My Journey Healing Chronic Migraine

I’m very grateful I was raised in a pristine natural environment with parents who ate healthy organic food and preferred natural medicine over conventional medicine.  My health was great until I was twelve years old, during which time I started to get headaches and developed food sensitivities to MSG. At this time I also received my first antibiotic and first round of vaccines. Coincidentally, I also developed TMJ and scoliosis at this time. I now know that both TMJ and scoliosis are due to lymphatic and kidney congestion (your spine will curve away from the kidney that is more congested. This is not common knowledge even among doctors but it has been demonstrated to be true by way of people who have healed themselves of both TMJ problems and scoliosis through lymphatic cleansing and improving kidney filtration and health.)

By sixteen, I had received one more round of antibiotics but was still generally pretty healthy, until I gradually and unconsciously added to my overall state of inflammation when I started working in a coffee shop.  There, I consumed a lot of wheat and caffeine. Unknown to myself, my kidneys were becoming more compromised and my body more acidic. Other than having issues with acne though, I was generally resilient as we are when we are young.  I didn’t know that my acne was an expression of lymphatic congestion and acidosis at the time.

In my twenties I underwent two minor surgeries with the attendant antibiotics and painkillers.  I also went on one full month of antibiotics to try to help clear my persistent acne issues, which I now understand were an expression of congested lymph from kidneys compromised by previous antibiotics.

Needless to say, pharmaceutical medications are without a doubt a huge culprit if not the primary cause of most of my lifelong health problems.  However, because these effects were gradual, it was difficult to measure or realize the real impacts until they had accumulated to the point where they started to manifest as chronic disease.

Still, I didn’t develop consistent and persistent headaches until I was in my late twenties.  At this time I also had another small round of antibiotics for a fungal infection. I thought I was getting an anti-fungal but it was actually an antibiotic – flagyl.

After this I started to get regular migraines about once every two months.  I also had a lot of stress in my life at this time and was very sedentary. I spent hours on the computer with my neck hunched forward scanning through huge reams of data.  I know now that the stress from this time contributed to my lymphatic congestion, because when we are stressed the capillaries dilate, and blood proteins get stuck in the lymphatic system (more about this later).

It all makes sense now, but it took me almost a decade to understand, much less solve the problems that I am sharing with you here.

A few years later, I was still struggling with persistent migraines and trying everything I could do to alleviate them, with varying results.  Over time, I learned how to manage them but never healed them. I could consistently get rid of an oncoming migraine through various means and techniques, which included drinking tons and tons of water or going for a run.

I now know why these two approaches work.  Running and deep diaphragmatic breathing gets the lymph flowing, and migraines are a result of inflammation in the lymph and some degree of sepsis.  Water is a natural antihistamine and will lower histamine levels. It also raises blood volume, making it more likely that blood can reach to the head.

It was when my son was born via c-section that my health really declined.  The migraines had completely disappeared in the last trimester of my pregnancy, because the placenta releases diamine oxidase, the enzyme that breaks down histamine. This is the body’s natural way to protect the fetus from excessive inflammation in the mother’s body.  Naturally, after the pregnancy, the migraines returned – but now I had them three times a week and on the days when I didn’t have them, I had a headache or brain fog. I was also sleep deprived from nursing my son all night, so my already taxed kidneys and adrenals were under even more stress than usual – for over two years.  The adrenal glands use progesterone to make adrenaline, and progesterone is what puts the breaks on estrogen. So my adrenal fatigue was contributing to estrogen dominance, which contributes to histamine overload. Histamine disrupts sleep cycles, and the nightmare of insomnia reinforces itself and continues. It is very hard to heal without adequate sleep.

The combination of epidural, pitocin, anesthesia, pain meds, and antibiotics did a total over-ride on all of my organ systems.  As a result of this surgery and medications, I developed gallbladder spasms, thyroid problems, urinary tract infections, inflammation and pain in the liver and pancreas, bloating, nightmares, anxiety, depression, easy bruising, strange burning nerve sensations running up and down my legs and sacrum, numb hands, parasitic infestation, pain and pressure problems in my ears, muscle cramping, acidosis, joint pain, frothy saliva, . . . . etc. etc. etc. etc.

I was a total wreck and my life was a living hell – my son and husband being the two lights in my otherwise dark tunnel.

I have pulled myself out of this nightmare mostly on my own.  I did see a naturopath early on and she prescribed me a Chinese remedy.  I’m very grateful to her that she did this even though the remedy made me much sicker.  I realized there was something in it that was exacerbating my symptoms. The first ingredient was cinnamon.  I started googling cinnamon and found out it was high in histamine. Through a series of links I found myself on a website about Histamine Intolerance, something I had never heard about before, even from a doctor.

