in the headache experience.1 Specifically, trigeminal ganglion activation seems to be a common early observation among patients with migraine.. Herpes simplex virus (HSV) has been known to reside within the trigeminal ganglion and is speculated to play a role in migraine headache pathophysiology. Treatments to target HSV infection may be important in migraine headache management. . . .
There has been much speculation about the relationship between migraine headaches and HSV, which already has been implicated in some forms of cranial nerve (CN) disorders. In 1991, Adour demonstrated that patients with acute herpes labialis also exhibited [Cranial Nerve] deficiencies involving [Cranial Nerves] V, VII, IX, and X. This phenomenon was termed HSV-related polyganglionitis. In 2003, Thiel et al examined the presence of HSV in postmortem ganglions. By using a specific immunostaining technique, the investigators revealed that HSV-1 and HSV-3 latently resided in the [Cranial Nerve] V (trigeminal) ganglions. It was then speculated that chronic infection and inflammation of the ganglion by [Herpes Simplex Virus] were present in many patients. In 2013, VanElzakker hypothesized that pathologically activated glial cells in the vagal sensory ganglia could cause an exaggerated sickness response that is found in chronic fatigue syndrome. If VanElzakker’s hypothesis is true, then we must ask whether glial cells in the intracranial trigeminal ganglia, pathologically activated by [Herpes Simplex Virus], could initiate migraine.” (Source)
Here is another single case report:
“. . . A 49-year-old lady presents with a 3-year history of a constant 24/7 headache in the right frontal-temporal area of her head and deep behind her eyes. This headache is severe, constant and requires daily analgesics, which have caused a fatty liver. She is overweight and extremely tired.
“She has been told by a neurologist that it is a migraine, which does not make sense, as migraines are episodic headaches and come and go. Her headaches do not respond to drugs that suppress migraines and the neurologist has not been able to help her. She continues to suffer and sees a gynecologist, who tells her that she has headaches due to menopause! Strange, as headaches are not a symptom of menopause and hormone therapy does not help her headaches.
“The clue is that over the previous 3 years she has had an episode of shingles affecting the right forehead and right eye, which was treated with anti-viral medications. Notwithstanding treatment the constant headache remains. Other causes of her headaches are excluded including high blood pressure, sinus infection and brain tumors, and extensive investigations reveal no cause for her headaches. I deduce that she has the herpes virus active in her brain, trigeminal nerve and possibly her optic nerves, which is causing the inflammation and thus the pain.
“I prescribe a detox for her liver and nutritional supplements to fight the herpes virus and reduce brain inflammation. Her headaches gradually lessen and she starts to have headache free days.” (Source)
Interesting. So infection with herpes viruses has been proposed as causative for migraine, and antiviral herpes medication to migraine presumably caused by herpes has had mixed results.
Looks like a number of different herpes virus strains are implicated in encephalopathy (brain inflammation and swelling). Migraine is a form of encephalopathy.
“There is evidence that aberrant inflammation triggered by herpes simplex can result in granulomatous inflammation in the brain, which responds to steroids. While the herpes virus can be spread, encephalitis itself is not infectious. Other viruses can cause similar symptoms of encephalitis, though usually milder (Herpesvirus 6, varicella zoster virus, Epstein-Barr, cytomegalovirus, coxsackievirus, etc).” (Source)
What further evidence is there to show that herpes causes infection in the cranial nerves?
“Evidence suggests that many cranial nerve syndromes, such as migraine headache, acute vestibular neuronitis, globus hystericus, carotidynia, acute facial paralysis (Bell’s palsy), and Meniere’s disease, are caused by the neurotropic herpes simplex virus (HSV). Because transitory cranial nerve dysfunction during acute HSV infection can be asymptomatic but often occurs in conjunction with mucocutaneous vesicles, we tested five subjects with herpes labialis for cranial nerve dysfunction. . . . Similar findings of an acute, transitory nature should suggest to the clinician a viral polyganglionitis caused by HSV infection.” (Source)
Well, a lot of my migraine clients have active infections of herpes, but I wonder about all the others who don’t. Could herpes still be playing a role in their migraines?
“Upon primary infection of the oronasal mucosa, herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) rapidly reaches the ganglia of the peripheral nervous system via axonal transport and establishes lifelong latency in surviving neurons. Central to the establishment of latency is the ability of HSV-1 to reliably switch from productive, lytic spread in epithelia to nonproductive, latent infection in sensory neurons. It is not fully understood what specifically disposes incoming particles of a highly cytopathogenic, fast-replicating alphaherpesvirus to nonproductive, latent infection in sensory neurons.” (Source)
75% of all people with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) get migraine. I wonder if herpes infection plays a role in CFS?
