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Migraine Headaches

 

Profile and Symptoms

Migraine headaches differ from usual tension headaches in as much as they are characterised by a throbbing pain, sometimes on one side only, sometimes preceded by ‘auras’ or ‘prodromes’. These are warnings occurring 10-30 minutes in advance that take the form of blurring, bright spots in the field of vision, loss of vision in a specific arc of the periphery, anxiety, haloes around light bulbs, psychological piques and numbness or tingling down one side of the body.

 

Migraine headaches occur when blood vessels in the lining of the brain constrict and then dilate, activating pain sensors in and around the meninges (lining). The brain itself is not involved since it has no sensory nerves. Any auras preceding an attack will usually clear as the headache develops. The patient will often be prostrated and experience nausea, vomiting and photophobia (sensitivity to light).

 

Causes

Migraines are thought to be caused by the body’s reaction to a number of stimuli that might trigger immune system complications. Problems in the environment, i.e. foods, chemicals, radiation, pollution, drugs, etc., are known to trigger the problem. Several clinical studies have shown that about 70% of patients with chronic daily headaches suffer from drug-induced headaches too. Many taking daily medications for whatever reason sometimes overlook the side-effects which can build over time.

 

The following are some causes for migraines:

  • Beer, wine, alcoholic beverages (local dehydration)

  • Systemic dehydration

  • Food sensitivities to items like cow’s milk, wheat, barley, etc. (gluten products), chocolate, eggs, shellfish, chocolate, benzoic acid, cheese and food additives and colourings

  • Chemicals

  • Caffeine withdrawal

  • Stress

  • Low serotonin levels

  • Hormonal changes in females

  • Toxins produced by fungi, yeast and bacteria

  • Exhaustion

  • Weather changes

  • Pollen and dust sensitivities

  • The Water and Salt Connection

    Water expert Dr F Batmanghelidj attributes migraines to the internalised environment resulting from chronic long-term dehydration and its associated histamine inflammatory system:

    “In my personal experience, migraine headaches seem to be brought about by dehydration; excess bed covers that will not permit the body to regulate its temperature during sleep; alcoholic beverages (hangover) initiating a process of cellular dehydration, particularly in the brain; dietary or allergic triggers for histamine release; excess environmental heat without water intake. Basically, migraine seems to be an indicator of critical body temperature regulation at times of heat stress. Dehydration plays a major role in the precipitation of migraine headaches.

    The most prudent way of dealing with migraine is its prevention by the regular intake of water. Once migraine breaks the pain barriers, a cascade of chemical reactions will stop the body from further activity. At this time, one has to take pain-relieving medications with copious water. Sufficient cold or iced water may by itself be able to cool the body (and also the brain) from inside, and promote closing of the vascular system everywhere. Excess dilation of the peripheral vessels might well be the basic cause of migraine headache.”[2][2]

    Commentary

        There are three main types of migraines:

    Common: Comprising around 80% of migraines. May be frontal or bilateral and usually last from 1 to 3 days. Auras preceding these attacks are unusual.

     

    Classic: 10% of migraine sufferers experience classic migraines. Half an hour before the attack, they experience auras. The attack will be mostly unilateral, lasting from 2-6 hours and accompanied by nausea and vomiting.

     

    Complicated: 10% of sufferers will experience complicated migraines, which are characterised by a preceding aura of variable effects. The patient may suffer from speech abnormalities, a type of palsy and other neurological complications.

     

    Most commercial research on migraines has resulted in predictable drug ‘solutions’ (pain killers and other modalities), which treat the symptoms, not the underlying causes. Physicians have found that removing certain foods can result in improvement in the majority of cases, since certain trigger foods can provoke the excessive release of histamine. Histamine involvement gives warning of chronic, long-term dehydration and the body’s efforts at drought management. Food control is known not to be the complete answer. Migraines seem to involve a more general malaise that can include improperly formed blood vessels (pre-scurvy), platelet disorders, where blood clumps and aggregates, and also a dysfunction in the levels of the neurotransmitter hormone serotonin, responsible for relaying chemical messages in the brain. Interestingly, all these are symptoms of chronic systemic dehydration.

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