This was the beginning of me understanding what was going on enough to start to heal myself. It started with eliminating fermented and histamine-rich foods – but we don’t heal through elimination. We heal through nutrition.

I went through a very strict period where there was virtually nothing I could eat.  I had so much histamine in my body that almost anything would trigger me. I became afraid of food.

This is a horrible place to be in (especially when you are still nursing a little one!) and it is the exact opposite of healing, because it truly is food and plants which have the nutrition we need in a depleted state to rebuild our health.

Incidentally, during this phase of strict eating I was eating mostly carrot juice, potatoes, cabbage, apples, and other veggies.  I started to dramatically improve. I would always crave potatoes after a migraine. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was the resistant starch in the potatoes that was reducing the inflammation in my colon, which my body was so keen to tell me it needed.

I was juicing carrots mostly for blood cleansing and parasite cleansing.  I wasn’t aware then how important the potassium in them was for me, so I slowly petered off to juicing about once a week, and lost the benefits until I later had to rediscover them. The potassium in the carrots was helping my cellular metabolism and electrolyte balance. The sodium potassium pump in the cell requires plenty of potassium for optimal functioning.

At the time, my research had convinced me that I needed magnesium more than potassium.  So I was rubbing magnesium oil all over my body. Then I tried it orally. It took a lot of research to try to determine which magnesium was the best kind, and my cabinets were full of all sorts of supplements. I became disenchanted with all of them eventually.  Supplements hold no power compared to food as medicine. One important difference between food as medicine and supplements as medicine (besides its affordability, bio-availability, and superior taste) is that living food also contains electrical energy and hydration that dry dead supplements do not.

It took me almost three whole years of hell post c-section to reach the point where I finally healed the migraines that plagued me and had become a physical handicap that would have prevented me from holding a job if I had needed to do anything other than be a stay-at-home mom whose main job was researching every day how to take my life back.

During this time, I worked on healing a lot of other organs besides my brain and gut in the process too, but that is another story. This story is about how I learned to first reduce histamine-rich foods from my diet; how to clean my blood and gallbladder and kidneys with radishes; how to improve digestion and drastically reduce bloating and inflammation in the colon with the help of resistant starch in potatoes and green plantains, and how to decongest the lymphatic system with the help of fruit and micronutrients available in living greens.

I’ve also been amazed to watch my body healing from many seemingly unrelated (but apparently related!) issues that I had accepted as part of my life, such as acne and TMJ resolving on their own.  I no longer have any premenstrual syndrome or pain or discomfort during my moon cycle. The cystic breast tissue that I had been told was just a hereditary trait has also completely resolved. My gums and oral health are incredible.

It turns out that the body doesn’t know how to selectively heal, and when we support the whole, all kinds of problems just start to fall away. Supporting the whole unavoidably involves great attention to the quality of our diet and nutrition. Yet how and what to eat remains one of the most confounding question for many of us.  We are the only species on the planet that is confused about what and how to eat. It’s my pleasure to share some of what I’ve learned works best for me. For the first time in my life, I have no food cravings, no food addictions, and no confusion about how and what to eat.

I believe that all healing, whether on a physical, emotional, or spiritual level, requires a belief in the possibility of healing, and giving ourselves the permission slip to actually do so.  Once these two factors are in place, healing becomes simple (but still, not always easy!).

 

When I realized that I had Histamine Intolerance, everything started to make sense and fall into place.  I finally had a basic framework for understanding why I got migraines and how to prevent them (however, my knowledge was incomplete as I didn’t understand the role of the gut flora, kidneys and lymph in my state of sepsis).  When my histamine levels reached a certain level, I would get a migraine.

 

Histamine is a natural neurotransmitter that is utilized and produced by the body’s mast cells in making stomach acid.  So it makes sense that when my histamine levels got high, so did my stomach acid, and the migraine would not disappear until I threw up large amounts of stomach acid.   Afterwards, I would always crave potatoes.

 

Identifying with a disease is never healing. Even though I was self-diagnosed with Histamine Intolerance, in retrospect I believe that it has become important to learn to un-diagnose myself. While a diagnosis is initially a relief because it is an explanation for what is going on, many people reinforce their health problems by identifying with having a disease.  So I think that a better descriptor for my symptoms would be that of “Histamine Overload”, rather than describing myself as having “Histamine Intolerance”. Histamine Overload describes a (temporary) state or process, Histamine Intolerance implies that the body’s mechanisms are dysfunctional, and that you are dealing with an actual disease. I see so-called “diseases” as alarm signals of bodily processes in distress, not as real, objective “things” that exist as discrete entities.  The distinction is important for healing.

