Mineralized Water with Magnesium and Sodium Chloride (Video)

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.

 

Natural, Plant-based CGRP Receptor Antagonists for Migraine Relief

CGRP receptor antagonist

Drug companies are making their first pharmaceutical medications that are actually geared towards treating migraine directly.

Until recently, meds prescribed for migraine have been developed for other conditions but used by migraineurs with varying degrees of success.  Now, new injectable migraine drugs slated to come out in 2017 or 2018 aim to reduce migraine symptoms by inhibiting CGRP or acting as CGRP receptor antagonists. These new generation pharmaceuticals appear to be quite effective and for many migraineurs who have been suffering for decades without truly effective medications, their availability will come as a relief – until they get the sticker shocker.  These drugs will cost anywhere from $12,00-50,000 a year.  Like Botox injections, they may not be covered by insurance providers.  These CGRP receptor antagonists will also be made using genetic engineering, specifically through monoclonal antibodies.

Monoclonal antibodies are designed to bind to a specific substance. They can detect or purify that substance. CGRP monoclonal antibodies bind to CGRP to prevent the activation and sensitisation of trigeminal nerves. CGRP monoclonal antibodies prevent migraine by: binding with the CGRP released from trigeminal sensory nerve fiber; preventing activation of trigeminal nerves; preventing attacks in migraine susceptible individuals (Source)

The pharmaceutical family of triptans work as serotonin receptor agonists (increasing serotonin uptake); they also work via influence of CGRP levels by initially decreasing them.  The bad news is that eventually circulating CGRP levels actually increase with chronic exposure, leading to MOH (migraine overuse headache).  So triptans cause chronic migraine when stopped, which leads to dangerous dependency and overuse – since continual use may be the only way to stave off the rebound headache.

Sumatriptan, a pharmaceutical intervention used to abort migraine, has been shown to decrease CGRP levels concomitant with symptom relief. Sumatriptan is primarily classified as a 5-HT1 (serotonin) receptor agonist, but has also demonstrated inhibition of action potential signaling by inhibiting [calcium] channels in CGRP fibers. Calcium influx upon depolarization is a fundamental signaling mechanism which, among a host of other functions, stimulates the release of CGRP. (Source).

It becomes relevant to ask (as a promoter of Folk Medicine) whether Mother Nature has already provided us with natural, safe, gentle, affordable, and effective CGRP receptor antagonists in food or plant form?  As it turns out there are many plants that contain CGRP receptor antagonists or prevent levels of CGRP from escalating.  No surprises there!  The question is to what extent these plants may actually be comparably helpful and effective for migraine.  That’s a question that I pose here without a known answer, but which seems eminently practical to ask, given the unknown effects of emerging technologies such as genetically-engineered medications and the longer track record for safe use of plants such as those outlined in this article. But first . . .

What is CGRP?

CGRP stands for calcitonin gene-related peptide. CGRP is a neuropeptide – a molecule made up of 2-50 amino acids (as distinguished from a protein, which contains 50 amino acids or more).  Amino acids transport and store nutrients. One route through which food substances may impact CGRP secretion is through interruption of calcium signaling, which can trigger CGRP release. CGRP levels have been detected in the serum of migraineurs, with elevated levels in individuals with chronic migraine headache as compared to those with episodic migraine.

When CGRP is injected via IV it delivers a migraine attack in migraineurs – so researchers in phase 2 trials of the injectable medication now in development wanted to find out if inhibiting CGRP levels would have the opposite effect and prevent a migraine attack. It did – but there was also a strong placebo effect (15% of placebo had no migraines whilst 26% with the treatment experienced no migraines during this period).

It’s interesting to note that the brain itself can’t feel pain – the sensation of pain is triggered when CGRP is released, binding to receptors in the trigeminal nerve and causing vasodilation in blood vessels lining the meninges (the membrane which covers the brain).

So, which Specific Plants Naturally Reduce CGRP Levels?

The two most promising plants featured below (Sangre de Grado and grape pomace) are very high in proanthocyanidins, a powerful flavonoid that has been shown to play a role in boosting serotonin (5-HT) levels in the brain (not just the gut) of mice.  Essentially, proanthocyanidins seem to act as MAO inhibitors (meaning that they increase serotonin by way of inhibiting the enzyme that breaks them down).  When serotonin levels increase, CGRP levels decrease.

“. . . proanthocyanidin produced a marked increase of 5-HT levels at 25 and 50mg/kg in three brain regions, the frontal cortex, hippocampus and hypothalamus. Noradrenaline and dopamine levels were also increased when higher dose of proanthocyanidin (50mg/kg) administration both in the frontal cortex and hippocampus. These effects were similar to those observed for the classical antidepressant imipramine (10mg/kg, i.p.). Moreover, Our study suggested that proanthocyanidin (12.5, 25 and 50mg/kg) dose dependently inhibited monoamine oxidase-A (MAO-A) activity, while MAO-B inhibitory activity was also found at higher doses (25 and 50mg/kg) after 7days administration. MAO-A selective inhibitor, moclobemide (20mg/kg, i.g.) produced MAO-A inhibition of 70.5% in the mouse brain. These findings suggest that the antidepressant-like effects of proanthocyanidin may involve the central monoaminergic neurotransmitter systems.”