“The vagus nerve infection hypothesis of CFS contends that CFS symptoms are a pathologically exaggerated version of normal sickness behavior that can occur when sensory vagal ganglia or paraganglia are themselves infected with any virus or bacteria. . . . pathogen-activated glial cells can bombard the sensory vagus nerve with proinflammatory cytokines and other neuroexcitatory substances, initiating an exaggerated and intractable sickness behavior signal. According to this hypothesis, any pathogenic infection of the vagus nerve can cause CFS, which resolves the ongoing controversy about finding a single pathogen.” (Source)
So it seems plausible that herpes (or other) viruses, even while latent, could be causing inflammation and migraine (along with a host of other pathological symptoms) through sensitization of multiple cranial nerves.
Spicy food containing capsaicin is such a huge trigger for brain fog, headache, and migraine. I wonder what effect capsaicin has on herpes viruses?
“Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) produces a life-long latent infection in neurons of the peripheral nervous system, primarily in the trigeminal and dorsal root ganglia. Neurons of these ganglia express high levels of the capsaicin receptor, also known as the vanilloid receptor-1 (VR-1). VR-1 is a non-selective ion channel, found on sensory neurons, that primarily fluxes Ca(2+) ions in response to various stimuli, including physiologically acidic conditions, heat greater than 45 degrees C and noxious compounds such as capsaicin. Using an in vitro neuronal model to study HSV-1 latency and reactivation, we found that agonists of the VR-1 channel – capsaicin and heat – resulted in reactivation of latent HSV-1. . . . Taken together, these results suggest that activation of the VR-1 channel, often associated with increases in intracellular calcium, results in HSV-1 reactivation in sensory neurons.” (Source)
“Capsaicin activates the heat and pH-sensitive ion channel Transient Receptor Potential Vanilloid 1 (TRPV1), which seems to be involved in the pathophysiology of migraine. TRPV1 is expressed on trigeminal nociceptors, which innervate the dura mater and the meningeal vascular system. Activation of TRPV1 causes release of CGRP from trigeminal nerve terminals and neurogenic inflammation within the meninges, possibly initiating migraine attacks. Accordingly, the anti-migraine drug sumatriptan was recently shown to block trigeminal TRPV1 channels . . Injection of capsaicin into the carotid artery caused a significant increase in jugular CGRP levels that was sustained for 15 min.” (Source)
Fasacinating – not only does capsaicin trigger herpes viruses, it causes reactivation by affecting the capsaicin-vallinoid receptor of the Transient Receptor Potential channels (TRPV1):
“The family of receptors called TRPs drive sensations that allow us to navigate the world, especially our interactions with plants that we encounter or eat. They are responsible for diverse responses like coolness, heat, pain, taste, itch, nausea and drive local protective responses in our barriers like skin, gut and lungs. They are portals that allow us to make choices that are desirable and warn us of danger. They provide flavor to food and form a chemical radar for our wellbeing.” (Source)
Even more interesting is that BOTH herpes and capsaicin increase CGRP levels. CGRP is a neuropeptide in the brain that causes blood vessel dilation and migraine at elevated levels. The new CGRP receptor antagonist drugs aim to blunt the receptivity of the neurons to this peptide. With all the new CGRP drugs coming out, I wonder what other evidence exists that herpes raises CGRP levels?
“At all times after infection, equal numbers of CGRP-positive neurons were seen in infected and uninfected ganglia and in sham-operated mice. These results show that [Herpes Simplex Virus -2] infection differentially affects host neuropeptide production and that nervous system effects are not restricted to the acute stage of infection. These events are consistent with those seen in other injury/regeneration paradigms.” (Source)
“In this study, the effects of neuropeptides substance P (SP) and calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) on production of pro-inflammatory cytokines TNF and IL-1 beta by macrophages were considered. Mouse peritoneal macrophages were infected with herpes simplex virus type-1 (HSV-1), or remained unstimulated, and cytokine assays were performed after 12 h. . . It was concluded that the macrophage-mediated inflammatory response to HSV-1 is enhanced in the presence of these neuropeptides.” (Source)
“In vivo, we further identified a specific subset of NefH+ neurons which co-expressed Calcitonin Gene Related Peptide α (NefH+ CGRP+) as the sensory neuron subpopulation with the highest LAT promoter activity following HSV-1 infection. Finally, an early-phase reactivation assay showed HSV-1 reactivating in NefH+ CGRP+ neurons, although other sensory neuron subpopulations were also involved.” (Source)
Free radical damage (from reactive oxygen species such as peroxynitrite and Nitrogen Oxide, or NO) are also implicated in migraine:
“Besides mitochondrial dysfunction, migraineurs also have higher levels of NO products in their blood during the inter-episodic period. This can be related to the higher basal activity of the L-arginine/NO pathway, especially in patients of migraine with aura and without aura. These products react with superoxide to form peroxynitrite.” (Source)
“M[agnesium] and vit.B6 modulate the level of NO in the cell, both of which are deficient in migraineurs. Due to deficiency of Mg the trapped NO within the cell is not removed which combines with superoxide in the cell and generates peroxynitrite which is a potent free radical resulting in myelin degeneration at specific areas denuding hypersensitive neurons inducing migraines. . . . Both iron and copper are transition metals which become free and stored in deep areas of the brain and peripheral nervous tissue where these ions catalyse the oxidation of catecholamines and produce highly reactive radicals which also cause neurodegeneration, lipid-peroxidation and demyelination exposing hypersensitive neurons inducing migraines.” (Source)
I wonder if herpes virus causes the formation of any free radicals (such as peroxynitrite), adding to the overall load of free radicals compounds associated with migraine?