 

The body is not the enemy.  I had to take responsibility for what it had gone through to make sense of what was “wrong” with it.  In my case, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories were the assault that depleted my diamine oxidase levels making it difficult for me to break down any foods that were fermented or had tyramine or histamine in them. (More on fermented foods, tyramine, and histamine later). The antibiotics had shifted the balance in my flora towards histamine-producing bacteria, contributing to my load.

 

For quite awhile, my sole approach to healing was to eliminate problem foods, because I didn’t know how to heal my pancreas from the non-steroidal inflammatories and their effect on my DAO levels – and because I didn’t realize that a huge part of my histamine load was in my colon.  The antibiotics had wiped out much of the friendly bacteria in my colon and no amount of food elimination would change the fact that my colon needed good prebiotic starches to feed the healthy bacteria.

 

I also didn’t know that the other huge piece of my inflammatory histamine load was in my lymphatic system, or that I needed to get my kidneys supported in order to get the lymph flowing and step out of the state of sepsis I was living in.

 

One advantage of focusing on Histamine Intolerance is that I had to avoid many supplements.  Quite a few supplements are made through a fermentation process. This includes vitamin C (which is also a mast-cell stabilizer), B vitamins, and probiotics.  I didn’t explore probiotics for this reason, as I was afraid to get triggered by them. I’ve since learned how much more important prebiotics are as compared to probiotics.

PRObiotics introduce friendly bacteria but they may not survive your stomach acid or be able to make much of a stronghold in your gut given the other flora that are already established there.  PREbiotics are the food that feed the friendly bacteria.  If you feed the good bacteria the right food, their populations will eventually dominate over the unfriendly bacteria, assuming you are not feeding the unfriendly bacteria too much as well.

While eliminating all histamine rich foods and fermented foods did reduce my migraines, it also diminished greatly what I was able to eat, and it was always a very tenuous balance.  My diet was very meager and I firmly believe we cannot heal by being afraid of most food or eliminating otherwise healthy foods. (Whereas eliminating unhealthy foods, better known as “food-like substances”  – is ALWAYS an advantage).

Because the foods that are fermented or contain tyramine or have histamine in them or liberate histamine is a huge category of foods, I learned over time how to discern which foods were the greatest triggers for me.  A small portion of yogurt wouldn’t trigger me as bad as a small sprinkling of cinnamon or chili. A sip of kombucha wouldn’t trigger me as bad as a sip of wine. A bite of a date wouldn’t trigger me as bad as a bite of chocolate.  UNLESS of course, my histamine load was already very high. THEN, the smallest thing could tip me over into migraineland!

One thing that would have made it virtually impossible to realize I had Histamine Intolerance instead of a different kind of food allergy or food intolerance is that the reaction to histamine and tyramine rich foods is not always immediate.  It is not an allergic reaction. Once the food hits the small intestine where the DAO is normally released, it will not get broken down properly because of the low DAO and so by the time it makes its way to the colon a few hours later, that food will start to ferment.  Unfriendly bacteria in the colon will try to break that food down, leading to bloating and indigestion. These bacteria actually produce histamine. But this is not an immediate reaction so the connection between certain foods and bloating and headache can be hard to recognize, unless your histamine levels are already so high that you do have an immediate reaction. It all depends on how full your “bucket” of histamine is.

Stuffed Zucchini with Ricotta Recipe

This is an exquisite, low-histamine, late-summer dish.  Traditionally, this dish is made using parmesan cheese and tomatoes.  For our purposes here we will leave those out, although if you get migraines only once in awhile or your histamine is not too high, a little fresh tomato thrown in will not hurt (it’s the tomato concentrate we have to be especially careful of).

You’ll notice this recipe uses ricotta. I’ve recently been making my own butter and ricotta. Ricotta is one of the safest cheeses for those with migraine because it is not actually cultured – ricotta curds are made simply by curdling the whey with an acid like lemon juice or citric acid and then straining. So, if you’ve been craving cheese or dairy and have high histamine, this may be one of the safest cheese options available to you.

Enjoy this healthy, delicious dish!

serves 6

Ingredients

6 medium zucchini (about 2 lbs.), halved lengthwise
7 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves chopped garlic
1 yellow chopped onion
2 medium tomatoes chopped (optional)
1/2 cup shiitake or crimini mushrooms (optional)
2 cups ricotta
34 cup fresh bread crumbs (optional)
3 tbsp. chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 tsp. dried mint, crumbled
2 tsp. chopped fresh oregano
2 egg yolks, beaten
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Instructions

Scoop out the zucchini pulp with a spoon, leaving a 1/4″ rim around the edges.  Save the rest of the pulp for the stuffing. Heat the oil in a skillet on medium heat, adding the garlic and onions.  Cook until translucent – about 6 minutes. Add the mushrooms and tomatoes and sautee.  Set aside.

