Emotional Healing for Migraine with Dr. Sarno’s TMS Concept (Video)

In this video I explore my own recent reflections on healing migraine as TMS pain.  TMS, or Tension Myoneural Syndrome is a concept originated by Dr. Sarno, and reviewed by Steve Ozanich in his book “The Great Pain Deception.”

Dr. Sarno’s basic premise is that chronic pain is a clever way that the body uses to express deep-seated emotions that we as children learned to repress because we believed that expressing emotions our parent’s disapproved of would lead to use being abandoned/cut off from our source of life.

It is not a new idea to me that the body takes on the stress of unexpressed emotions, or that repressed emotions can manifest as disease. It is also not a new idea that the body actually IS our subconscious. What is new is the idea that pain is an actual diversion tactic that the mind uses to avoid unconscious rage.

I’m compelled by this idea. So I decided to go off the Protocol to see if this will really work. After all, I’d rather not have to eat potato starch every day for the rest of my life. I am happy to find a better solution to the Protocol if one exists.

Find out more about what I’ve learned in the two weeks I’ve been off the protocol as I reflect on and experiment with Dr. Sarno’s ideas in the video below.  Enjoy!

 

Here’s Part 2

7 Common Blind Spots in the Management of Migraines

Over the course of my time coaching people to alleviate migraines, it’s become clear over and over again that some doctors and naturopaths may inadvertently be causing MORE headaches and migraines through the recommendations they make – especially when it comes to management of migraines caused by digestive problems and subsequent histamine intolerance.

I’m actually very grateful that a naturopath I was seeing early on for my migraines (prior to developing the SimplyWell Protocol) prescribed an herbal remedy that contained cinnamon as its first ingredient.  I was experiencing peripheral neuropathy along with the migraines and, rightly so, she thought the increased circulation boost offered by the cinnamon would help alleviate that (actually, it was my lymph that was congested).  When the remedy made me even sicker, I took a close look at the ingredient list and through doing some online research, realized that cinnamon is a major trigger for those with histamine intolerance.  This was the clue that I needed which sent me down the path of investigating migraine through the lense of histamine intolerance, which probably wouldn’t have happened had she not suggested I take cinnamon.

This was a good lesson in realizing that all reactions to medications whether positive or negative are telling us something: even bad reactions may be helpful if we can use them as a clue to better understand what’s going on in our bodies.  Conversely, sometimes the substances that we’re taking don’t manifest as obvious problematic symptoms that we can link to them, so we may inadvertently be using supplements or eating foods that are actually causing harm without knowing it. And then there’s the problem which is all too common of taking so many supplements and medications that it is nearly impossible to know which is causing what effects, for better or worse.

Below is a rundown of the most common ways to manage migraine, usually at the advice of a holistic or conventional professional health care provider, which may be exacerbating rather than mitigating your migraines.  It helps to be mindful about these blind spots so that you can interface with your health care professional in a more educated way.  Be forewarned that many health care practitioners may not be aware of what histamine intolerance is, since it is not a formal diagnosis.  I have heard of many cases of doctors undermining or questioning the existence of histamine intolerance.  Other practitioners may be aware of histamine overload but don’t link it to migraine.  Luckily, more and more more practitioners are learning about histamine intolerance and its causes.

Blind Spot #1: Fermented Foods & Probiotics

As people wake up to the importance of good gut health and its role in basically everything, many are getting on board the fermented food bandwagon. After all, it makes sense that if your gut flora have been depleted by antibiotics and meds (which most of ours have), that replenishing them with more good flora by way of fermented foods and probiotic supplements would be beneficial.  But this is not always the case.

One of my pet peeves is to see how widespread the fervent belief in the value of fermented foods is.  Fermented foods are the holy grail of gut health right now – except that they actually make a lot of us sick. As I have explained here in this blog post on histamine intolerance, fermented foods (yes, even the beloved home-made sauerkraut, kimchi, or kombucha) become problematic for those of us who are low in the enzyme, DAO (diamine oxidase), which helps to break down histamine.  Most fermented foods as well as probiotic supplements contain a mixture of histamine-producing, histamine-neutral, and histamine-degrading bacteria. (If you do feel you need a PRObiotic, choose only those strains that are histamine-degrading, like l. plantarum, l. rhamnosus, or b. infantis).

As a result of this DAO enzyme deficiency, those with the deficiency who eat fermented foods will not be able to break the food down properly, so by the time it reaches the colon, it will start to ferment even more.  Opportunistic bacteria in the colon, many of them also histamine-producing, will also try to lend a hand in the breakdown of the food.  By this point, your serum levels of histamine are probably quite high, and symptoms of bloating, brain fog, and migraine may appear.

Let’s be clear that I am not demonizing fermented food.  Fermented foods are beneficial if you can break down histamine.  The problem is not histamine-rich foods, but the nutritional and mineral deficiencies that make it impossible for the body to produce enough enzymes.  B vitamins, in particular, are building blocks for enzymes, and many B vitamins are normally provided by our gut flora.  However, if our gut flora are depleted, we won’t have these building blocks in place.

Luckily, we have extra help from PREbiotics, which also increase healthy gut flora but are much more supportive for those with migraine. Prebiotics and probiotics are normally complimentary, so once we have stabilized with the SimplyWell Migraine Relief Protocol, we’ll find we can gradually reintroduce the wonderful and otherwise beneficial fermented foods like sauerkraut that used to give us problems.

Blind Spot #2: Bone Broth & Collagen

Bone broth and collagen are usually recommended as a means to improve the integrity of the gut lining.  Full of minerals, healthy fats, and most importantly chock full of important amino acids, bone broth and collagen at first glance appear to be really good for building gut health.  And they are – IF you have the nutritional building blocks for the enzymes needed to properly convert glutamic acid (one of the most abundant amino acids in bone broth). 

