Migraines are debilitating vascular headaches, which usually happen on one side of the head. Migraines are thought to affect around 1 in 7 people with an estimated 190,000 migraine attacks every day in the UK affecting three times as many women as men and accounting for an estimated 25 million days lost from work and school each year.
The typical sequence of events is that an initial spasm happens in the wall of a meningeal artery (one of the arteries in the head); the spasm does not last long (a few minutes) and is followed by a paralysis of the wall of the artery, which can last for days. This paralysis leads to swelling and inflammation of tissues around the artery wall, causing the pain (migraine).
So what causes the spasm in the first place? Many factors are thought to be involved, but one of the key contributors is an over accumulation of toxins in the body. Liver and gut health are fundamental areas to critically evaluate and support due to the crucial role that these two organs play with respect to optimal detoxification.
If an imbalance in the gut bacteria (dysbiosis) is present (a common thread in my articles) then the ‘bad’ bacteria can cause an overproduction of histamine in the gut. Histamine is secreted by specialist immune cells as part of a local immune response to the presence of unwanted bacteria/triggers. It is the excess levels of histamine that causes blood pressure to drop too low and initiate the spasm that starts the sequence of events.
Unidentified food sensitivities (where the immune system is inappropriately responding to specific food proteins) causing elevated levels of inflammation are also potentially a significant trigger for migraines. Research and clinical experience would suggest that gluten related disorders (encompassing wheat sensitivity, coeliac disease and non coeliac gluten sensitivity – another common thread in these articles) are significantly correlated with migraines. Other factors involved would appear to be magnesium status (low magnesium is a significant and independent predictor of migraine risk) and B vitamin deficiencies.