In a separate bowl, combine the ricotta, bread crumbs, herbs, and egg yolks. Fold in the onion mixture and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Arrange an oven rack about 7″ from the broiler element and heat . Rub down the insides of the zucchini with the olive oil and season with salt. Put the zucchini facing up on an oiled baking sheet and broil for 5 minutes. Remove the sheet from the oven and fill each zucchini half with the filling making sure it doesn’t spill over the edges of the zucchini. Sprinkle each stuffed zucchini with bread crumbs and drizzle with olive oil. Broil again until the zucchini are soft and the tops are lightly browned – ie, for 10 to 15 minutes.

Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis for Mineral Balancing

The SimplyWell Protocol is an excellent set of lifestyle steps that can effectively dismantle many chronic migraine patterns.  However, some clients who have been suffering for decades, have been on medications for many years, or who have a history of trauma, surgery, or hormone replacement therapy, may need additional support in the form of mineral balancing through Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis.

In my coaching practice I have consistently seen serious damage done to people’s mineral balance through the casual (or, often doctor reccomended) use of supplements, especially vitamin D and multivitamins containing copper and zinc.  It is often incorrectly assumed that deficiencies in blood are an accurate reflection of the state of the cell, and that minerals do not interact with one another.  This could not be further from the truth.

In general, many women with migraine and hormonal imbalance have copper dysregulation (either low copper, or latent elevated copper).  Copper is needed to support metabolic function and the synthesis of the DAO enzyme, as well as thousands of other important enzymes.  Therefore supplementing with zinc without sufficient copper can be very problematic since it could further deplete copper levels if done improperly.  This is why one-on-one guidance is often necessary to balance zinc and copper levels, based on actual specific data from an individuals HTMA lab report.

What is Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis?

Your hair contains all the minerals present in your body, including nutritional minerals as well as toxic heavy metals.  Hair mineral analysis is a laboratory test that measures this mineral content in the hair.  In most cases, the test results reflect how much of these elements are in your tissues and provide a vivid picture of your cellular and tissue mineral levels.  With this information, a world of metabolic events can be interpreted.  Not only can your nutritional status be viewed, but the test can also reveal how efficiently your body is working on many levels – including adrenal function, thyroid function, metabolic type, stress response, heavy metal toxicity, hormonal function, chemical sensitivity, and more.

After 30 years of research, hair analysis has emerged as the most practical method of testing for mineral balance in your body.

How Accurate is HTMA Compared to a  Blood or Urine Test?

With a properly obtained sample, hair analysis is extremely accurate.  Blood tests give information about your mineral levels at the time of the test only.  If you’ve just eaten a banana, your test can indicate a high potassium level, even though you may actually need potassium supplementation.  On the other hand, hair analysis results indicate your overall level of potassium – your actual tissue and cellular storage levels over a period of time, not just what you ate that day or even that week. So a blood test will only accurately report what is being transported in our blood at the time of the test.

Testing for minerals in urine measures the minerals that are being excreted from your body – not necessarily what has been absorbed as fuel for your body.

So blood and urine tests are like snapshots whereas a hair analysis is the video of your mineral retention.

Understanding Dynamic Relationships Between Minerals

Vitamins and minerals interact with each other in a dynamic rather than static way.  Too much zinc, for example, can antagonize vitamin D.  Therefore, taking zinc indiscriminately may cause an imbalance in vitamin D.  Too little vitamin D, in turn, antagonizes calcium, creating poor conditions for calcium absorption.  So now you have a shortage of calcium.  Too much vitamin C can cause a copper deficiency and allow too much iron to build up in the body.  A domino effect occurs.  While you may be aware that vitamins and minerals are needed, too much of something can be just as bad as too little.

Mineral levels can be very closely and accurately analyzed using a Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis (HTMA).  Marya is trained in HTMA and can assist with personalized mineral rebalancing as part of a one-on-one coaching session.

Causes of Hormonal and Menstrual Migraine

You probably already know that three times more women than men suffer from migraine. And if you are one of those many women, you have also probably asked why. The typical and obvious answer is that it’s our hormonal differences that make us more susceptible to migraine than men. But since not all women get migraines, we need to take a closer look at some of the factors that lead some women’s hormones to get out of balance in such a way that this imbalance manifests as migraine – especially “hormonal” migraine at ovulation and/or menstruation.

Since I am not an endocrinologist, the inquiry for this blog post will be fairly general and necessarily simplified (for example, there are many types of estrogen but I will just refer to “estrogen” as though it is one thing).  I think that this simplicity will still be accurate for the purposes of providing a general understanding for why reducing histamine and glutamate (as per the SimplyWell Protocol) can work to alleviate “hormonal” migraines – and how fluctuating hormone levels at ovulation raise histamine, while low hormone levels (exacerbated by mineral deficiencies) raise glutamate levels.