The problem is similar to that of histamine overload exacerbated by low diamine oxidase enzyme – it means that an otherwise beneficial substance becomes toxic when it is unable to be transformed or broken down due to enzyme deficiencies.  The problem is also a cyclic, chicken-and-egg problem: how do you build gut health and enzyme function if your gut health is so poor that you can’t properly absorb or assimilate the nutrients needed to make the enzymes needed for good gut health?  Because healthy gut flora normally produce many of the B vitamins that are essential for enzymatic function, consistent B vitamin and mineral supplementation is usually crucial here.

But until then, bone broth and collagen may pose some problems for those with migraine, because the glutamine and glutamic acid in it has a molecular structure very similar to monosodium glutamate (MSG) – a known migraine trigger. Despite the fact that glutamic acid is used by the body for the creation of glutathione (which is generally low in those with migraine), some caution is still in order here.  Migraineurs also have high levels of glutamate in certain parts of the brain, which leads to excitotoxicity.  Glutamine and glutamic acid are converted into glutamate.  Therefore migraineurs are best supported by avoiding substances that contribute to excessive glutamate load.

Kaayla T. Daniel, PhD, coauthor of the highly acclaimed book Nourishing Broth: An Old Fashioned Remedy for the Modern World, points out that:

The glutamine content of broth increases with cooking time as do the levels of all other amino acids. Thus long-cooked bone broth is more nutrient rich and preferable for all who can tolerate it. . Appropriate supplementation and detoxification may also help sensitive people handle glutamine. People with severe MSG sensitivity are often low in vitamin B6 or unable to convert it to the active form of pyridoxal-5-phosphate (p5p). Becoming replete in B6 and the other B vitamins may help. Glutamine sensitivity can also come from lead toxicity, widespread today due to lead contamination of our food and environment.

A separate issue in consuming bone broth or collagen if you have migraines is that of freshness and quality.  Bone broth must be made and consumed fresh because – just like any other food – bacteria start to break down broth the longer it has been around – making packaged or leftover bone broth much more of a trigger than fresh homemade bone broth.

And, as is true of all animal products we eat, any bone broth consumed must be 100% organic.  Dr. Stephanie Seneff explains how the herbicide roundup (generic name glyphosate) can contaminate many products made with gelatin:

Once you think of glyphosate insinuating itself into collagen, it’s an easy step to imagine that glyphosate would be a major contaminant in gelatin, a very common food additive and the main constituent of gelatin-based deserts. Gelatin is routinely added to marshmallows, pudding, gummy bears, yogurts, margarine, frosting, cream cheese, sour cream, non-dairy creamers and fat-reduced foods. Gelatin is typically derived from the bones joints and skin of pigs and cows. These animals are fed high doses of glyphosate in their GMO Roundup Ready corn and soy feed. The glyphosate that makes its way into their joints ends up in your gelatin dessert.

Gelatin is also the main constituent of gel caps, which have become a standard way of packaging both pharmaceutical drugs and nutritional supplements such as fish oil. I would predict that any nutritional supplement housed in a gel capsule is going to cause you much more harm than good, because whatever benefit the contents provides is more than offset by the damaging effects of the glyphosate. This also means, of course, that bone broth, a highly nutritious food, must be made from grass-fed beef rather than from the large confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs). One solution is to be sure that your supplements use vegan gel caps, which are made from cellulose, a plant-derived polysaccharide that would probably be much less at risk of glyphosate contamination. (Source)

Bummer.  Major bummer. And if that weren’t enough of a bummer, glyphosate also interferes with how the body is able to utilize glyceine, one of the other amino acids that bone broth supplies.

Takehome: if you only get migraines once in awhile, bone broth and collagen may be supportive of your healing (only if it is 100% organic due to the glyphosate contamination issue).  But if you have chronic migraines and very high histamine, and are easily triggered by food, it may be best to opt out of consuming a lot of bone broth, or only eating occasional bone broth you make yourself that has been made with short cooking times. Be absolutely sure not to buy packaged broths, and opt for supplements made with vegetable, rather than gelatin, caps.

Blind Spot #3: Methylated B vitamins

These days taking methylated forms of B12 and folate is all the rage. As more and more people do genetic testing and find they have the MTHFR gene mutation, they and their doctors may believe they need methylated B vitamins.

I was always suspicious of methyl B12 as a stand-alone supplement, because I’ve personally experienced migraines triggered by B12.  Multiple clients of mine have repeatedly mentioned that they also get migraines from methylcobalamin. I have come across some evidence that B12 can be toxic in the presence of glutathione depletion.  Glutathione is our most powerful and abundant antioxidant in the body, and migraineurs are generally low in it. (As it turns out, triptans – the most popular drug for the treatment of migraine – also cause oxidative stress in the liver and thereby deplete glutathione, at least in rats).

Not only folic acid, but also methylated forms of folate can be problematic also because they may increase glutamate and lower serotonin levels. Folic acid and folate supplementation also lower riboflavin levels – not good for those with migraine. Consider this:

The potential limitations of administering a restricted range of B vitamins are illustrated by evidence showing that approximately a third of supplementation studies to date have involved the administration of folic acid alone. . . . [F]olate and vitamin B12 are intimately interlinked within the folate/methionine cycles, and increasing the level of folate can mask the accrual of permanent neurological damage associated with a specific vitamin B12 deficiency. A striking illustration of this was provided by an epidemiological study by Morris et al. who reported that high folate status was associated with protected cognitive function, but only in those with normal vitamin B12 status, with this relationship reversed in participants with low vitamin B12 status. For this group, high folate status exacerbated the detrimental effect of vitamin B12 deficiency, increasing the risk of cognitive impairment and anaemia by a factor of five, compared to those with normal vitamin status. A further study also demonstrated that low vitamin B12 status was associated with a significantly increased decline in cognitive performance over the subsequent eight years, with this effect exacerbated in those having high levels of folate, or those taking folic acid supplements. Alongside these observations it is interesting to note that in one study supplementation with folic acid also significantly increased the proportion of participants with riboflavin deficiency. (Source)

Why not just try to get all of your b vitamins through food?  Because b vitamins from food have always been a supplemental source to begin with – adding to the b vitamins that our gut flora would normally produce for us.  That is precisely the problem: evolutionarily, we have never relied on food alone for our b vitamins.