“Published studies have shown that, like other inflammatory mediators, reactive oxygen species (ROS) are generated during viral brain infection. It is increasingly clear that ROS are responsible for facilitating secondary tissue damage during central nervous system infection and may contribute to neurotoxicity associated with herpes encephalitis.” (Source)
Okay. So herpes virus infection in the brain, sometimes triggered by capsaicin, increases CGRP, Nitric Oxide, and free radical damage by peroxynitrite. I wonder if herpes virus infection increases glutamate load, which is also a feature of migraine?
“This study demonstrated that herpesvirus 6 (which everyone has been exposed to in childhood as roseola) decreases glutamate transporters (which would in turn increase glutamate): “We infected astrocyte cultures in vitro with HHV-6 and found a marked decrease in glutamate transporter EAAT-2 expression” (Source).
“Studying epilepsy (not migraine) caused by herpes, researchers found that “[herpes] infected brain tissue didn’t produce very much of a chemical that transports the key neurotransmitter glutamate across the brain. . . If it doesn’t get transported properly, it ‘hangs around’, and because glutamate tends to make brain cells more active, too much could lead to overactivity . . .In the lab, they discovered that herpes slowed the creation of the transporter chemical for glutamate, providing strong evidence for the link.” (Source)
As you can probably tell, there are countless questions we could (and should) ask to try to cross-check this idea with various features of migraine. For example, how does citrus affect herpes? Does blue light trigger herpes? Etc. etc. But I hope this little clustering of research is enough to make you intrigued about a possible, or actual, connection between herpes virus and migraine.
This blog post is an excerpt from my new e-book, available in my shop.
Why would you want to eat liver if you have migraines? Because it’s high in bioavailable copper needed to break down histamine, and has loads of other important vitamins and minerals besides. A few ounces of this goodness contains ample quantities of vitamin A; all the B vitamins including choline and betaine; copper; zinc; iron; potassium; phosphorous; selenium; and even a little vitamin D. It also has vitamin E as tocotrienols, squalene, beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, lycopene, vitamin K, flavonoids, phenolic acids, and Coq10 from the Red Palm Oil I added to it.
The real gold nugget here though is the vitamin A. Vitamin A, along with food-based vitamin C like Acerola powder, can help your liver to produce a protein called ceruloplasm, which makes copper bioavailable for thousands of enzymatic functions including the breakdown of histamine. So I figured, why not just add acerola powder directly in here! I did. Now it’s an even more potent medicine.
It is important to use only chicken liver if you have any copper toxicity issues, since other types of liver such as beef liver can have much higher amounts of copper. Obviously you want to use the most humanely-raised, organic or pastured chicken livers possible.
I know that most moderns are out of touch with ancestral ways of eating and don’t find pate palatable. That’s why I’ve made this pate as mild as absolutely possible, and packed full of pungent fresh herbs to help dull the mineral taste of liver. If you’re averse to other pates you’ve had, don’t let that stop you from enjoying this very mild pate. Even my very picky fiver year old son liked it (I didn’t tell him it had liver in it). So here’s the recipe:
3/4 cup melted butter or ghee
3 T Red Palm Oil (Nutiva Brand)
1 very large or 2 med onions or shallots
4 garlic cloves
4 large mushrooms
1.5 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp allspice
1 tsp pepper
2 T acerola powder (I like Micronutrients brand)
1 celery stalk
1 T fresh thyme
1 T fresh oregano
1 T fresh savory
1 cup of fresh chicken liver
1/3 cup chopped parsley
2 T heavy whipping cream (optional, but it gives a nice whipped consistency to the pate)
2 tsp whiskey (optional)
Sautee all ingredients except livers, herbs, cream, and whiskey. Meanwhile, boil some water with salt and add the chopped liver. Cook for a few minutes until the liver is slightly pink in the middle, but don’t overcook. This recipe yields a little over 2 cups, which should be enough for 2 people to eat 2 T a day.
After the ingredients are sauteed, add them to a blender with the liver, herbs, and whiskey. Add to food processor and blend until smooth. This lasts about a week (it lasts a long time because the saturated fats preserve it and prevent oxidation), and you can freeze extra batches. I eat this at least three times per week, if not daily. When I eat it daily, I eat 2 T a day. When I eat it a few times a week, I eat around 4 T on those days.
