Migraine Mystery Solved?
Migraine Mystery Solved?
HealthAid ·
Migraine is a condition that produces recurring and severe headaches (usually one-sided). The pain is often pulsating, accompanied by nausea, light and noise sensitivity, and lasting from a few hours to a few days.
Migraine is a common health condition, especially among women. It is estimated that around one in every five women in the UK suffers from migraines. Some individuals have migraines several times a week, while others experience it only occasionally.
It is believed that migraine is linked especially to a drop in the level of neurotransmitter serotonin (vasoconstrictor) in the brain, causing a widening in the blood vessels which stresses nerve fibres forcing them to release peptides which travel to the brain's outer covering (meninges) leading to inflammation and migraine pain. One of the arguments used to prove this idea is the fact that the levels of serotonin decreases during migraine headache whereas an intravenous infusion of serotonin can stop it.
According to another theory migraine may be also caused by vascular abnormalities mainly contractions and dilations of brain blood vessels also triggered by serotonin and other neurotransmitters abnormalities, for instance increased levels of glutamate which causes vasodilation.
Although it is still controversial whether migraine is primarily a vascular problem (dilation of blood vessels) or a neurological dysfunction, yet it is possible that both of them play a significant role in the development of migraine headaches. In addition, both factors (vascular and neurological) are likely to be triggered by various types of inflammation in the body and possibly other mentioned below lifestyle and environmental causes.
  • Drop in neurotransmitters, especially serotonin (vasoconstrictor), but it is believed low levels of other neurotransmitters, such as acetylcholine (vasoconstrictor) or dopamine, and increase in glutamate (causes vasodilation) also contribute to migraine
  • High levels of inflammation in the body
  • Caffeine, wine (sulfites), beer, cheese, pizza, gluten, chocolate, sugar, white flour products and other refined foods, MSG, additives, most margarines and high in proinflammatory omega 6 fatty acids refined commercial oils (sunflower oil, soya oil, vegetable oil, corn oil), processed foods, carbonated drinks
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG) increases oxidative stress and is a known migraine trigger
  • Deficiency of Magnesium, B2, B3, B12, zinc
  • Psychological stress, depression, anxiety
  • Aspartame & sucralose
  • Certain medications
  • Deficiency of CoQ10 & Lipoic Acid
  • Allergies & food sensitivity
  • Nitrates in meat products
  • Hormonal imbalance (low oestrogen & progesterone)
  • Hypoxia (lack of oxygen) mainly caused by lack of physical activity and shallow breathing
  • Hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose levels)
  • Drop in barometric pressure
  • Lack of sleep
  • Dehydration caused by drinking insufficient amount of water and diet low in fruits and vegetables
  • Pineal gland calcification (caused by fluoride)
  • Constipation
Studies have found that increased brain synthesis of serotonin offers natural relief for migraine symptoms, including pain. Serotonin aids in relieving migraines because it prevents dilation and promotes constriction of intracranial blood vessels. Studies have proven the link between migraines and low serotonin levels in the brain. The link is so strong that some researchers and experts have started referring to migraine headaches as “low serotonin syndrome.”
When someone is experiencing a migraine headache, the body dramatically increases urinary excretion of the main metabolite of serotonin (5-Hydroxyindoleacetic acid), which results in low serotonin levels. It means that low serotonin not only causes migraines, but when someone starts experiencing a migraine headache serotonin is excreted with the urine leading to even deeper deficiency and intensifying the whole problem.
If it is true that serotonin deficiency is the most important problem behind migraine headaches, those who suffer from this condition should do their best to increase levels of this neurotransmitter in the brain to prevent migraine or easy the symptoms. In addition, since serotonin is also known for its ability to increase body’s pain tolerance, raising its concentration in the brain should make migraine pain more manageable.
Fortunately, there are some simple means which are helpful and effective in raising brain levels of serotonin. One of the most important ways to achieve this goal is by providing the body with amino acid tryptophan, or even better 5-HTP (5-Hydroxy L-Tryptophan), which is made from tryptophan.
Because of its ability to boost serotonin levels, 5HTP synthesized from tryptophan, has been used to help individuals suffering from numerous disorders, including: migraines, tension headaches, depression, or anxiety.
It is very important to remember that sufficient amounts of vitamin C, B3, B6 (pyridoxine), folate, zinc, and magnesium are necessary for the formation of tryptophan, which, in turn, is necessary in our body for the synthesis of serotonin. Apart from that, it has been shown that magnesium, vitamin B6 and B3 can also assist conversion of tryptophan to serotonin.
It is true that tryptophan is also found in animal foods especially milk, but animal sources (including milk and dairy) are much higher in other competitive amino acids thus hindering absorption of tryptophan. Because tryptophan is an amino acid (protein), therefore a diet rich in other types of protein (meat and dairy products) greatly hinders tryptophan from passing from the blood to your brain. It is so because tryptophan has to compete with many other amino acids (proteins) while trying to enter the brain and as a result only small amount of this important amino acid gets in. That is another reason why it is much better to supplement tryptophan in the form of 5HTP instead of relying on animal foods. In addition, unlike 5HTP, meat and dairy products also contain numerous high-risk factors such as cholesterol, triglycerides, antibiotics, or dioxins.