While supplementation with methylfolate may initially give some positive results, it can also quickly backfire, especially for those with migraine.  Luckily, there are alternative ways to methylate – through the use of choline or thrimethylglycine for example.

Methylation is an extremely complex topic (one that I certainly don’t have a full grasp on) – and around which there is much confusion and many diverse perspectives even among experts. Below are a few perspectives worth considering from some of the experts on the benefit of being cautious when it comes to supplementing with methylfolate:

Chris Masterjohn:

This is not – NOT NOT NOT NOT NOT NOT all about getting methylfolate. . . . You can’t restore the normal flux of methylfolate no matter how much you eat. The RDA for folate is 400 mcg depending on your sex and life stage, and that assumes you’re going to absorb 200mcg of folate. Each molecule of folate you consume is recycled 18,00 times per day. If you consume a molecule of methylfolate the methyl group on that folate is available once, and then it has to be recycled 17,999 times. Where does that recycling come from? The carbons come from serine or glycine, but the part that MTHFR is catalyzing, the part that’s defective in someone with an MTHFR mutation, they’re coming from glucose. . . One glucose molecule, if you’re burning it for energy, supplies enough NADPH to recycle one molecule of folate one time. You’re going to need 3,00 to 6,000 molecules of glucose for every molecule of folate to get your daily methyl flux out of it. . . . But if you wanted to make up for that process by adding individual methyl groups . . . . from methylfolate that you got out of a capsule, in order to make up for that process you would have to consume an incomprehensible amount of folate: 4.5 grams of folate. You would have to consume 18,000 times the RDA of folate. I have no idea what happens to folate when you consume 18,000 times the RDA for it, I just don’t know. My guess is a lot of it winds up in your poop. But I do know that I would never advise anyone to eat 4.5 grams of folate. And that if anyone thinks that by eating super high doses of folate like several milligrams that they’re getting anywhere near inching their way towards making up for the normal flux of methyl groups through that pathway, that’s delusional. (Source).

Dr. Ben Lynch

If you know or suspect that you may be deficient in various minerals or vitamins, then it is important that you replenish many of them prior to supporting with methylfolate or methylcobalamin. Why? Because if you support with these two powerful methyl donor nutrients, it can cause a ‘clog’ in your biochemistry. This ‘clog’ may occur in how your brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) get formed and/or eliminated. Obviously, this can cause some significant issues. (Source)
Dr. Carolyn Ledowsky

A lot of information available from a variety of sources says that for those patients who have MTHFR mutations (especially the C677T MTHFR mutation) methylfolate is critical to take. And yes, for some patients, gentle supplementation via methylfolate may be all that is needed if they are otherwise healthy and have few health conditions they need to address. However for anyone dealing with allergies, inflammation, poor detoxification, hormonal imbalances or mood/ neurotransmitter imbalances – methyfolate could amplify these issues if they have not been addressed prior to engaging the methylation cycle once more. (Source)

Dr. Albert Mensah

Much discussion surrounding methylated folate comes from genetic testing and the MTHFR paradigm, which is neither an accurate assessment nor an appropriate guide for true methylation disorders. MTHFR testing is very significant in the realm of autism and in multiple sclerosis, however, in the area of mental health it is strikingly inconsistent and dubious at best.  The proof is in the pudding. People who are truly undermethylated do not do well on methylated folate after two to three months. In fact, on quite the contrary, many people report worsening of symptoms. (Source)

Marlene Merritt, LAc, DOM, MS Nutrition

Methyl groups have effects on many, many different areas of the body, INCLUDING TURNING ON AND TURNING OFF GENES and this includes tumor suppressor genes. To prevent abnormal methylation, there are seven checkpoints to prevent hypermethylation, since hypermethylation often causes cancer. So this is another reason that you not want to take large amounts folate (or any other methyl donor (ex: methyl-B12, SAMe), because you also do not want too much methylation to occur.

So then why in the world would you want to take a nutraceutical like methylfolate/5-MTHF? . . .

[L]ong term supplementation of methylfolate causes a list of side effects that rival a pharmaceutical drug: anxiety, irritability, insomnia (from changes in neurotransmitters), sore muscles and achy joints (from reduction in glutathione production), headaches and migraines (from increased nitric oxide production), nausea, palpitations, rashes and suicide, in addition to exacerbating B6 and B12 deficiencies, along with magnesium, zinc, copper, manganese and other mineral deficiencies. . . .

In preparing this article, I interviewed five biochemistry and nutrition PhD’s, all of whom categorically said that they would not take methyl folate as a supplement and considered the amounts typically prescribed as unsafe. (Source)

Blind Spot #4: Excessive Vitamin D Supplementation

Another pet peeve of mine: excessive vitamin D supplementation.  Don’t get me wrong – it appears that vitamin D3 supplementation is pretty valuable (though this may need to be reconsidered – see below).  Most people, whether they have migraine or not, are low in vitamin D.  But taking huge amounts of vitamin D is also dangerous – especially to migraineurs, since vitamin D requires magnesium for absorption.

Dr. Carolyn Dean explains:

Here’s what happens. You feel great on your magnesium and then you begin to have more magnesium deficiency symptoms after adding a high-dose Vitamin D supplement. Magnesium is required to transform Vitamin D from its storage form to its active form and for many other aspects of Vitamin D metabolism. That means if you take the extremely high doses that allopathic doctors are now recommending you can plummet into magnesium deficiency and not know what the heck is happening. In general, I don’t recommend more than 1,000-2,000 IU of Vitamin D daily for this reason. And never take Vitamin D without magnesium. (Source)

Excessive vitamin D can also deplete vitamin K stores, which are essential for helping calcium build bone.  With vitamin D excess and K depletion, calcium ends up in the wrong places. Sufficient vitamin A is also crucial if you are supplementing with vitamin D.  According to Nora Gedgaudas in her book “Primal Body, Primal Mind”, insufficient Vitamin A can lead to vitamin D toxicity.