Eating 2 T per day of this pate will offer up roughly 3,000 IU of vitamin A and on average about 30% of the daily value for most B vitamins.
The amount of vitamin C here is pretty minimal at around 200 mg in the whole batch, or around 90mg per day in the daily dose of 2 T, which is above the RDA of 60.
This should provide about 16% of your RDA for vitamin E.
The total amount of CoQ10 in the whole 2 cup batch is about 1.8 mg, or 257mcg per day – pretty negligible.
I’ll see what I can do to find values for the other nutrients in here soon.
This past week was a goldmine for me connecting dots in my ever-deepening understanding of migraine pathology. I’ve been dancing with joy because what I’ve discovered explains a LOT about the root cause of migraine. And it all has to do with having sufficient bioavailable copper to heal your migraines.
As you know, I’ve been looking for that root cause in earnest because while my beloved Protocol does prevent me and others from having migraine, it clearly hasn’t solved the underlying cause since the migraines return when it is stopped.
I’m in the middle of selling my house and buying a new one so haven’t had time to write blog posts, but I was so excited about this information I decided to make a video for you to summarize what I’ve been learning. I don’t have time to write a transcript so I hope you can watch or listen to the video to get the full download.
In this video, you will learn about the importance of bioavailable copper and zinc and what that has to do with histamine, herpes, and hormones. I’d also like to share my pate recipe here for those of you adventurous enough to incorporate it into your diet.
If there’s one great way to get potatoes into your diet (with all their minerals and insoluble fiber), chowder is certainly an excellent one. Chowder is the ultimate comfort food, but many chowders contain seafood or stock that can be a trigger for migraine. This recipe is a rich and vegetal version of traditional cream chowders, full of celery and leeks and herbs. It’s great on cold or rainy days!
In a saucepan, saute:
3 T high heat cooking fat (such as this one)
1 chopped onion
1 chopped leek
3 sticks chopped celery
1 teaspoon thyme or rosemary or both
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
When onions are translucent, add:
2 large organic potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 cups of water
Simmer until potatoes are soft. Transfer the mixture to a blender and blend on medium speed until pureed, adding water if needed, then transfer blended soup back into the pan.
1 cup of fresh (or 1 bag or 1 can of organic) corn kernels
1 Tablespoon of fresh cheese-free pesto (optional) – recipe here
juice from 1 lemon
1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream or coconut milk if you’re vegan
Add more water if needed to get to desired consistency, depending on how thick you like it
Add more salt and pepper to taste
Garnish with rosemary, cilantro, basil, parsley or fresh thyme
In this video I share how I make my own mineralized water.
Here is the recipe:
In a saucepan, combine equal parts magnesium chloride flakes to purified water. Save this “magnesium oil” in a container with a lid and keep it next to your water filter so you can add it to water as you drink it.
1 teaspoon of magnesium oil is approximately 500mg of magnesium.
I use 1 teaspooon of the magnesium oil with a pinch of salt twice a day in a pint of purified water for a total of 1000mg a day of magnesium chloride.
To learn more about the amazing properties of natural, structured water, check out the links below.
- How to Manually Structure Water
- Structured Water: the Next Best Treatment for Skin, Muscular, and Mood Disorders?
- The Fourth Phase of Water: Dr. Gerald Pollack at TedX GuelphU
- The Secrets of Water: Viktor Schauberger Documentary
I was so excited to be featured in the Plant Remedy Revolution Summit recently with Shauna Wall. In this interview, Shauna Wall and I discuss the plant-based solutions to migraine headache that I’ve discovered as part of my SimplyWell Migraine Relief Protocol.
Shauna Wall is an herbalist and natural health educator that teaches the balance of tradition and science in plant medicine. She encourages us to stay open to the healing power of the plant kingdom and learn from the time-tested, healing power of our plant allies. In the coursework, you will learn easy, accessible practices designed to breakthrough anxiety, heal your body and be fee of toxic side-effects.
I adore butter, red palm oil, and coconut oil. All of them support gut health and brain health in their own particular ways. So I decided to blend them all together into a medium-heat cooking oil to get all the benefits of each in one dollop. This turned out delicious – the buttery flavor still permeates throughout, and the coconut flavor is not as domineering as it is straight.
Did you know that the vitamin A content from the Red Palm Oil provides as much vitamin A than supplementation with cod liver oil? I got the idea of infusing red palm oil in other cooking oils from this paper here – in India vitamin A deficiency is a big problem and in the 30’s and 40’s they discovered they could solve this problem by infusing red palm oil into mustard cooking oil.
Because migraine is caused in part by lymphatic congestion, and the lymphatic system is a lipid-based system (ie, a fat-based system), consuming healthy fats is essential to support your body’s ability to detoxify. Fats are also a superb form of energy that are easily utilized by the body and do not (contrary to popular belief) lead to weight gain.
Saturated fats are preferable because they don’t go rancid/get oxidzed as easily as unsaturated fats. Saturated fats also have many other beneficial properties.