As it turns out, some plants work to slow activation of CGRP in the first place (grape pomace, ginger, butterbur), while others work at the level of the receptor sites (ie, as a CGRP receptor antagonist) – or both (Sangre de Grado).  It’s very likely that there are many many compounds in plants that play a role in CGRP levels.  I will add to this list as I do more research, but below are the most exciting plants I’ve found so far in this inquiry.

Sangre De Grado (aka Dragon’s Blood, Sangre de Drago, Croton lechleri)

Sangre de Drago, aka Dragon’s Blood, is a viscous, red tree sap that has been used by indigenous cultures of the Amazon River basin for thousands of years in their ethno-medicine. Most of the sap is harvested from the upper jungle of Peru and Ecuador, although the plant is common throughout the Amazon.  The plant that we are referring to here is in the Croton species (and not from species Dracaena, Daemonorops, Calamus rotang and Pterocarpus).

Sangre de Grado is a powerful antibiotic, antiviral, antiseptic, antifungal, antihemorrhagic, analgesic, and antioxidant. An article published in the Nutrition Journal in 2010 testing 3100 foods, beverages, spices and herbs worldwide found that Sange de Grado had the highest antioxidant content of the 59 herbal products tested in the database at 2897.1 mmol/100 g – much higher than the next highest herb formula Triphala at 706.25 mmol/100 g.

While Sangre de Grado has been used effectively for thousands of years in Amazonian medicine for skin wounds, gum health, gastrointestinal problems, ulcers, hemorrhage and bacterial and viral infections (especially Hep B and C), our primary interest in this article is how it affects CGRP levels and what the implications for that effect are.

It’s encouraging that blood engorgement, edema, and excessive sensitivity to pain were all reduced with administration of Sangre de Grado at a 1:10,000 dilution, in a study titled “Inhibition of Neurogenic Inflammation by the Amazonian Herbal Medicine Sangre de Grado”.  The researchers concluded that:

Sangre de Grado is a potent inhibitor of sensory afferent nerve mechanisms and supports its ethnomedical use for disorders characterized by neurogenic inflammation. . . . [Sangre de Grado’s] applications in Amazonia are not limited to cutaneous disorders. [Sangre de Grado] is also taken orally, in dilute form, for severe gastrointestinal distress. . . Despite the widespread use of [Sangre de Grado] in Amazonia as an analgesic, antidiarrheal, and wound-healing agent few in the Western world are aware of its existence and little is known about how it achieves these therapeutic benefits. We postulated that these benefits may result from a suppression of sensory afferent nerve activation and the present results support this conclusion. This hypothesis was generated from experience and the knowledge that sensory afferent nerves serve as broad-based sentinels in the skin, gut, and lung, and that the rapidity by which [Sangre de Grado] relieved pain . . .  was consistent with a neurogenic mechanism. In addition, the serendipitous personal observation by an author that [Sangre de Grado] relieved the symptoms of cutaneous capsaicin (sensations associated with an overly spicy meal) focused our attention to sensory afferent nerve mechanisms. [Sangre de Grado] appears to suppress the activation of sensory afferent nerves at a prejunctional level, in addition to inhibiting the tissue responses to CGRP, a primary neurotransmitter of sensory afferent nerves. (Source)

This report makes it clear that Sangre de Grado is good at alleviating many issues associated with migraine, including loose stool and sensitivity to chilli (which contains capsaisin, a known CGRP activator and trigger of histamine overload). Since we know that migraines have a digestive component as well as a neurological component involving blood vessel dilation, the ability of Sangre de Grado to calm digestion, constrict blood vessels, and reduce pain from nerve inflammation would make it very attractive as an experimental treatment.  The fact that it may be providing these benefits by way of inhibiting tissue responses to CGRP is even more exciting.

In laboratory tests, Dr. John Wallace of the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Medicine research team has demonstrated that Sangre de Grado blocks the activation of nerve fibers that relay pain signals to the brain, therefore functioning as a broad-acting pain killer. Wallace states that:

Not only does Sangre de Grado prevent pain sensation, it also blocks the tissue response to a chemical released by nerves that promotes inflammation. There is currently no other substance that we know of that shares these same activities. (Source)

It could also be that topical application of Sangre de Grado in the neck and base of the skull (where cranial nerves including the trigeminal nerver are located) could also help with inflammation associated with migraine. The authors point out that:

. . . [Sangre de Grado] was an effective analgesic and anti-inflammatory agent when applied topically, even when the hyperalgesic [pain] stimuli were applied by intradermal injection. This suggests that active components have sufficient lipophilicity to readily cross the skin. . . . this transcutaneous absorption appears to be rapid. (Source)

What are the compounds that make Sangre de Grado so medicinal?  As with most plants used as medicine in whole form, it’s likely a specific combination of compounds all working together, but what is clear is that proanthocyandins account for 90% of Sangre de Grado’s chemical composition. Proanthocyandins can be found in many plants including red grapes (as discussed in the next section). Proanthocyanidins inhibit enzymes that produce histamine, and have been shown to have protective effects on gastric mucosa in experiments on rats via their anti-histamine effects. Proanthocyanidins also inhibit the same class of prostaglandins (PGE2) that are associated with migraine.