Chris Masterjohn explains his hypothesis:

[V]itamin D increases the expression of proteins whose activation depends on vitamin K-mediated carboxylation; as the demand for carboxylation increases, the pool of vitamin K is depleted. Since vitamin K is essential to the nervous system and plays important roles in protecting against bone loss and calcification of the peripheral soft tissues, its deficiency results in the symptoms associated with hypervitaminosis D. This hypothesis is circumstantially supported by the observation that animals deficient in vitamin K or vitamin K-dependent proteins exhibit remarkable similarities to animals fed toxic doses of vitamin D, and the observation that vitamin D and the vitamin K-inhibitor Warfarin have similar toxicity profiles and exert toxicity synergistically when combined. The hypothesis further proposes that vitamin A protects against the toxicity of vitamin D by decreasing the expression of vitamin K-dependent proteins and thereby exerting a vitamin K-sparing effect. If animal experiments can confirm this hypothesis, the models by which the maximum safe dose is determined would need to be revised. Physicians and other health care practitioners would be able to treat patients with doses of vitamin D that possess greater therapeutic value than those currently being used while avoiding the risk of adverse effects by administering vitamin D together with vitamins A and K. (Source)

It’s well established that overly-high vitamin D levels are associated with frequent urination, constipation or diarrhea, hypercalcemia, headaches, increased risk of heart attack or stroke, kidney failure, and tiredness, among other things – and it is recommended that those with headaches and thyroid disorders (ie, migraineurs) supplement with vitamin D cautiously (Source).  Levels as high as 100 are above the suggested 50-80ng/ml range, and levels of 150 ng/ml and above are considered toxic.

It appears that what is often not realized by many health care practitioners is that elevated levels of vitamin D have ALSO been associated with headache and migraines.  Dr. Stasha Gominak, a neurologist specializing in alleviating migraine, improving gut health, and re-establishing sleep hygiene, believes that vitamin D supplementation contributes to B5 deficiency (and we need it for enzymatic function!).  She has put forth the hypothesis that our gut flora do not produce sufficient B vitamins in the presence of vitamin D depletion. She suggests that vitamin D should be in the range of 60-80ng/ml.

Other experts differ in their view, including Chris Kesser and Chris Masterjohn, and Amy Proal. Chris Kesser summarizes the evidence as follows:

The U.S. laboratory reference range for adequate 25(OH)D is 30 to 74 ng/mL, while the Vitamin D Council suggests a higher range of 40 to 80 ng/mL, with a target of 50 ng/mL (17).

But a large body of evidence in the medical literature strongly suggests that optimal vitamin D levels might be lower than these figures. There is little to no evidence showing benefit to 25(OH)D levels above 50 ng/mL, and increasing evidence to suggest that levels of this magnitude may cause harm. . .  Based on an exhaustive review of over 1,000 studies in 2011, the Institute of Medicine recommends a much more conservative range of 20 to 50 ng/mL. . . .

What about optimal vitamin D range from an evolutionary perspective? A study on traditionally living hunter–gatherer populations in East Africa found that the Masai and Hadzabe tribes had average 25(OH)D concentrations of 48 ng/mL and 44 ng/mL, respectively (35). These indigenous populations get a great deal of sun exposure but also have very high intakes of vitamins A and K, suggesting that these levels are probably towards the higher end of the optimal range for most people in the modern world.(Source).

And here is another very important consideration from Amy Proal explaining the cause of low vitamin D levels:

Vitamin D supplementation is routinely justified based on a plethora of studies that report low concentrations of 25-D in the blood of patients with a wide variety of inflammatory conditions. Thus far, the consensus on these findings has been to assume that the low concentrations of 25-D are driving or contributing to the pathogenesis of these diseases. However, the low concentrations of 25-D often detected in patients with inflammatory conditions may be a result of the inflammatory disease process rather than the cause of the inflammation. . . Indeed, our data suggest that under conditions of microbiome and interactome dysregulation, the body uses multiple mechanisms to naturally downregulate intracellular production of 25-D. (Source)

You can read more about alternative viewpoints and potential problems with vitamin D supplementation in the following articles: “Vitamin D: More is Not Better”, “The Evolution of Diverse D Requirements”, and “The Concept of Vitamin D Deficiency is Flawed”, “Harm from Vitamin D is Supported by High Quality Studies”, and “Vitamin D Supplements are Immunosuppressive”.

After considering these views, I no longer supplement with vitamin D.  I am currently looking into purchasing a vitamin D lamp, since I live in the Pacific Northwest. I make sure to get plenty of vitamin A from butter and beef liver pate. Getting just 15 minutes of sunlight a day should be sufficient for most people.  Sunlight is converted into vitamin D by the presence of cholesterol in skin and vitamin E.  As it turns out, vitamin E is best absorbed topically, so I like to use a sesame oil for my skin with some essential oils added as one way to boost my vitamin D production when I go out into the sun

Blind Spot #5: Insufficient or Wrong Kind of Magnesium

Magnesium is nature’s natural calcium channel blocker.  When magnesium levels are low, the voltage gated calcium channels that allow nutrients and oxygen into the cell don’t work properly.  Due to the imbalances in the ratios of our most important electryolytes – calcium, magnesium, sodium, and potassium, these channels may not be able to open and close in a balanced way.  When these channels are open, calcium floods into the cell, causing cell death (important side note: EMF – electromagnetic frequencies also cause damage by the exact same mechanism).  In order to maintain the integrity of the cell, we need the proper ratios of magnesium to calcium, potassium, and sodium.  As I pointed out above, less magnesium will be available for cellular health if it is being used up by excessive vitamin D supplementation.

One thing that I see consistently with clients is that some of them give up on magnesium if it doesn’t provide immediate or obvious benefit in alleviating their migraines.  I did this myself early on, and actually noticed a more positive immediate benefit from potassium.  Potassium deficiency, however, is usually tied to an underlying magnesium deficiency.