Butter is an excellent fat to incorporate into the diet liberally. Butter contains 3-4% butyric acid, the highest source for any food. Butyric acid is an excellent source of fuel for your cells. It’s very important to buy only grassfed, pastured, or organic ghee or butter to avoid contaminants which tend to bio-accumulate in the fat of animals raised for butter.
Coconut oil is a superb oil for supporting gut health. The fatty acids in coconut oil increase butyric acid (butyrate) in the colon (prebiotic foods, once digested, also produce butyrate). Butyrate increases GABA, the calming neurotransmitter in the brain, which also puts the brakes on glutatmate toxicity. Butyrate also increases ketones in the liver, thereby optimizing blood sugar regulation and even ATP energy generation on a neuronal level. Butyrate also helps to maintain the integrity of the gut lining. Warning: people sensitive to salycilates may not react well to coconut.
Red Palm Oil is an amazing oil which contains tocotrienols, a rare and important form of vitamin E, as well as squalene, a potent antioxidant which aids the body’s ability to eliminate environmental toxins, including radiation. Red palm oil is beneficial for arthritis, gastrointestinal upset, and gout. It boosts energy and improves circulation. It helps to improve absorption of vitamin D and build important hormones such as progesterone (a glutamate scavenger). This amazing oil in unrefined red form is has also been shown to help with lead detoxification in rats, and to decrease blood platelet aggregation (ie, makes blood cells less sticky). To top it off, red palm oil is also one of the highest plant-based sources of CoQ10. Red palm oil is a medium-heat oil. It is important that it be sourced in a way that doesn’t destroy ecosystems. I use Nutiva Organic Red Palm Oil, which is grown in Ecuador rather than SE Asia so does not negatively affect Orangutang habitat.
Nutrient-dense Cooking Oil Blend Recipe
The exact ratios in this blend don’t really matter, but I like to divide the oils into roughly even thirds. First, you’ll need to buy some organic unsalted butter. I use 8 sticks of butter gently warmed, then fill my quart mason jar 1/3 full.
With the butter still warm, add in another 1.5 cups of both red palm oil and coconut oil so that it will melt nicely. Easy does it!
I used to use ghee for my high cooking but I no longer do after discovering that it contains oxidized cholesterol. While I have nothing against cholesterol, the oxidized form has been implicated in neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimers, and higher levels of oxidized cholesterol occur during migraine attacks than not. Yes, I realize ghee is a great traditional fat used in Ayurveda for centuries, and it is certainly a superior fat to use over oxidized, highly processed polyunsaturated fatty acid vegetable oils. But I can’t sanction it at this point.
It’s important to note that most industrial expeller-pressed oils (even organic) are poisonous and contribute to oxidative stress in the vascular tree and brain. This is because the levels of heat used to process them before you even cook with them damage the fatty acid chains.
Also, a high smoke point has nothing to do with whether or not a vegetable oil will be good for you. Whether or not a fat or oil smokes is not an indicator of the point at which it oxidizes.
In my family’s constant experimentation with diet and nutrition, my husband recently went ketogenic on me. He basically lived off of grilled brussel sprouts, chocolate sweetened with xylitol, and huge tubs of almond butter. He’s 6’5″ and it was a sight to behold him fuelling his lanky frame without carbs. I wasn’t convinced of the healthfulness of the keto diet (except the part about him growing new mitochondria – very cool), but I really did enjoy those grilled brussel sprouts. Of course, his brussel sprouts were roasted in bacon fat, which I can now happily enjoy (thanks to the SimplyWell Protocol). But what I enjoyed even more was drizzling balsamic vinegar on top of these brussel sprouts, because he couldn’t eat the balsamic vinegar while going keto, and it made the dish that much tastier.
Bacon is full of nitrates, even the kind without nitrates added. So, I can’t offer you a brussel sprout and bacon recipe, or a brussel sprout and balsamic recipe. But what I can offer you is my attempt to recreate the tangy sweet goodness of the balsamic vinegar on a bed of grilled brussel sprouts. I am very pleased with these. This recipe serves 2.
In a cast-iron pan, sautee the following ingredients together under medium-high heat until the garlic and onions are slightly caramelized:
1 T butter or ghee
1 T Red Palm Oil (for the vitamin E, CoQ10, and beta carotene)
3 Cloves Garlic
Next, add the following two ingredients and cook for a few minutes so the flavors are evenly distributed:
1 T maple syrup
Squeeze of 1/2 lemon
Finally, turn up the heat and throw in
10 brussel sprouts, halved
salt and pepper to taste
Grill these on the pan for a few minutes until the brussel sprouts are browned on the edges.
The hunt for B vitamins that don’t trigger migraine
Earlier last year, in my ongoing hunt for a Folk Medicine solution to easily, safely, and affordably abort migraine headaches, I got distracted by a long and circuitous diversion when I found myself studying B vitamins. I wanted to understand why some people with migraine who clearly need B vitamins so much can’t tolerate them. I had personally been triggered by methylated B vitamins myself and had heard stories from clients reacting poorly to them.