Botanist Dr. James Duke points out that,

. . . in addition to the proanthocyanadins (including Pycnogenol) and taspine, there’s another active ingredient – dimethylcedrusine. While each of these alone – dimethylcedrusine, pycnogenol and taspine – was shown to effectively heal wounded rats (with squares of skin exfoliated, i.e., peeled off) by European scientists, the whole dragon’s blood was shown to speed healing four times faster. The whole was better than the sum of its parts. Synergy makes the whole herb stronger; diversity makes the rainforest stronger. (Source)

Various online sources that I’ve seen have reported relief from arthritis, IBS, psoriasis, ulcers, cancer, and many other inflammatory conditions through the use of 10-15 drops of Sangre de Grado taken internally per day.  Amazonian Shaman Don Jose Campos mentions in his book that Sangre de Grado is one of the most powerful and effective medicines for a wide variety of health problems, but that it’s important to never exceed 20 drops per day as a dose.

It’s unclear whether Sangre de Grado used over the course of weeks could eventually heal the underlying pathology of migraine headache including its digestive component, or would best be used as a temporary way to avert an oncoming migraine. Given that this medicine has been used safely by many people at doses mentioned above for other conditions, it would seem to be a simple enough experiment to try at modest doses and gradually build up to 15 drops a day until an effect or benefit is noticed. (As always, if you are on medication, check with your physician first for any contraindications).

Sangre de Grado is the most promising of the plants I’ve researched because it acts BOTH to prevent release of CGRP as well as to block CGRP receptors (ie, it is both a CGRP inhibitor and receptor antagonist). Sangre de Grado seems to be an overlooked medicinal resource from the rain forests of the Amazon that may offer useful therapeutic advantages over pharmaceutical migraine medications.

Note: It’s important to get Sangre De Grado from a source that uses sustainable harvesting methods. I get my Sangre de Grado from Whole World Botanicals. (I have no personal relationship or financial interests in this company).  Also, make sure to get the sap straight, NOT in an alcohol based tincture, since alcohol can trigger migraines.

Grape Pomace

Grape pomace is the remaining skin and seed byproduct leftover after grapes are pressed. This waste product is often thrown away or put back into the soil, or sometimes given to animals in their feed to improve their health, as it is a potent antioxidant.  Occasionally it is used for resale as a nutritional supplement.  It appears that few have explored its potential for use with migraine headache, although this company (Two Willows Farm) is selling grape seed and skins with or without pine bark (which has also been effective in alleviating migraines).

As it turns out, grape pomace also contains proanthocyandins, (the main constituent of Sangre de Grado), although it is unclear whether it is due to proanthocyandins that it affects CGRP levels. As mentioned in the section above on Sangre de Grado, proanthocyandins – specifically, those from grape seed – inhibit proinflammatory prostaglandin E associated with migraine.

Grape pomace is also high in the flavonoid quercetin, which is a known mast-cell stabilizer (and therefore reduces histamine levels).

Brain mast cells can also secrete pro-inflammatory and vasodilatory molecules such as interleukin-6 (IL-6) and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), selectively in response to corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), a mediator of stress which is known to precipitate or exacerbate migraines. (Source)

In Italy, researchers found melatonin or melatonin-like stubstances in different grape varieties.  Low melatonin levels are associated with migraine.  As it turns out, melatonin also inhibits CGRP levels (at least in rats).  (Low melatonin is also associated with adrenal insufficiency, so presumable, improved melatonin levels would help with kidney/adrenal health as well).

Concentration-dependent dilation of the rat middle cerebral artery produced by CGRP . . . was significantly inhibited in the presence of . . . melatonin. . . In addition, CGRP-mediated increase in adenylate cyclase activity was also significantly attenuated by the receptor mediated action of melatonin. These results indicate that melatonin may interact with CGRP to regulate cerebral arterial tone. (Source).

A study at George Mason University (Effect of Grape Pomace Extract on In Vitro CGRP Secretion as a Proxy for Migraine) concluded that “Results from the study provide evidence that chemicals in grape pomace extract reduce the levels of CGRP secreted.”  In other words, they don’t work as CGRP receptor antagonists, but rather prevent the secretion of CGRP in the first place. Another set of rats orally fed grape seed extract for 14 days had lower basal expression of CGRP in the neurons and microglia of the trigeminal nucleus caudalis than control rats.

In the study “Impact of Food Components on in vitro Calcitonin Gene-Related Peptide Secretion—A Potential Mechanism for Dietary Influence on Migraine”, impacts of grape pomace, ginger, and S-petasin (a compound found in butterbur) were studied on cell cultures.