Magnesium supplementation can actually cause initial cleansing reactions and headaches.  A blood test for magnesium is not reflective of actual tissue concentrations of magnesium.  Therefore it is important to supplement with sufficient quantities of magnesium for the long-term.  It takes up to 4-6 months of continual supplementation to reach the right tissue concentration levels.

It is important to not only get enough magnesium (your body requires 300 mg just to maintain daily functions even without a deficiency), but to get the right kind.  Just the other day I discovered that one of my clients had been taking magnesium aspartate.  While some early studies did show magnesium aspartate to be beneficial for those with fibromyalgia, and aspartate is part of the citric acid or Krebs cycle, nevertheless it is also a neurotoxin at certain levels and when the person taking it doesn’t have the proper enzymes to convert it to a form the body can handle.  The same goes for magnesium glutamate.

Both magnesium aspartate and magnesium glutamate are often hidden in products labeled “magnesium chelate.” Dr. Russel Blaylock, a neuroscientist, explains this at length in his book Excitotoxins: The Taste that Kills.  Because those with migraines already have very high levels of inflammatory neurotoxins including glutamate and CGRP, and are already sensitive to glutamate-containing foods and supplements, it’s crucial to avoid magnesium glutamate, as well as aspartate, for optimal brain health.

Those who are constipated or who have oxalate sensitivity issues may benefit from magnesium citrate, as this form helps to flush out oxalates from the body (and may cause some cleansing reactions).  Magnesium citrate also supports the citric acid or Krebs cycle, which brings oxygen into the cell to create ATP, or cellular energy.  Magnesium malate is also supportive of the citric acid cycle and generally doesn’t cause loose stools as the citrate form does.

Those who already have loose stool should avoid the citrate form.  The glycinate form is great because not only is it well tolerated, but it also lends a glyceine amino acid, the smallest and most versatile amino acid.  (The receptor sites on cells often get blocked for this amino acid, incidentally, by the presence of glyphosate, or roundup contamination in food – which seriously messes up enzymatic function).

Magnesium chloride can be easily absorbed as bath salts or through the skin, though magnesium oil is sometimes very itchy.  This form of magnesium is mined in ancient deposits, so sourcing is important.  The benefit of magnesium chloride is that the chloride portion of this molecule can be used by the body to produce stomach acid for those low in stomach acid.  Chloride is also important for the cellular receptor sites for diamine oxidase (DAO), meaning that it helps to metabolize histamine.

I always take a minimum of 800 mg total of magnesium daily. I like to use a combination of magnesium chloride (the kind sold as “magnesium oil” in my water, along with other minerals I add to my filtered water), and a magnesium glycinate as well as magnesium malate supplement.

Blind Spot #6: Ingestion of Cinnamon

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).

There are big differences between the main forms of cinnamon, cassia, and Ceylon. If you ingest cinnamon as a spice or take it in supplement form, you want to make sure that it is produced from Ceylon cinnamon. Both forms of cinnamon contain coumarin, which is a natural blood-thinning agent but is hepatotoxic. Ceylon cinnamon contains minute amounts of coumarin compared to cassia cinnamon. Coumarin detoxification requires proper liver function and activation of the cytochrome P450 gene CYP2A6. If you have a polymorphism in CYP2A6, you need to avoid cassia cinnamon if all possible. Proper detoxification of coumarin will be lessened, and increased risk of liver damage may occur. (Source)”

Side note: I’ve made an analgesic salve available in my shop that does contain cinnamon along with cayenne for rubbing on the temples and intranasally to dissolve migraine – but, as explained above, topical application has very different effects than ingesting it does!

Blind Spot #7: Ingestion of Cayenne or Chili

As for chili, it can definitely add to your overall histamine load.  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 seem 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).

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!

Side note: I’ve made an analgesic salve available in my shop that does contain capsaisin in cayenne for rubbing on the temples and intranasally to dissolve migraine – but, as explained above, topical application has very different effects than ingesting it does!

A Final Note About “Triggers”

I just want to briefly point out that when we speak about histamine intolerance and its associated food “triggers”, that it is the amount of pre-existing histamine in the body that determines whether a food with more histamine will act as a trigger or not.  This makes it a little tricky because it means that depending on the person’s histamine level at the time, they will get different responses from the same kind of food and may therefore think that something like chili, sauerkraut, or chocolate isn’t an issue because it doesn’t cause a migraine every time it is consumed.  Again, histamine intolerance is an issue of histamine overload, not an immediate, anaphylactic allergic response.  So the word trigger may be misleading.  What we are talking about here is problematic foods that increase histamine and add to the overall load, which will sometime mean that that food acts as the trigger because the histamine bucket “tipped over” into migraine.

 

 

 

Hypertensive Essential Oils for Migraine & Headache (DIY)

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.

As we know, migraine for many of us is triggered by vasodilation  – which means blood vessels impinge on nearby cranial nerves in the neck leading up to the head.  This blood vessel dilation is responsible for low blood pressure and a lack of blood flow and oxygen to the brain.  In order to constrict our blood vessels and improve blood flow to the head, we need vasoconstrictive (ie, hypertensive) essential oils.  And it turns out that there are many more oils aside from the classical headache treatment using peppermint oil that can help us, which Mother Nature has so kindly provided!

In this blog post, I want to 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. My friend Lauren over at AroMed essential oils noted to me that all of the oils chosen in this blend are also great for digestive issues.  No surprises there, since most migraines are digestive migraines!

So Which Essential Oils are Hypertensive?

The research into the properties of most of these oils is seemingly straightforward, but we need to keep in mind that many plants are adaptogenic – meaning that a single plant can respond to us in a way that is not static, but rather catered to what our particular imbalance is.  For example, some plants can raise blood pressure in someone with low blood pressure, and lower blood pressure in someone with high blood pressure. Neat, huh?  Seriously folks, plants are magical, kindred helpers!  This adaptogenic ability of some plants may explain some of the discrepancies when reading about an oil being both hypertensive AND hypotensive.