In the process of discovering which B vitamins may be causing the most havoc for those with migraine, I also discovered that niacin worked beautifully to abort migraine. But the irony is that it is niacin – aka nicotinic acid or B3 – that I was initially the most skeptical of. I wrote about my concerns that niacin might be triggering migraine in this blog post: (“Does Niacin B3 Contribute to Migraine and Histamine Intolerance?”). Please read that blog post for a primer on Niacin.
I was suspicious of niacin as a potential trigger because niacin is a “methyl sponge” – ie, it mops up methyl. It is generally known that high histamine is associated with undermethylation. I had tied my own migraines to histamine intolerance and helped many with migraine to eliminate their migraine symptoms through a low histamine diet while rebuilding gut health using my SimplyWell Protocol, with excellent results.
If it is true that those with high histamine are undermethylated already, wouldn’t lowering their methylation with niacin deepen the histamine load and add to migraines? This was my concern. Surely the few anecdotal reports of people I had found online who had had success with niacin to abort migraine were not really suffering from true migraine then – or were they?
While niacin does mop up methyl, it turns out it is actually required for the breakdown of histamine:
“Alcohol Dehydrogenase (ADH) is the final step in histamine breakdown. This is the same enzyme that breaks down alcoholic beverages. This explains why some individuals flush when they drink. It is also a good reason to perhaps skip cocktails, beer, and wine during hay fever season. This enzyme actually has four different cofactors including zinc, vitamin C, thiamine (B1) and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD—a niacin-based flavoprotein).” (Source)
Folic acid and folate trigger migraine because they contribute to glutamate load – and niacin reduces folate.
It appears there is more to migraine than histamine or methylation. I’m beginning to wonder if in fact the low histamine diet and gut healing in the SimplyWell Protocol is successful because it also raises niacin (by way of feeding gut bacteria that produce it), and lowers glutamate. Maybe glutamate toxicity is playing an even bigger role in migraine outcomes than histamine or methylation status. Not so incidentally, it seems that folic acid and folate supplementation is the biggest culprit in triggering migraine (even methylated folate) – and niacin reduces folate.
“Folates are comprised of numerous glutamic acids conjugates. The higher the dose of folates, the greater the propensity towards an increase in the pool of free glutamate. Hence, the “excitatory” and neurological types of adverse effects of folate in certain individuals.” (Source)
According to Dr. Albert Mensah, those who are undermethylated have low brain serotonin and also
“. . . have a genetic tendency to be very depressed in calcium, magnesium, methionine, and Vitamin B-6 and may have excessive levels of folic acid in nuclei of brain cells.” (Source)
I make a point to eat a lot of vegetables to get naturally-occuring folate since I choose not to supplement with synthetic folic acid or folate, for reasons stated above. One concern I had with taking niacin (eventhough I take mine in my own hand-blended B complex with other Bs but without folic acid or folate) was that it might deplete folate, since niacin-derived NAD is a necessary co-factor for the enzymes dihydrofolate reductase in the folate/tetrahydrobiopterin cycles and S-adenosylhomocysteine hydrolase in the methionine cycle (Source).
A recent blood test showed no folate deficiency even while supplementing with 80mg of niacin a day (and sometimes more when I aborted a headache) for three months. It seems my concerns about taking niacin depleting folate and folic acid may be unfounded – perhaps because undermethylators are high in folic acid.
Luckily, the B-complex B-Minus by Seeking Health contains no folic acid or folate (or methyl b12). It also contains some niacin B3, whereas many other B blends contain niacinamide or non-flushing B3, which does not have the same benefits as niacin as nicotinic acid does.
Why niacin sufficiency is so important for those with migraine
Because migraine is a chronic systemic inflammatory condition affecting the whole body, there are many angles from which to view migraine causality. One perspective worth recognizing is that migraine is a metabolic disease caused by inefficiencies in enzymatic processes. Because vitamins, minerals, and amino acids are all needed for enzymes to work, it makes sense to ask to what extent nutritional deficiency is playing a role in migraine. This is especially important in the case of niacin, which is used in more biochemical reactions than any other vitamin-derived cofactor once it is converted to the enzyme NAD.
“. .Your body uses NAD (with a hydrogen it is NADH) in over 450 biochemical reactions, most of which are involved in anabolic and catabolic reactions. Most people tend to associate NAD with glycolosis (sugar breakdown) and ATP (energy production). However, NAD is involved in many other reactions as a cofactor, including either the synthesis (anabolism) or the breakdown (catabolism) of just about every molecule our cells make: steroids, prostaglandins, and enzymes. NAD is involved in cell signalling and assists in ongoing repair of your DNA.” (Source: Niacin, the Real Story)
Technically, niacin is the third B vitamin discovered (although because it can be made from tryptophan in the body it actually should be classed as an amino acid). Niacin deficiencies in the general population but also in those with migraine may be more widespread than realized because testing for niacin deficiency is not a common practice.