Interestingly, grape pomace extracts displayed the strongest ability to inhibit CGRP secretion of any of the tested substances. This is notable not only for the scale of the inhibition, but also because the grape pomace extracts did not significantly inhibit calcium uptake upon stimulation. This suggests that inhibition of CGRP release of grape pomace extracts occurs by a mechanism different from calcium channel inhibition. . . Presumably, as red grapes, both pomace extracts would also contain anthocyanins, procyanidins, flavonols, and catechins. It is reasonable to propose these phenolic acids and polyphenolics may be responsible for the activity witnessed here.(Source)

As with many studies of plant compounds, the conclusions about the role grape pomace plays in CGRP levels were reached based off of analysis of results obtained from studies in cell cultures or animals, and not consumption by human beings.  But there have bee studies of grape pomace’s effects on other health markers in humans.  Grape pomace extracts and procyanidins have been associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases such as atherosclerosis and shown to slow down degradation of skin collagen and elasticity associated with ageing.

Additional research has shown that in ruminants, grape pomace consumption increase sperm motility and improved faecal microflora in lambs.  Grape pomace also was shown to enrich soil phosphorus levels in soils supplemented with grape pomace biochar.  The dietary fiber and phenols in grape phenolic extract (1mg/mL) also induced a “significant biomass increase of L. acidophilus grown in liquid culture media“, which could theoretically translate into improved gut health and microflora when consumed by humans.

Currently, I am in the process of sourcing whole, dried, organic grape pomace in the Columbia Gorge region where I live to feature in my shop. The drying process does reduce the total phenolic content as compared to consumption of fresh grape pomace, but the end product still contains significant beneficial properties. My hope is to find a source in whole dried form that can then be powdered on the spot in a spice grinder for optimal freshness by the migraineur, preventing oxidation that would occur with pre-ground grape pomace powders.

Ginger & Butterbur

As the above cited study states, both ginger and butterbur (in the form of s-petasin) demonstrated “a mild decrease in calcium uptake as well as a mild reduction in CGRP secretion”, which may have been affected by the calcium channel blocking effects of these two plants.

While there may be other properties in both ginger and butterbur that help with migraine through other mechanisms, it appears that neither have such significant effects on lowering CGRP levels on their own as compared to either Sangre de Grado or grape pomace, which do not seem to be calcium channel blockers.  Perhaps a blend of these herbs and foods would have a more positive synergistic effect?

Other Plant Compounds that Affect CGRP Levels

Plants, as a rule, possess dynamic properties – with multiple molecules working together in synergistic (and unpredictable ways).  I wanted to share some notes I’ve taken about different plant compounds and how those compounds may affect CGRP, without concluding that all plants containing these compounds will necessarily help reduce migraines (as indicated by the fact that theobroma cacao lowers CGRP levels but is also a known migraine trigger.  It could be that the tyramine levels in cacao due to fermentation have a stronger physiological effect than the CGRP-inhibitory effect of the theobroma).  Notice that many compounds that inhibit CGRP also happen to reduce glutamate levels and are vasoconstrictive. CGRP and glutamate levels are both affected by calcium channel activation.

Compounds that Lower CGRP (Potentially Helpful in Alleviating Migraine)

  • Piperine – found in black pepper; also vasoconstrictive.
  • L-malate (ie, malic acid) – found in apples and many other tart fruits. It is a precursor to oxaloacetate, which reduces glutamate levels as well.
  • Ferulic acid – found in flax seeds, rice bran, and the Chinese herb Danshen (Salvia miltiorrhiza). Also reduces glutamate leves. Flax seeds also contain prebiotic gums.
  • Caffeic acid – in coffee, danshen and other plants such as celery.
  • Rosmarinic acid, an ester of caffeic acid – found in the herb Danshen and rosemary essential oil; also known to be a vasoconstrictor.
  • Interestingly, theobroma cacao from chocolate (a known migraine trigger) was also shown to decrease CGRP levels (in rats). Perhaps the tyramines overshadow the benefits of reduced cgrp!

Compounds that Raise CGRP (best avoided)

  • Capsaisin – present in chilli.
  • Cannabidiol – in cannabis; also a vasodilator. “the cannabidiol-evoked CGRP release depended on extracellular calcium.”

Stay Tuned for More Info . . .

Stay tuned for future blog posts in which we will explore the role that GABA, Serotonin, gut bacteria, melatonin, and electrolytes play in CGRP levels.

Please note that this information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat migraines, or act as a replacement for medical care from a medical professional.

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.simplywell.info/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Marya.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Marya Gendron is a biodynamic craniosacral therapist, health coach, and wellness researcher. She specializes in chronic migraine headache relief and alleviation of brain fog, indigestion, and histamine intolerance through plant-based solutions.

The SimplyWell Protocol is available here, or you can book a consultation with Marya.
Learn more about Marya’s healing journey here.
[/author_info] [/author]

Migraine Trigger Alert! High Levels of Nitrates in Green Leafy Veggies

When people with migraines think about foods to avoid, green leafy vegetables aren’t usually on their radar as a migraine trigger.