There are surely additional factors that go into why women get more migraine at ovulation and menstruation, and there are other inflammatory molecules besides histamine and glutamate that play a role in migraine pathology, but these two are certainly big players in hormonal migraine.

The Fluctuation of Estrogen and Progesterone at Ovulation and Menstruation

One very basic explanation for why migraine occurs during ovulation and menstruation has to do with the sudden spikes and drops of hormones during these times.  Women who have reached menopause do not have such intense hormonal fluctuations.

Notice in the graph below of a “normal” menstrual cycle that estrogen is high at ovulation while progesterone only starts to rise a little at this point.  Progesterone peaks in the week after ovulation (and estrogen is at its lowest point), then starts to plummet again leading up to menstruation. Both estrogen and progesterone get very low right before and during menstruation.

It is most common for women to get migraine directly prior to and during menstraution – more common than women getting migraine during ovulation.  This is because both levels of estrogen and progesterone are low at this time.

But why would low levels of estrogen and progesterone lead to migraine?

Histamine, Glutamate, and Menstrual Migraine

Both histamine and glutamate are excitatory neurotransmitters implicated in migraine, and levels of these two amino acids in the gut and brain are affected directly by hormones as they shift at different times of the menstrual cycle.

  • Estrogen and progesterone are glutamate transporters, ie, they help to reduce glutamate buildup. Excitotoxicity from glutamate is one key feature of migraine. Therefore, low levels of estrogen or progesterone (at menstruation) contribute to excitotoxicity. (Source)
  • Histamine intolerance or overload is a feature of migraine. Estrogen levels trigger mast cells to release histamine, so estrogens (including xenoestrogens and environmental pollutants that mimic estrogen), especially the estrogen spike at ovulation, will contribute to histamine overload. (Source)
  • But because most menstrual migraines occur at menstruation when both estrogen and progesterone are low, I hypothesize that glutamates are playing an even larger role in migraine than histamine.
  • Estrogen also down-regulates DAO (diamine oxidase), one enzyme that breaks down histamine. Estrogen replacement therapy and “the pill” increase estrogen levels and deplete progesterone – which may be one reason why headache is a known side-effect of the pill. (Source)
  • Progesterone is used by the body to make cortisol.  Therefore excessive amounts of stress will deplete progesterone levels, and thereby raise glutamate. Progesterone is also needed to upregulate DAO (diamine oxidase), one enzyme that breaks down histamine. (Source)
  • Hormones are processed by the liver, so anyone with an overwhelmed liver will necessarily have more of a tendency towards hormonal imbalances. (Source)
  • Stress depletes zinc, which is needed to make progesterone. (Source). Zinc and copper have a reciprocal relationship. When zinc is depleted, copper levels rise, leading to more estrogen and histamine.
  • When both zinc and copper are low, hormonal function of both estrogen and progesterone is compromised.
  • Sudden drops in estrogen or progesterone during ovulation or directly prior to menstruation may account for migraines coming on at these times. (Source)

Additional Factors Influencing Menstrual Migraine

Digestive health clearly plays a role in both instances of hormonal migraine during ovulation and prior to menses.  When the gut flora are out of balance, there is a proliferation of bacteria that produce glutamate and histamine – meaning that the histamine and glutamate load from food sources is ADDING TO the load already present in the (imbalanced) gut.

So for many women who have a large load of glutamate and histamine from both food and gut bacteria sources, any situation in which estrogen, progesterone, or both get very low can lead to an overload – and a migraine (for reasons described in the last section).

If a woman’s stress load is very high or her sleep quality is poor, she will be even more susceptible to menstrual migraine. But why? Because both stress and poor sleep quality lead to mineral depletion (especially of magnesium and zinc). Minerals are key building blocks for all enzymes, including those that manufacture estrogen and progesterone.

We know that stress reduction is key to healing migraine because cortisol, the hormone released during stress, is made from progesterone; so, stress leads to insufficient supplies of progesterone to clean up glutamates.

Drinking coffee or caffeine also increases cortisol so is antithetical to healing hormonal migraine (or any kind of migraine).  Coffee should not be consumed regularly, and only used as a last resort to help abort a migraine.

Since most migraineurs usually have insomnia or poor sleep quality once they are asleep, coffee as well as foods and medications like aspirin which contain caffeine should also be reduced or avoided.  It can be very difficult to heal insomnia when consuming large amounts of caffeine.  Since the body repairs itself at night, getting quality sleep is crucial to healing menstrual migraine.