Niacin B3 is vitally important, especially for those with migraine because it:
- raises blood sugar (good for migraineurs with low blood sugar)
- breaks down glutamates (often the cause of that migraine that starts at 4am)
- it helps synthesizes sex hormones like estrogen and progesterone (low estrogen and progesterone lead to migraine)
- helps heal leaky gut
- helps metabolize excess ammonia (cause of leaky gut and also brain inflammation)
- increases serotonin
- removes heavy metals
- cleans out the lymphatic system
- helps to break down beta-amyloid lesions in the brain (common in migraineurs)
- thins the blood – ie, has an “anti-sludging effect” (migraineurs have sticky blood)
- mops up adrenaline, thus reducing anxiety
- improves sleep
Causes of niacin deficiency and pellagra
Compromised gut flora due to the use of antibiotics, consumption of high-carb diets, estrogen dominance, and stress all contribute to niacin deficiency. A diet high in the amino acid leucine may also contribute because it interferes with the conversion of tryptophan to niacin. Leucine is high in whey and soy protein concentrates and is also known as the food additive E641 as a flavor enhancer (Source). Niacin deficiency can also be caused by Hartnup’s disease, where there is a block in the tryptophan-nicotinic acid pathway. Consumption of polyunsaturated fats DHA, EPA, and linoleic acid also play a role because they activate the conversion of tryptophan to quinolinic acid, and inhibit the formation of niacin (Source).
Problems caused by niacin deficiency can range from mild to fatal, as in the case of severe pellagra. Mild niacin deficiency is characterized by mental fatigue, irritability, weakness, indigestion, and skin irritations, while mild to advanced pellagra involves headaches, insomnia, loss of strength, light sensitivity, nausea, indigestion, and hypersensitivity to smells (Source). In acute niacin deficiency, an encephalopathy is found which closely resembles Wernicke’s syndrome – a thiamine B1 deficiency disease usually found in alcoholics and discovered post-mortem.
Prior to the discovery that pellagra was caused by niacin deficiency (and subsequent fortification of flour with niacin in 1940), it was thought to be an infectious disease. Three million pellagra cases and 100,000 deaths resulted from niacin deficiency in the US in the first half of the 20th century – with 30,000 of those deaths occurring in 1930 following the Great Depression (Source: “Niacin, the Real Story”).
Given that migraine headache is experienced by a disproportionate amount of women compared to men, it’s really interesting to make note of the fact that:
“Pellagra occurs about twice as often in women as in men, and this is because estrogen activates an enzyme that alters metabolism of tryptophan, blocking the formation of niacin . . . Progesterone inhibits the activity of that enzyme. Progesterone also . . . decreases the excitatory carcinogens and increases the formation of niacin.” (Source)
Niacin is a known – but obscured – migraine solution
From my research it appears that the benefits of niacin for migraine are known but not widely shared, realized, or emphasized. A few websites mention niacin as being helpful along with a long slew of other substances, most notably riboflavin (B2), feverfew, butterbur, ginger, magnesium, etc etc. With niacin mentioned in passing along with this long list of other contenders, it is easily overlooked and does not stand out as a legitimate solution. The majority of the websites I saw didn’t mention that niacin could abort a migraine outright, or how to do it, they just said it was supportive of migraine.
The two sites I did find that said migraine could be aborted with niacin didn’t mention that it could also be used to prevent migraine, or why it worked. The authors of the book “Niacin, the Real Story” (by Hoffer, Saul, Foster) only had a very small section on the topic sharing a single report from the Scottsdale Mayo Clinic in which a patient had responded to sustained-release niacin. They also mention that a 2005 review of nine articles investigating niacin therapy for migraine stated:
“Intravenous and oral niacin has been employed in the treatment of acute and chronic migraine and tension-type headaches, but its use has not become part of contemporary medicine, nor have there been randomized controlled trials further assessing this novel treatment . . . Although niacin’s mechanisms of action have not been substantiated from controlled clinical trials, this agent may have beneficial effects upon migraine and tension-type headaches.” (Source)
Clearly, there is benefit in the use of niacin for migraine, but for some reason these benefits have become obscured, forgotten, ignored, buried, unrealized, or just not very rigorously studied. I want to bring niacin back into the limelight.
Going off the Protocol to experiment with niacin
A nagging voice of intuition kept asking me why there would be anecdotal reports and some support from studies that niacin helped migraine if it actually exacerbated it. I’m glad I got over my initial caution with niacin so I could discover its benefits.