After all, veggies and especially greens are important foods that you’ve gotta love. They’re packed full of blood-building and cleansing nutrients and exemplify all that is healthful and wholesome.  Most people with migraines and food sensitivities see vegetables as one of the safest food groups to eat from.  Spinach is occasionally recognized as a migraine trigger but usually the explanation given is that it contains high levels of oxalates or triggers histamine.  Both of these explanations may be true, but nitrates are usually not described as a migraine trigger when it comes to eating spinach.

The original SimplyWell Migraine Relief Protocol addressed the issue of nitrates – though not explicitly – by suggesting that you avoid nitrate rich foods such as lunch meats and cured meats along with most other aged and fermented foods.  What is news to us is that many fresh vegetables also contain significant amounts of nitrates – some naturally-occuring, some a result of how the plants are fertilized, and some a result of the time of year of harvest, growing conditions, and how the food is prepared.

The natural human tendency is to think that when something is good for you (ie, vegetables), more is even better for you. So our enthusiasm for taking responsibility for our health may result in us getting really amped about the practice of drinking fresh green smoothies every morning (for example)!   Unfortunately, if you get overzealous with them, raw leafy greens high in nitrates eaten in excess can be a migraine trigger, for reasons explained below.

Before moving forward, I want to point out, however, that my migraines went away before I knew about this connection and while eating nitrate-rich veggies.  I didn’t drink many green smoothies though.  My impression is that drinking green smoothies high in nitrates once in awhile should not pose too much of a problem for people who only get migraines occasionally.  But for those who have almost constant migraines, this nitrate issue may be a game-changer and reducing their consumption may improve symptoms and quality of life.  So as you read this, think of this info in light of how severe your migraines are before deciding to change how you eat greens.

The new research into nitrates and migraines

Recently there’s been some new research coming out showing that people with migraine headaches have more nitrate-reducing bacteria in their mouths and nitrate-producing bacteria in their guts.  This is important information, because:

“Nitrates, such as cardiac therapeutics and food additives, are common headache triggers, with nitric oxide playing an important role. Facultative anaerobic bacteria in the oral cavity may contribute migraine-triggering levels of nitric oxide through the salivary nitrate-nitrite-nitric oxide pathway. Using high-throughput sequencing technologies, we detected observable and significantly higher abundances of nitrate, nitrite, and nitric oxide reductase genes in migraineurs versus nonmigraineurs in samples collected from the oral cavity and a slight but significant difference in fecal samples.” (Source)

While higher levels of nitric oxide (and raw, green, leafy veggies) may be a good thing for people with hypertension and high blood pressure, it’s not sp great for those of us with hypotension and low blood pressure.  Nitrates contribute to vasodilation and low blood pressure, and when our blood pressure is low (as most of ours are who are prone to migraines), there is insufficient blood and therefore oxygen getting to the head (as well as impingement on nearby cranial nerves). If you’d like to learn more about this, read my blog post here, under the section “Why do so many people with migraine headaches have dilated blood vessels, low blood pressure, and electrolyte imbalances?”

I know this isn’t something you really wanted to hear.

The last thing you need is to start being afraid of yet one more food group. In addition to alcohol, cheese, chocolate, and fermented and aged foods and supplements, you may (or may not be) already aware that you’re probably also to some degree triggered by glutamates, histamine, tyramines, benzoates, oxalates, and/or salycilates.  Now also nitrates!?!?  This news is hard to be receptive to, I realize.

The only consolation I have to offer is that by being educated about the properties of foods, we can actually be less fearful and more empowered in how we eat.  We don’t have to avoid these foods entirely (that would be impossible!), but by making discerning decisions about which foods we eat and how we prepare them, we can stop overloading our system with them.  The even better news is that once your gut flora starts to get rebalanced with help from the SimplyWell Migraine Relief Protocol, your body just won’t get overloaded quite so easily, and you’ll be more resilient.

I’d imagine that even among people who are prone to migraines, there is still a diversity in their gut (and oral cavity) microbiome and these differences among us may explain our different levels of food sensitivities and capacities to handle glutamates, histamine, tyramines, benzoates, oxalates, and/or salycilates. There may be differences in our individual capacities to handle nitrates as well, so please test these foods out on yourself to gauge your own sensitivity levels.  What does seem clear is that nitrates ultimately reduce blood pressure, and this is generally undesirable in those with migraines.

So what are the veggies highest in nitrates?

That’s not a straightforward question to answer, because of the variability in factors that contribute to nitrate content (soil, plant type, growing conditions, fertilizers, time of year harvested, how old the plant is, part of the plant consumed, etc).  I’d love to be able to provide you with a very neat list outlining fixed nitrate levels for each vegetable, but doing so would be deceptive. In addition to the factors just described, we probably each have diverse nitrate reducing gut and mouth microbe communities, meaning nitrate levels as a migraine trigger may vary in intensity for each of us as individuals.

So let’s just simplify this.

Generally it appears that there is agreement that spinach, kale, arugula, chard, cilantro, and beet greens are highest in nitrates.  These foods doin’t have to be avoided – but will be better for you to eat cooked.  Cabbage, celery, bok choy, romaine, and radishes seem to be generally in the medium range of nitrate levels.  Cabbage and bok choy are usually cooked anyway, but radishes should still be good for you in moderation because unlike the more leafy green veggies high in nitrates, radishes contain prebiotic fibers and other properties beneficial to people with migraines (which is why they remain an optional but important part of the SimplWell Protocol).  According to some lists, potatoes and carrots are on the lower end of the nitrate spectrum (and also contain prebiotics, so we want to eat them raw).  Cucumbers, iceberg lettuce, and mesclun greens are also in the low to medium range.