From my research, I’ve read that the following oils will help to constrict blood vessels and thereby raise blood pressure: grapefruit, black pepper, frankincense, cypress, orange, rosemary, peppermint, basil, thyme, balsam of peru, hyssop, geranium rose, and holy basil. (I’ll be sure to add to the list as I uncover more research).

Here’s my personal take on the recipe:

I believe that true Folk Medicine is medicine that is created by and accessible to the people – which is why I am sharing my own personal blend here for those of you who like to make your own products rather than buy them.  Feel free to tweak the ratios of the oils presented here and share what you’ve learned in the comments below if you feel called.

3 parts organic grapefruit essential oil
3 parts organic black pepper essential oil
2 parts basil organic essential oil
1 part organic rosemary essential oil
1 part organic peppermint essential oil
1 part organic frankincense essential oil
2 parts or more organic olive oil (depending on how concentrated you want this)

I decided to make my blend with 20% organic olive oil.  Why?  Who want’s diluted essential oils?  Well, because of the fiery quality of the peppermint and because some people are more sensitive to straight essential oils when applied neat to the skin.  Everyone’s different, so I’ve added organic olive oil to the blend to buffer some of the intensity of the oil while applied topically, but keeping it potent enough to be very aromatic and effective simply by inhaling.

The olive oil doesn’t serve here as a base carrier oil though – it has many therapeutic properties.  I’m madly in love with olive oil, and here’s why: olive oil is high in oleic acid, which increases DAO by 500% (thereby helping to bread down histamine, but only relevant when ingesting).  It’s been demonstrated that olive oil raises serotonin levels, and that just the smell of olive oil can positively affect blood sugar and satiety. A phenolic compound contained in virgin organic olive oil, named oleocanthal, shares unique analgesic and anti-inflammatory characteristics with Ibuprofen.

Olive oil has also been shown to reduce neuro-inflammation from pesticide exposure in rats. That might be why consuming some olive oil will help to eliminate migraine symptoms if you happen to indulge in something made with wheat flour from grain doused in roundup or other pesticides. I’ve personally noted a big difference in my reaction to wheat, and I wonder if this is due not to the gluten in wheat, but to different farming practices for wheat grown in different regions. (Wheat grown in damper regions is more likely to be sprayed with roundup to “finish” the wheat, since roundup is a dessicant and will dry kernels out evenly.  Roundup is also regularly used on oats, barley, and beans for the same reason – even though these are not genetically-engineered, roundup-ready crops).

How to Use the Oil

Although I am not marketing my blend for internal use due to liability issues, the oils are organic so they are therapeutic grade – and I know that some people (such as myself) are comfortable with using organic oils internally and probably will.  In my own case, I have used this oil blend successfully to mitigate some brain fog that I got after indulging in a bowl of spicy New Mexico green chile.  I placed a single drop of this blend on the roof of my mouth in the area where the soft palate begins.  This is also an area right below the pterygopalatine ganglion (also known as the sphenopalatine ganglion). Stimulation of this ganglion has recently been shown to diminish cluster headaches. The fibers that go through this ganglion also go through the trigeminal nucleus along with the trigeminal nerve. The vagus nerve goes through the trigeminal nucleus as well. The glossopharyngeal nerve may also be affected by essential oils placed on the palate. This nerve innervates the partotid gland, which is directly responsible for vasodilation.  All of the nerves mentioned here are implicated in migraine.

Important Note: One reason that I am not recommending this oil for internal use even though many could and might benefit from it that way is because grapefruit is known to affect many pharmaceutical medications – the juice, at least, can increase the absorption of the drug into the bloodstream.  I have no idea if the compounds in the oils would do that too, but if you are on meds, it is best to be cautious ingesting this oil or drinking grapefruit juice or eating grapefruit.

To use the oil aromatically rather than topically, place 4-8 drops of it onto a tissue or your hand and inhale until symptoms improve. For migraine at night, place the tissue near your pillow and sleep on your side to breathe the aroma continuously.

 

Don’t want to make it yourself? You can get the blend in our shop!

Vasoconstrictive Blend of Organic Essential Oils

For those of you who aren’t really into DIY, I’ve made my blend available for sale as a service.  Buying all the oils in bulk to produce your own blend can get expensive, so if you don’t want to go that route of investing upfront in all the oils, I’ve done that for you.

We’re so excited to make this essential oil blend available in our shop after receiving great feedback from those who tested it out for us. This blend of oils can help to alleviate brain fog and headaches and reduce the severity of migraines. It is a great tool to have on hand while you are working to heal your gut with the SimplyWell Migraine Relief Protocol (at which point, you shouldn’t need this oil anymore!)

How nice of Mother Nature to make all this medicine available to us!

[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]

 

Why I Adore Prebiotics

To put it simply, I adore prebiotics because they literally saved my life.  They cured my migraines, reduced my overall inflammation, got rid of my brain fog and insomnia, improved my sleep and blood sugar metabolism, and generally peeled me off the floor so I could stand upright again, engage with my son and husband, and hold a job again.

If this is what carbs and sugars (specifically, fructo-oligosaccharides) can do for me, I can’t help but adore them. The potato, being the first prebiotic I consciously ate knowing its properties, deserves a rightful place on my altar.  I don’t exaggerate when I say that I bow down to the potato (and the carrot, and the radish) in humble appreciation.

Why did it take me so long to find out about prebiotics?  Why did none of the practitioners who I saw know or tell me about the miraculous properties of these humble starches? Could it be that, unlike the glorified probiotics, prebiotics aren’t as popular because they can’t be packaged and sold at such a great profit?  Have prebiotics been needlessly vilified because of people’s aversion to carbs and sugars? Could it be that many people suffering from digestive issues triggered by carbs actually really need them?  Yes.  Chris Kesser agrees. 

Prebiotics are foods that feed friendly bacteria in our colon (as compared to probiotics, which introduce friendly flora.  Many probiotic supplements and foods will cause migraines for people with histamine intolerance, because they are made through a fermentation process and contain tyramines).  There are numerous kinds of prebiotics, including FOS (fructo oligosaccharides), GOS (galacto-oligosaccharides), arabinogalactans, inulin and resistant starch.  The SimplyWell Migraine Relief Protocol focuses on the use of inulin, arabinogalactans, and resistant starch.