I’ve learned I have to stay on my SimplyWell Protocol to be completely free from migraines. But I still go off of the Protocol form time to time to test the extent to which the underlying root causes of my migraine have been healed (or not), and to experiment with new approaches to migraine. After three weeks off the Protocol, the telltale migraines do come back. Last time I went off the Protocol, I used this as an opportunity to try out niacin. The niacin worked beautifully (usually at a dose of 500mg) to dissolve both headaches and a few migraines. I then went back on the Protocol. Each time I get off of it, I’m reminded that preventing migraine with the Protocol is much easier and more desirable than having to rely on a pill to abort migraine.
Now that I’m back on my beloved SimplyWell Protocol, and am migraine free again, I still continue to utilize niacin in my B complex that I make myself. I love niacin, because it clearly stabilizes my mood, improves my sleep quality, has completely eliminated any brain fog I used to wake up with in the morning (which usually went away after an hour), and has given me more resilience in being able to eat very high histamine foods without even a glimmer of brain fog. I take it daily, and truly appreciate it’s value for improving my quality of life. I try not to share anything with my migraine clients that I have not personally tried or use regularly myself.
Feedback from clients on niacin
I’ve received feedback from a number of clients who have used niacin for migraine, with mixed results. As with all things, diversity in response, approach, and interest is the name of the game. That includes people who just don’t like the idea of taking a synthetic supplement, even while they rely on synthetic pharmaceuticals to abort migraine.
A few of my clients have had great success aborting migraine with niacin – these are the people who don’t mind the flush. One client even said that the flush of niacin felt almost identical to the flush she gets from her Imitrex shots. Some people, myself included, enjoy the flush.
Another client was encouraged by the research I shared but chose to do a lot more research herself and after doing so, decided to take time-release niacin before bed. She no longer wakes up with migraine in the morning like she used to, and she has replaced her nightly triptans with niacin. Personally, I am not in favor of time-release niacin due to its potential challenges it poses for the liver to process it, but my client has done her research and made her own conclusions.
Others can’t tolerate the flush and some even find the experience downright awful (itching, burning, prickling, shivers, nausea). From the people I’ve worked with taking niacin, I’ve observed that it is generally those who have had migraine for a longer time period, who eat a normal diet including high histamine foods, and who also take medications for migraine that have the most unpleasant reactions. For these people niacin may not be a viable option for aborting migraine, though they may benefit from getting smaller doses in a B complex taken with food to avoid such reactions. On the other hand I also had a client who had migraines for a long period and took medications while eating high-histamine food who felt fine with the flush and used niacin to get off her meds.
Some people don’t even get a flush even on very high doses of niacin, and also aren’t able to abort a migraine with niacin without a flush – while other people can abort a migraine with niacin even in the absence of a flush. So responses are all over the board.
Flushing from niacin usually indicates a high level of histamine (since niacin empties the mast cells of histamine), while a lack of flushing from niacin usually indicates a very high threshold for niacin and potentially a very deep deficiency and/or an excess stress manifested as adrenaline in the body.
“When an individual is stressed, their requirements for vitamin B3 will need to increase, due to increased amounts of adrenalin (epinephrine) being released from the adrenal medulla, creating more oxidized adrenalin. To convert the increased oxidized adrenalin back to original adrenalin, the reducing ability of NAD is necessary, and thus the need for more vitamin B3. Perhaps the lack of or reduced flushing among these patients was due to an increased metabolic need for vitamin B3 (i.e., a more rapid conversion of vitamin B3 to NAD within the body), necessitated by heightened periods of stress.” (Source)
Most people can abort a migraine with 250mg of niacin on an empty stomach or with only a small amount of food if the migraine is caught early on. If it is not taken until the migraine is advanced, more may be needed for it to work. Generally 250-500mg is sufficient to abort a migraine for most people, but individual tolerances for niacin vary widely.
Follow the money
In 2017, the global market for drugs used to treat migraine is $3 billion and rapidly growing. The money spent to pay expert practitioners to (often unsuccessfully) treat migraine is surely even more. Niacin costs about .06 cents per capsule. Triptans cost about $28 per pill. The new CGRP receptor antagonist drugs, which use recombinant DNA, will probably cost tens of thousands of dollars per shot, and may not be covered by insurance. The fact that niacin is available in most every drug store or grocery store and is not widely known about for use with migraine is amazing when you consider how incredibly important, supportive, and effective it is at addressing some of the root causes of migraine.
I find it inexcusable that so many people are suffering so much with migraine headache – fully 1/3 of them caused by medications themselves – even while such simple, effective, and affordable solutions such as niacin exist. The good news is that niacin is only one of many natural approaches to aborting migraine.
Want to learn more about niacin for migraine?
- Why not just get niacin from food?
- Niacin, Tryptophan, and Serotonin
- Gut flora imbalances and their effects on niacin
- Niacin and hormones
- How niacin works with riboflavin
- Is niacin a replacement for the SimplyWell Protocol?
- How to abort a migraine with niacin
- How to prevent migraine with niacin
- Cautions, contraindications, and safety concerns with niacin