Fruits also contain nitrates, but nowhere near the amounts that green leafy veggies do.  It’s my personal conclusion right now that its not important to stop eating any fruits, especially since fructose breaks down into a variety of waste products, one of which is uric acid. Uric acid drives up your blood pressure by inhibiting the nitric oxide in your blood vessels.  We want to increase our blood pressure to get more blood to the head (again, since people with migraines usually have low blood pressure).  Of course, always consider this information in light of what  you already know about your own particular food sensitivities.

Here’s a quick primer on how to minimize nitrate load from greens in your diet:

  1. Always choose organic greens.  Organic greens generally have fewer nitrates than conventionally-raised greens (which are more likely to to be a migraine trigger).
  2. Greens harvested during the spring and summer have lower nitrate levels than those harvested in the fall and winter.  Eating locally in season is one way to reduce nitrate levels.
  3. Cooking greens significantly lowers nitrate content, so eating cooked rather than fresh veggies will be less of a trigger, especially for the greens that are still healthful, like kale and spinach, but are very high in nitrates when fresh.
  4. Vegetables lower in nitrates should be chosen when you are eating fresh vegetables in the form of salads or green smoothies.  Mesclun greens, romaine lettuce, and cucumbers are lower in nitrates, but still contain nitrates.

A reminder: this info on nitrates is preliminary.

The research on higher nitrate-reducing bacteria in the mouths of those with migraines, and higher levels of nitrate-producing bacteria in their colons, just came out a few weeks ago. The implications of this research has not been tested out in large numbers of people with migraines to see how reducing nitrate-rich veggies and greens will impact their migraines.  But the mechanisms for how and why nitrates would affect those of us with migraines (and attendant low blood pressure) is pretty clear.

It just so happens that recently, when I experienced an unusual week of headaches and cloudy brain fog, I had been choosing to drink a lot of green drinks (normally I just rely on my carrot potato juice).  I had attributed my headaches to hormonal changes in my pregnancy, and low blood pressure from weather changes.  But then I found this research on nitrates. It’s almost as though the universe decided to perfectly time my green drink experiment with the releasing of this information so that I would make the connection.  So I stopped drinking the green drinks, and my headaches went away.  I’ve briefly tested this again and noticed fresh salads high in nitrates seem to give me headache symptoms.  Because my gut flora are more balanced from the prebiotics and improved electrolyte balance, high-nitrate greens aren’t a migraine trigger for me – but they do seem to give me a headache and other milder symptoms that would otherwise turn into one without implementation of the SimplyWell Migraine Relief Protocol.

Scientific Research + Experiental Learning + Sharing Insight = Folk Medicine

The validity of this insight as it pertains to those who are prone to migraines should be tested more, and we have other members in our SimplyWell Protocol Community currently testing out this insight.  So if you normally drink a lot of green drinks, and decide to stop after reading this, please let me know what you find out.  You’ll be contributing to Folk Medicine knowledge by sharing your anecdotal evidence.  The combination of insights and explanations gleaned from scientific research which is then applied through personal experimentation – followed by the sharing of your observations with those who are also asking the same questions – is the best of both worlds.

Important! The goal is NEVER to be more afraid of food.

The goal is to be educated enough about food and how it affects us that we can actually feel well and function while we do the important work of healing the underlying imbalances that are causing the food sensitivity in the first place.  The body knows how to heal if we support it properly, and we can do so through better understanding of the properties of foods including this new information on nitrate migraine triggers and how to eat veggies in a way that won’t overload us or lower our blood pressure to much.

Check out my delicious recipe for a low-nitrate green drink made with romaine, cucumber, mint, and pear!

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5 Ways to Get Migraine Relief without Drugs – Quick!

Back in the day, when I lived with the weekly beast of migraine headaches gnawing at my skull or looming nearby, I experimented with a wide variety of ways to get migraine relief without drugs.  When I felt one coming on, I’d frantically start going through my arsenal of tricks, and usually ended up succeeding one way or another in keeping it at bay or dissipating it entirely.  I refused to take pharmaceutical pain or migraine meds – because I understood that my migraines were actually caused by pharmaceuticals, especially antibiotics, that threw off my gut flora balance.  I’m not sure that my strength to stay away from pain meds would have persisted had I not finally discovered the plant-based solution to migraine headaches that I now call The SimplyWell Migraine Relief Protocol.

Some of the ways I’ve succeeded in getting rid of migraines were not only not replicable at all, but highly esoteric (visualizing sacred geometry – specifically, the torus symbol below).  Other attempts were successful but extremely hard to pull off while in so much pain (such as giving myself a craniosacral therapy treatment, or making love with a splitting headache, eventhough they worked!).

torusSo I want to share with you the five most common ways that I consistently managed to stave off or get rid of a migraine.  Obviously, these techniques are the most effective when applied the soonest you feel a migraine coming on.  However if you are like I was and constantly have some kind of a headache more or less all the time, there’s the tendency to hope that early signs of a migraine will just resolve themselves with a little sleep or rest.  Better to be proactive before things ramp up too much.