Initially, the SimplyWell Migraine Relief Protocol only utilized resistant starch as prebiotics.  It then dawned on me that if I wanted to feed as diverse an array of healthy bacteria in my colon, it would probably be beneficial to diversify my sources of prebiotics.  Which is when I started to include inulin and pectin (with the Garden of Life brand of prebiotics).  Arabinogalactans were featured already in my protocol before I even knew about them, as I had through chance chosen two foods that are highest in arabinogalactans: carrots and radishes.

Below are some notes I’ve taken on each of my favorite prebiotics.  As I avoid dairy animal products, GOS (Galacto-oligosaccharides) are not included in this list.

Resistant Starch

(This info was adapted from an article in Mark’s Daily Apple called “The Definitive Guide to Resistant Starch”).

>> Resistant starch is “the sum of starch and products of starch degradation not absorbed in the small intestine of healthy individuals.” So, resistant starch remains intact until it reaches the colon, where gut flora there metabolize it and convert it into short chain fatty acids.  Actually, the word ※starch§ is misleading because resistant starch is actually a type of fiber.

>> There are four types of resistant starch. RS Type 1 〝 Starch bound by indigestible plant cell walls; found in many beans, grains, and seeds; RS Type 2 〝 Starch that is intrinsically indigestible in the raw state due to its high amylose content; found in potatoes, bananas, plantains. (Type 2 RS changes its starch structure upon heating and at that point is digestible in the small intestine.  Since we want to be feeding the colonic bacteria, and not the bacteria in the small intestine, cooking these foods will diminish the therapeutic effect since it converts the starch type to non-resistant starch with heat); RS Type 3 〝 Retrograded starch.  This includes cooked and then cooled potatoes, rice, and beans.  While cooking Type 2 starches and eating them hot removes the resistant starch, this third type of resistant starch will develop once the food has cooled and provide benefit if the food is eaten cold and not reheated; RS Type 4 〝 Industrial resistant starch; type 4 RS doesn’t occur naturally and has been chemically modified; commonly found in “hi-maize resistant starch.”  This is generally not used as a form of resistant starch by those seeking the benefits of resistant starch.

(IMPORTANT NOTE: Currently, we do not know if RS2 or RS3 is more effective at reducing migraines, whether both are equally effective or if RS2 is more effective.  We’ve definitely seen people using RS2 (raw starch) recover.  Those who have been relying on RS3 (cooked and then cooled starch) are not seeing the same benefit but those who have been relying on that form so far have been on more medications.)

>> For the purposes of healing the colon, RS types 2 and 3 are relevant.  The best fresh food sources are raw potatoes, green bananas, tiger nuts, plantains, cooked-and-cooled potatoes, cooked-and-cooled-rice, parboiled rice, cooked-and-cooled legumes.  Resistant starch is also available in the form of dry powders and flours, including raw potato starch, plantain flour, tiger nut flour, green banana flour, and cassava/tapioca starch.  These starches can be added to juice or into smoothies for a quick and easy dose of resistant starch.

>> RS Preferentially feeds “good” bacteria responsible for butyrate production. Once the bacteria in our colon eat the resistant starch, they produce butyrate as a byproduct.  Butyrate is the prime energy source of our colonic cells.  Resistant starch promotes more butyrate production than other prebiotics.  However, the amount of butyrate produced will depend on which kind of gut flora live in your colon when you introduce the starch, so it varies from person to person.  Presumably, people who have received antibiotics will have smaller populations of beneficial bacteria, so a gradual process of repopulation will occur with the introduction of resistant starch.

>> RS Improves gut function and integrity. Resistant starch basically improves the functionality of the gut by increasing colonic hypertrophy.  Because it reduces leaky gut, RS also helps to prevent endotoxins from getting into your blood circulation. And thanks to this improved gut integrity, RS also helps to increases magnesium absorption (and by extension, probably other essential minerals and vitamins as well).

>> RS improves insulin sensitivity, even in people with metabolic syndrome.  RS also lowers the post-prandial blood glucose spike, which may also extend to subsequent meals. RS also reduces fasting blood sugar.

>> RS increases satiety, making it easier to maintain other healthy eating habits and avoid snacking on junk food.

>> RS may preferentially bind to and expel ※bad§ bacteria. This is only preliminary, but there’s evidence that resistant starch may actually treat small intestinal bacterial overgrowth by “flushing” the pathogenic bacteria out in the feces. It’s also been found to be an effective treatment for cholera when added to the rehydration formula given to patients; the cholera bacteria attach themselves to the RS granules almost immediately for expulsion.

>> Anecdotal reports also confirm that regular RS intake may be associated with better sleep, lower body fat and increased lean mass,  improved thyroid function and mental calm.

>> Due to all of these benefits, many people take too much RS too fast and get gas, bloating, cramping, diarrhea or constipation.  These side-effects are a result of the population of bacteria in the gut changing from “bad” bacteria over to beneficial bacteria.  Going gradual and slow seems to work best (especially if you have SIBO).  Butyrate production usually increases at three weeks, when most people will experience some degree of gas and bloating, which usually subsides.  More episodes of gas and bloating may occur as the intake is increased.  These side effects usually stabilize and diminish in a few days.

>> The average intake of RS in China is 14.9 g/day from wheat, rice and starch products; compared with average USA 3-8 g/day intake.

>> One medium organic potato, juiced, yields one tablespoon of resistant starch.

>> Organic tiger nut flour is one good source of RS and is available through Organic Gemini brand but is more expensive than organic potato starch.  8 Tablespoons of tigernut flour are needed to get 3 tablespoons of starch.

Inulin-based Prebiotics

>> Inulin is a heterogeneous mixture of fructose polymers found in nature as plant repository carbohydrates.

>> The best natural food sources of inulin include bananas, asparagus, Jerusalem artichoke, jicama, leeks, onions, garlic, chicory, dandelion greens, stevia, and dandelion root.