Migraine and Pregnancy

Luckily for most women who suffer from migraines, when they get pregnant, these migraines miraculously disappear – usually in the third trimester.  What could explain this?

To keep inflammation at bay, the placenta increases DAO (diamine oxidase) production, effectively reducing histamine.  By the third trimester, these levels are peaking.

Estrogen and progesterone both rise in the third trimester.  While estrogen generally increases histamine, this is presumably counter-balanced by the high DAO from the placenta.  And again, since estrogen and progesterone are both glutamate transporters, these higher levels of hormones help reduce migraine during pregnancy as well.

Unfortunately, following pregnancy, these same hormones plummet again.  The migraine-prone mother is likely to be revisited by her migraines, but this time they may be much worse due to the demands of motherhood, sleep deprivation, or recovering from the all-too-common c-section operation and a disrupted microbiome from the antibiotics and other meds.

Hormonal Migraines and Menopause

The vast majority (probably 90%) of my clients are peri- or post-menopausal. While it’s commonly known that many women’s migraines disappear after menopause, I think this is changing. At least some women’s migraines are getting worse with menopause.

This means that migraine is not just a result of the sudden shifts and fluctuations of estrogen and progesterone in the cycle (in the case of menstruating women), but also from chronically low levels of progesterone and estrogen during menopause.

Why, then, do some women’s migraines go away when they reach menopause while other women’s do not?  I believe the women who continue to have migraine have a much higher incidence of gut flora imbalances, digestive problems, mineral imbalances, and liver disease than those whose migraines go away.

And it’s no wonder.  While it’s normal for digestive health to decline somewhat with age, we have to consider why many women who have hit menopause are so overwhelmed with health problems.

Peri and post-menopausal women with chronic migraine will tend to have a large constellation of other symptoms besides migraine, such as fibromyalgia, uterine fibroids, cystic fibrosis, cataracts, depression, etc.  They tend to be on more medications, more synthetic hormones, and have had more surgeries (read: more antibiotics and a disrupted microbiome) – including plastic surgery.

Women with a congested liver will process estrogen less efficiently – and thyroid hormones too! Liver congestion then spills over into gallbladder problems, which are also chronic in migraineurs.  And the cascade of downstream problems continues . . . .  They are all connected, but doctors are treating them as though they are separate conditions.

Many of the women who come to me also have common character traits: highly empathic women who are givers, they tend to overextend themselves and not know how to slow down. These women, even while they are on anti-depressants, very often have an obvious lust for life.  They are not fundamentally depressed people, they are simply in a very depressing situation battling chronic migraine for literally decades.

All of these meds, and all of this stress, leads to more and more mineral depletion. Which leads to lower hormone levels, and higher glutamate and histamine levels. Yes, I’m repeating myself.

Let me say it again, and simply:  the solution is to stop doing the things that deplete minerals (stress, meds), slow down – and replenish your minerals.

Healing Menstrual Migraine with the SimplyWell Protocol

From the people I’ve coached who were not menopausal and had hormonal migraine I can confirm that the SimplyWell Protocol can address so-called “hormonal migraine”, but its success (and how fast that success happens) depends on a number of factors.

One factor is how long the migraines have existed (ie, how chronic the pattern is) – with less chronic, shorter history of menstrual migraines resolving within 2-3 months.

The second major factor is how many medications the person is on to manage migraines, which always seems to slow healing and success on the Protocol down (probably because of the way that the medications congest the liver, alter the microbiome, and deplete minerals).

So: people who have already been eating a whole foods diet, have had migraines for 5-10 years instead of 20 or 30 years, and have used minimal medications (meaning fewer than five doses of any pharmaceutical per month) will recover quicker on the Protocol than those whose pattern of depletion has been ongoing for decades and involves a big dependence on medications.

However inconvenient it may be, the fact remains that healing takes time.

With longstanding chronic migraine, the level of mineral and nutrient depletion on a cellular and tissue level can be profound. While the gut flora get rehabilitated on the Protocol, and nutrient absorption improves, the body will begin to “catch up” on long-neglected repairs.  The body follows the most intelligent sequence in healing, but improvement of hormonal functioning is not always the first in the sequence when the body is deciding where best to utilize nutrients.

As an example to the last point, the B vitamins and also especially copper are crucial for hormonal balance and yet they are also required for thousands of other processes in the body.

The good news is that even while healing takes time, the body does know the right sequence, and improvements are usually seen long before the symptoms are completely eliminated.

Usually clients on the Protocol who present with hormonal migraine see an initial clearing of the migraines and headaches they have during the rest of the month, an improvement in energy, and symptoms of migraine during their moon cycle gradually becoming less severe.

Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis to Heal Migraine

Deeper-seated, longer-standing hormonal imbalances that have been ongoing for decades may need additional support in the form of specific mineral balancing of copper, zinc, and other minerals to improve electrolyte, enzyme, and hormone function.

Mineral levels can be very closely and accurately analyzed using a Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis (HTMA).  Marya is trained in HTMA and can assist with personalized mineral rebalancing as part of a one-on-one coaching session.

In general, many women with migraine and hormonal imbalance have copper dysregulation (either low copper, or latent elevated copper).  Copper is needed to support metabolic function and the synthesis of the DAO enzyme, as well as thousands of other important enzymes (such as the enzyme MAO, which breaks down tyramine).  Therefore supplementing with zinc without sufficient copper can be very problematic since it could further deplete copper levels if done improperly.  This is why one-on-one guidance is often necessary to balance zinc and copper levels, based on actual specific data from an individuals HTMA lab report.

To Sum Up . . .

Healing menstrual migraine involves reducing estrogen load, increasing progesterone, reducing glutamate and histamine load, cleansing the liver, improving digestive function so that minerals are properly absorbed, balancing minerals (especially zinc and copper), and reducing medications and stress.

Pain-solving Migraine Salve Recipe with Ancient Healing Resins

Making your own medicine is empowering and fun.  You get to source your own ingredients, adapt the recipe to get it just how you like it, and finally use the medicine to help yourself. This particular migraine salve is incredibly potent – every single ingredient is a powerful healing agent.

I personally believe that there is a placebo effect that amplifies the medicinal qualities of the ingredients used when we take the time to make medicine ourselves rather than purchasing it elsewhere.  Each time we use our medicine we give the message to our bodymind that Mother Nature has provided us with ample support in the form of botanical plants, and that as long as we have access to the ingredients, our healing is in our own hands because we have the knowledge to make our own medicine – in this case, a luscious migraine salve to rub on our temples and massage into our neck muscles!

But don’t cayenne and cinnamon trigger migraine?

You’ll notice that a few of the ingredients in here, like cayenne, clove, and cinnamon, are high-histamine plants which can actually trigger a migraine if ingested as food.  It’s common for people with migraine to be told ingesting cayenne or cinnamon will help with their migraines.  This is a big mistake, as I outlined here in this blog post. The great thing about this salve is that we can still benefit from the analgesic (pain-numbing) and circulation-enhancing properties of these plants by applying them topically to help with head pain.

Here is an excerpt from that blog post that describes why cinnamon and cayenne are not to be ingested if you have migraine, but why they are valuable topically in a salve like the one we’re about to make here.

  • Cayenne as well as most spicy chilis, especially their seeds, contain a powerful compound called capsaicin. How capsaicin is administered makes a difference in its therapeutic effects (or lack thereof).  Because cayenne (and capsaicin) thins mucous, consumption of cayenne may be more applicable for those with sinus headaches than with migraines caused by digestive upset and histamine overload. This mechanism makes sense when you consider that those who experience relief from capsaicin get it when they take capsaicin in a drink (where it gets exposed to the nasal sinus) but don’t when they take it in capsule form. Capsaicin has been shown to inhibit CGRP (Calcitonin Gene Related Peptide), a potent vasodilator implicated in migraine. However, again, in this study the capsaicin was administered through the nose (Source). Intranasal exposure to capsaisin numbs and desensitizes the cranial nerves. Note that Lundberg and coworkers found that CGRP was inhibited (in guinea pig lung) only when small concentrations of capsaicin were used, but not when high concentrations were (Source). Capsaicin seems to contribute to migraine by way of neurogenic inflammation on a cellular level caused by a sudden influx of calcium into the cell followed by cell death (Source).  It also triggers herpes virus, which may be playing a role in migraine.  For those with histamine intolerance, ingesting cayenne must be avoided, because capsaicin not only contains histamine but also is a potent vasodilator itself (source).  It is a very potent trigger. If you’re going to take it, take it up the nose.  Otherwise – avoid!
  • Cinnamon is without a doubt an incredible healing plant ally. It is warming, pungent, and therefore dispersing of stagnation, which is one reason why cinnamon may be suggested by holistic health care practitioners to improve circulation. Cinnamon especially is also a powerful antiviral and antibiotic as well as a mast cell stabilizer.It is not totally clear why cinnamon triggers migraine, but it has been observed repeatedly that it does in those with histamine overload.  Cinnamon does contain histamine, but most likely, histamine triggers caused by cinnamon are due to the fact that sodium benzoate (NaB) produced by cinnamon is a DAO inhibitor and will therefore impair histamine degradation.  It must also be noted that there are different kinds of cinnamon, and the coumarin in cinnamon may be the culprit, as it is hard for the liver to process (and could therefore trigger migraine in someone who already had compromised liver detoxification).
  • Clove also has different effects when used topically than it does internally.  Clove is a powerful antiviral and also a warming, pungent oil that enhances circulation in a way similar to how cayenne and cinnamon do. It is also one of the most potent antioxidants known.