I offer these tips as a temporary measure for those of you who have not managed to get your dietary triggers figured out or who have not done the SimplyWell Protocol for long enough to see results yet.

In order to understand why the approaches below can often work to get rid of a migraine, we need to understand what migraine is and why it manifests.  My belief is that the majority of migraines result from 1) compromised kidneys which affects blood pressure and electrolyte balance, 2) imbalanced gut flora with a predominance of histamine and nitrate producing flora, which makes eating foods high in these substances overwhelming and activates inflammation in the gut and brain, and 3) congested lymph, especially in the neck area.  There are of course other factors involved, such as liver health, thyroid health, and issues with nutritional absorption all of which also affect migraines, but for the sake of brevity, we’ll just focus on these main points.  I’ve listed the most effective solutions here first.

1. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate – and Raise Your Blood Pressure

Yes, we’ve all heard this one before.  What some of us haven’t heard is that drinking water doesn’t make your cells hydrated if your electrolyte balance is off.  The cells need an optimal ratio of potassium to sodium in order for the potassium/sodium channels to work (as well as magnesium and calcium, but potassium and sodium are the most important for actually getting rid of a migraine). Therefore, have a DIY electrolyte powder on hand that you can drink when you feel a migraine coming on.  Buying pre-formulated electrolyte powders won’t work as wel because most of them are formulated for athletes who lose a lot of sodium or aren’t directly formulated for migraineurs.

Click here for a DIY Electrolyte Drink Recipe!

So, in order to be hydrated you need both electrolytes and water.  Water contains oxygen but also increases blood volume, which is important because increased blood volume will mean there will be more blood to permeate all the extremities as well as the head even in the midst of low blood pressure. After you’ve taken 1 T of the elecrolyte mixture in water, drink a minimum of 3 pints of fresh water to raise your blood volume.Low blood pressure and dilated blood vessels will mean that less blood and oxygen will get to the head, so we need to constrict the blood vessels and raise the blood pressure (in addition to raising blood volume).  Getting sufficient sodium will also help to raise blood pressure (in addition to hydrating the cells), while potassium will help to relax tense muscles (in addition to hydrating the cells).

2. Move Your Lymph

People with migraines often have congested lymph, especially in the head and neck area.  Contrary to popular belief, muscular contraction during exercise is not what moves lymph along.  It’s actually deep diaphragmatic breathing (which can also occurs during exercise).In order to move congested lymph from your head, first massage under the jaw.  Use deep firm pressure under the lip of the jaw bone moving medially inwards to outwards towards your sternocleidomastoid and jaw (putting pressure directly on the submental and submaxillary glands).  Next, massage your cervical glands by gripping your sternocleidomastoid muscle in a pincer grip from top to bottom.  Here is a video demonstrating manual lymph drainage.

face-and-neck-lymph-nodes-5514bd716d393Once you have the muscular tissues and lymph moving in your neck and head, do a few deep breathing exercises, making sure to emphasize a complete and full EXHALE.  Get all the stagnant air out of the lungs.  This is just as important as a deep inhale.After this, go outside for a vigorous run, ideally up a steep hill or up a flight of stairs.  Do this for at least 20 minutes.  The exercise will increase blood flow to the brain, move stagnant lymph, and oxygenate your entire body.  The headache should subside, especially if you have also taken electrolytes prior to running.  It can be hard to push yourself during a migraine, but it’s well worth it.  If you don’t have stairs or a steep hill, do jumping jacks or any kind of vigorous movement that gets the heart pumping hard and the diaphragm moving vigorously for 20 minutes.  Dancing works too!

3. Calm Your Vagus Nerve

The vagus nerve acts as the communication link between the gut and the head.  When the gut is inflamed, the vagus nerve sends alarm signals to the brain.  There are simple ways to calm down the vagus nerve.  You can take an alternating hot/cold shower.  The heat will increase blood flow, and the cold will constrict blood vessels, encourage deep inhalation, and calm the vagus nerve.  Get the water as cold as you can, and make sure you are proportionally staying under the cold water at least twice as long as the hot water.  Make sure you get the cold water on your head, face, back and torso.  Definately end with cold water, not hot.  (In general, avoid soaking in hot water while you have a migraine, as this dilates blood vessels and lowers blood pressure).If you cannot take a shower, you can calm your vagus nerve by splashing cold water repeatedly on your face (a minimum of ten times).  This may not get rid of a migraine by itself, but it can really help especially in conjunction with other approaches outlined here.For more ideas on how to calm your vagus nerve, read this article here.