>> Being a prebiotic, inulin confers many of the same benefits that resistant starch does mentioned above.  It creates greater diversity of beneficial gut flora in the colon, increases butyrate production, supports healthy blood sugar and bowel regularity, improves cardiovascular health, increases nutrient absorption and boosts immune function.

>> Inulin helps to decrease serum cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

>> Those who have taken antibiotics may need more inulin. Those who eat a lot of sugary foods, alcohol, and processed foods benefit more from inulin, since these foods deplete our body of healthy bacteria.

>> Ancient hunter-gatherers used to eat up to 135 g of inulin fructans per day.  The average intake in the US is 1-4g.  Experts like Dr. Perlmutter recommends at least 12 g of inulin per day.

>> Daily intake of inulin significantly decreases disease activity and significantly increases the amount of IL-10-positive mucosal dendritic cells and toll-like receptors 2 and 4 of these cells in those with Crohn’s disease.

>> Inulin is used for rehydration and remineralization after loss of water from diarrhea and diaphoresis.

Arabinogalactans

>> Arabinogalactans are present in carrots, radishes, coconut meat and milk, echinacea, astragalus, shitake mushroom, black gram beans, pears, maize, red wine, rye, tomatoes, sorghum, bamboo grass, and larch fiber.

>> Like all prebiotics, arabinogalactans help feed healthy bacteria in the colon which produce butyrate; they help improve insulin sensitivity, sleep, and nutrient absorption.

>> They function as immune activity normalizers. If your body is battling an infection, arabinogalactans power up the attack against the invading organism or virus. If your immune system is too revved up, arabinogalactans can help suppress this over activity.

>> Arabinogalactans inhibit the ability of toxic bacteria to adhere to the intestinal wall, thereby preventing infection.

>> They boost the activity of natural killer cells, which attack tumors.

>> In animal studies, arabinogalactans have reduced the spread of tumors to the liver by coating the binding sites that cancer cells would otherwise attach to.

Pectins

>> Pectin is found in higher amounts in the rinds and peels of some fruit, which is why you will sometimes see orange or apple peel listed in the ingredients of prebiotic products.

>> Pectin can help to lower blood cholesterol levels, particularly very-low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (VLDL) particles which gets converted into low-density lipoprotein (‘bad’ cholesterol) in the blood.

>> Pectin from citrus is also capable of turning inflammatory immune cells into anti-inflammatory, healing cells, which helps in recovery from infection.

> pectin has been shown to reduce levels of pathogenic bacteria and support higher amounts of friendly bacteria in the gut.

>> Kiwifruit pectin has been shown to help Lactobacillus rhamnosus adhere better to intestinal cells than inulin, while reducing the adhesion of undesirable bacterium Salmonella typhimurium.

Want to Make Your Own DIY Prebiotic Mix?
Here are some good sources for raw ingredients.

[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]

 

 

 

 

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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FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions

When was the Simplywell Protocol developed?

The SimplyWell Protocol was discovered in January 2016 by Marya Gendron and has been refined since that time.  It is an entirely plant-based approach to migraine.

The SimplyWell Protocol relies initially on elimination of tyramine and histamine rich foods.  How long does a person have to eliminate these foods from the diet with this protocol?

Luckily, the elimination phase of these foods is only temporary.  A gradual reintroduction of histamine and tyramine rich foods is possible, and usually within 3-5 months people can eat all fermented and histamine rich foods again without migraine being triggered.  Everyone is different but generally, the histamine “bucket” just doesn’t get as full once the gut flora imbalances (ie, excessive histamine-producing gut flora) are addressed.

Which kinds of migraines is this protocol effective at addressing?

Currently the protocol has been successful at relieving chronic migraines, hemiplagic migraines, so-called “hormonal migraine” or “menstrual migraine” and migraine with aura – as well as chronic headaches and brainfog. We’re excited to have people with other types of migraines try the protocol out to see if it helps them.

How long does it take to see improvement on the SimplyWell Protocol?

This varies from person to person depending on how many meds they are taking and how they eat when they start the Protocol.  People who are eating a whole foods diet and are on very few (3-5 doses of meds per month) to no meds respond quickly, with improvement in symptoms usually seen within 1-2 weeks, and stabilization starting around 3-4 weeks into the Protocol.

Migraineurs who have a very long history of chronic migraines along with heavy use of medications need a lot more time to heal, and can expect to start to see results in 4-6 months, especially if they are doing the Protocol in combination with Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis.

Can the protocol address symptoms other than migraine?

Yes, the protocol is effective at addressing many different Histamine Intolerance symptoms and symptoms of inflammation and indigestion in general.  Anyone who has compromised kidney function, low energy, insulin sensitivity, leaky gut, electrolyte imbalances or imbalanced gut flora caused by antibiotics and other meds may benefit from the protocol.

Is the SimplyWell Protocol contraindicated in any conditions?

Yes, the protocol could possibly temporarily exacerbate symptoms of SIBO (Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth).

The radish portion of the Protocol is contraindicated for those with duodenal ulcers, but consumption of radishes is an optional step of the Protocol.  Some people who have compromised sulfation pathways cannot tolerate the taste of radish or get itchy when consuming them.  This is useful information especially for those doing private coaching as it allows us to then help support sulfation pathways so that sulfur sensitivities are healed.

I have special dietary considerations and can’t consume carbs/nightshades/fruit, etc.  Are there ways to adapt the Protocol for individual needs?

Yes.  This topic is covered in the e-book.  However, the Protocol involves consumption of prebiotics, therefore people who are intolerant to prebiotics will not be able to follow the Protocol.

Can the Protocol be used for kids?

Currently the Protocol has not been used with kids.  It is recommended that one-on-one coaching is done with Marya to help alleviate migraine in kids so that the Protocol can be personalized and adapted to the child’s size and special needs.

Resources

The SimplyWell Protocol is available in our shop along with other e-books and products related to nutritional healing of migraine.

Or go to our services page to book a one-on-one coaching session or hair tissue mineral analysis with Marya.

 

 

 

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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