Bring on the sacred healing resins, frankincense and myrrh!

I’m so infatuated with frankincense and myrrh.  These ancient resins have stuck around for aeons because they work in so many ways to support health. While there are many benefits to frankincense and myrrh taken internally (management of cancer, arthritis, candida, for example) and topically for healing wounds as an antiseptic, for our purposes here we are interested in the therapeutic effects of the aromatics and their beneficial effect on the nervous system.

Although these resins originate in Arabia, eventually the Chinese incorporated them into their medicinal cornucopia.  In Chinese medicine:

“Frankincense and myrrh both quicken the blood and relieve pain. However, frankincense moves qi to quicken the blood and also stretches the sinews, frees the channels, soothes the network vessels, and relieves pain. Myrrh, by contrast, dissipates stasis to quicken the blood and also disperses swelling and settles pain. The former tends to act on qi, while the latter acts on blood. When the two medicinals are used together, the benefits of each are mutually enhanced. Therefore, these two medicinals are almost always used together in clinical practice.”(Source)

First, make the resin-infused oil

Put 3/4 cup of sesame oil in a mason jar along with the frankincense and myrrh resin, the cayenne, and the red sandalwood powder.  Put the lid on tight and and stir the ingredients together to fully saturate them with the oil. Put the mason jar in a slow cooker or in a slow cooker or Instapot, filling it with warm water so that it comes half way up the side of the jar.  Turn the slow cooker on low heat and heat in the water for 24 hours, shaking/agitating the herbs in the oil every few hours to help them dissolve.

Strain the herbs through a coffee filter to remove them, pressing them as you filter them to keep as much of the oil as possible.  You can make this infused oil ahead of time or in larger batches and keep the oil shelf-stable in a cool dry place for up to five years.

For the infused oil:
3/4 cup organic sesame oil
1 Tablespoon organic frankincense resin powder (boswellia carteri)
1 Tablespoon organic myrrh resin powder (commiphora myrrha)
1 teaspoon organic red sandalwood powder
1 teaspoon organic cayenne pepper

For our purposes today we will use all of the oil for our migraine salve – it should turn out to be 1/2 cup of oil after straining, or 8T of oil.

Next, make the migraine salve

For the salve:
2 Tablespoons beeswax
6 tabs cocoa butter (about 1.5 Tablespoons)
30 drops organic essential oil of lavender
35 drops organic essential oil of clove
15 drops organic essential oil of cinnamon
10 drops organic essential oil of frankincense
10 drops organic essential oil of basil

Add the herb infused oil, cocoa butter, and beeswax to a cup in a double-boiler. Simmer the water in the double boiler over low heat until the beeswax and cocoa butter is completely melted. Once the mixture has cooled a little, add the essential oils in.

Stir the migraine salve as it begins to cool further, pouring it into tins and letting it cool completely before putting the caps on. This makes 1/2 cup of migraine salve.

How to use the migraine salve

This salve can be used to help ease headaches and migraine.  Apply to the temples, base of the skull, or even cautiously inside the nose.  Using this in the nasal passage is likely to be most effective but be forewarned it does have a little burning sensation to it.

You can also use the migraine salve on swollen lymph nodes and swollen glands, or rub it on joints that ache.  A small dab is all that’s necessary.  Apply as often as you need to.  Avoid putting this salve directly on open cuts, wounds, or broken skin.

This migraine salve is also available in our shop!

It’s in the spirit of opensource Folk Medicine that I share this “Pain-solving Salve” recipe.

 

 

Beyond Nutrition: Stress Reduction Leverage Points for Healing Migraine (Video)

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.

Herpes as Root Cause of Migraine

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.  Managing symptoms seems to be the name of the game, yet the root cause of migraine remains elusive.

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)
  • dehydration
  • 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)
  • TMJ
  • Light sensitivities
  • neck and muscular tension
  • insomnia
  • 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 to find the root cause of migraine?

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 Nutrient 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)

Fascinating – 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.


 

Mild Herb Liver Pate Recipe: The Ultimate Supplement

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.

Listen to this video to learn more about the importance of copper for histamine, herpes, and hormones.

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:

Ingredients

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 carrot
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)

Directions

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.

Nutrition Info

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.

Enjoy!

Bioavailable Copper for Healing Migraine, Histamine, Herpes, and Hormones (Video)

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.

Comforting Low-histamine Corn Chowder Recipe

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.

Finally, add:

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

Enjoy!