4. Constrict Your Cranial Blood Vessels

When vertebral arteries and blood vessels are engorged (dilated) and blood pressure is low, blood does not get to the head and the blood vessels impinge on the plexus of cranial nerves leading into the head from the neck.  Therefore, constricting these blood vessels is an important way to get rid of a migraine. The cold shower should help with this, but in addition, you can place an ice pack or pack of frozen peas on the base of your skull, thereby creating more space for the cranial nerves going into the skull at the foramen magnum.In addition to the ice pack, you can constrict your blood vessels by drinking a frozen drink (getting a “brain freeze” can help constrict the blood vessels by cooling the back of the mouth).  Some people find more success using a frozen coffee drink, since caffeine also constricts blood vessels.  You can also drink chilled peppermint tea (peppermint is a vasoconstrictor).  This alone is not likely to get rid of a migraine but may help to tip you away from it when used in conjunction with other methods outlined here.58qv-2804

Another way to constrict your blood vessels is to use a blend of hypertensive essential oils. You’ve probably noticed that it’s not just synthetic fragrances that are a horrible trigger when you have headache and migraine symptoms – some essential oils (especially the more floral and low-note oils like jasmine and patchouli) can wreak havoc on your fragile brain too.  That’s because those and many other oils are hypotensive (ie, vasodilating) oils. Therefore, migraineurs may want to avoid geranium, jasmine, marjoram, rose, valerian, lemon, melissa, neroli, nutmeg, vetivert, and ylang ylang essential oils, especially when they are symptomatic – and instead opt for hypertensive oils.

To learn more about hypertensive, vasoconstrictive essential oils, head on over to my blog post on that topic, where I share with you my recipe for a vasoconstrictive/hypertensive essential oil blend.  The oils I’ve chosen to use in my own SimplyWell Migraine, Headache, & Brain Fog Support Blend are only a few of the vasoconstrictive essential oils out there. All of the oils used in this blend are also great for digestive issues.  No surprises there, since most migraines are digestive migraines!

5. Remove Fermentation & Histamine From the Colon with an Enema

This is a last resort, but it has worked for me many times.  It is not an optimal solution, because we don’t really know how enemas affect the gut flora.  However, some people may find it to be a solution preferable to taking a pharmaceutical medication (which also negatively affect gut flora).  Coffee enemas tend to be the most effective, perhaps because they help to stimulate the hepatic nerve of the liver and thereby reduce liver congestion (which is also implicated in migraine headaches).Most importantly, an enema will help to remove food that has reached the colon that is triggering inflammation, perhaps because this food has not been sufficiently broken down through DAO (diamine oxidase). Many people with migraines have low DAO levels, and DAO receptor sites on cells are also affected by electrolyte balance, so the electrolyte mixture above will help with that as well.When food which has not been properly broken down by DAO reaches the colon, it starts to feed unfriendly bacteria which produce histamine, thus adding to your histamine load.  Removing this histamine burden through an enema can often make a migraine go away.While I won’t be going into a tutorial on how to do an enema here, it’s important to emphasize that the water or coffee be lukewarm and not hot, and that the water be purified.  A full quart bag is usually needed to clean out the colon, and multiple enemas may be necessary.

I Hope These Tips Are Beneficial to You!

None of these ideas are long-term solutions, they are merely singular ways that I’ve found to consistently get rid of migraines.  The important point is to get to the root of your migraine problems by avoiding trigger foods and healing your gut, as outlined in the SimplyWell Migraine Relief Protocol.  Luckily, we do have very powerful plant food allies that can help us so powerfully that over time, we will no longer need to resort to any of the techniques above to get rid of a migraine.

Please note that this information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat migraines, or act as a replacement for medical care from a medical professional.

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.simplywell.info/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Marya.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Marya Gendron is a biodynamic craniosacral therapist and health coach specializing in chronic migraine headache relief and alleviation of brain fog, indigestion, and histamine intolerance through plant-based solutions. She practices out of Portland, Oregon. In January of 2016, Marya healed herself of chronic debilitating migraine headaches caused by pharmaceutical medications she received after a c-section operation. Her life purpose is to educate people about broader health-care and self-care options through promotion of specific fabulous medicinal foods that have been forgotten or ignored. [/author_info] [/author]

SimplyWell Classes for Migraine Headache Relief Portland Oregon

Our next migraine relief class will be held at Fettle Botanic Supply at 3327 SE Hawthorne Blvd, Portland, OR 97214.  Please visit their site to RSVP!

Plant-based, Drug-Free Migraine Relief with the SimplyWell Protocol
Join Marya Gendron to learn how a few humble healing plant foods can help you to relieve migraine headaches by: balancing the bacteria in your colon, improving your electrolyte balance, healing your kidneys, and gently cleaning your lymph, liver and gallbladder. The information shared in this class may be beneficial for anyone who is recovering from the impacts of antibiotics and/or NSAIDs, or who has symptoms of inflammation and histamine intolerance. We will go over the healing properties of foods in the protocol, foods to avoid while getting stabilized, and how to adapt the protocol according to special dietary needs and busy lifestyles.
Length – 90 minutes.  The actual presentation will probably not be more than an hour but its good to have extra time for questions and conversation.
DateMarch 29th, 7-8:30pm


Previous classes:

Simplywell_Celestial Awakenings

 

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