Study by Professor J. Wurtman (2009) demonstrated that tryptophan, which is the building block of serotonin, can get into our brains only when sweet unrefined carbohydrates are consumed. Thus, more serotonin is made after you consume sweet unrefined carbohydrates such as fruits (especially bananas and dried fruits).
Numerous studies have demonstrated that the amino acid 5-HTP (5-Hydroxy L-Tryptophan), which is made from tryptophan, and that in turn is used by the body to produce serotonin is helpful in coping with migraines, obesity, insomnia, anxiety, and depression. 5-HTP is also regarded as a potent antioxidant able to protect the body against the free-radical damage, thus reducing the risk of numerous health problems such as cardiovascular diseases, fatigue, cancer, etc.
In 1989, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reported evidence linking L-tryptophan supplements to a disorder characterized by an elevated white blood cell count. However, subsequent research showed that it was contaminants in the supplements, not the tryptophan, that was responsible for the problem.
Supplementing with L-tryptophan instead of 5-HTP is much less effective way to increase serotonin levels because L-tryptophan has to be first converted to 5-HTP. It means that taking L-tryptophan will result in producing less serotonin than after supplementing with 5-HTP. Both L-Tryptophan and 5-HTP must cross the blood-brain barrier to make serotonin in the brain. However, unlike L-Tryptophan 5-HTP doesn’t have to compete with other amino acids to cross the blood-brain barrier. As a result 5-HTP is much more effective in getting into brain than it is in case of L-tryptophan. For this reason 5-HTP is regarded as significantly more effective form of tryptophan in boosting brain serotonin levels. Human body uses L-tryptophan to produce a number of compounds including Niacin (Vitamin B3), but 5-HTP is only used to produce serotonin and melatonin (from serotonin). Your body can convert L-Tryptophan and 5-HTP to serotonin in the liver and also in the brain. When Part of L-tryptophan can be converted to serotonin in the liver and this serotonin can’t be used by the brain to improve mood or prevent migraine.
While supplementing with L-tryptophan and 5-HTP it is also very important to make sure that the first is taken with vitamin B3 and the second with vitamin B6. Tryptophan is crucial in boosting serotonin levels because serotonin is made in the body from tryptophan. Tryptophan is first converted in the liver into 5HTP (5-Hydroxy L-Tryptophan) by the enzyme tryptophan hydroxylase with the help of vitamin B3 (niacin). The problem, however, is that when the liver attempts to convert tryptophan to 5HTP in the absence of adequate levels of vitamin B3, it will use tryptophan to synthetize it, and it uses 60mg of tryptophan to produce 1mg of niacin, thus leading to tryptophan and serotonin deficiency! That is why if L-tryptophan supplements are taken instead of 5-HTP it should be used with B3. On the other hand, when 5-HTP gets into the liver another enzyme (decarboxylase) converts it to 5HT, but it can do it effectively only with the help of vitamin B6 (pyridoxine). Unfortunately, when body is deficient in this vitamin, liver will convert 5HTP to some toxic metabolites! For this reason 5-HTP, which effectiveness in boosting serotonin levels is higher than that of L-tryptophan, should be supplemented with pyridoxine (vitamin B6).
Apart from 5-HTP (Tryptophan) also vitamin B2 (riboflavin) supplementation seems to be beneficial in coping with migraine headaches. In mentioned below studies usually about 300-400mg of a daily dose of riboflavin was used:
“A 2016 review on the clinical evidence behind Riboflavin for Migraine concluded that daily doses of B2 may improve mitochondrial function, thereby preventing attacks and reducing the need for treatment.”
“A 2004 study found that patients who took Riboflavin experienced significantly fewer headaches and used fewer migraine pain killers or could completely avoid medications.”
“A 2016 review on the clinical evidence behind Riboflavin for Migraine concluded that daily doses of B2 may improve mitochondrial function, thereby preventing attacks and reducing the need for treatment.”
“A 2015 trial of 55 migraine patients on vitamin B2 showed decreased migraine ‘attack frequency’ and ‘headache days’.”
“1998 study of 80 patients with migraine found that those in the Riboflavin group experienced 50% fewer migraines and reduced severity of pain than those in the placebo group (15% reduction).”
“Since in case of migraine headaches Vitamin B2 may be able to achieve similar results to prescription alternatives with much fewer problems, riboflavin can be considered as safe and more natural alternative to meds.”
In addition, Vitamin B2 is also needed to make serotonin, which deficiency is regarded as the key trigger of migraine headaches.
Apart from 5-HTP (tryptophan) and vitamin B2 also the following are beneficial in increasing Serotonin levels: Vitamins C, B1, B3, B6, B12, D, folic acid, calcium, selenium, zinc, & magnesium, regular exercise, and sunlight.
In the book ‘The Natural Way to Overcome Depression, Obesity, and Insomnia’ Dr. Michael Murray wrote: “Bad diet, lack of exercise, use of harmful substances such as alcohol or caffeine (coffee, tea, cola drinks, etc.) can rob your brain of the ability to make enough serotonin. This produces a range of significant complications: depression, obesity, insomnia, migraine headaches, or chronic fatigue.” It means that in order to have more serotonin you have to exercise and avoid stimulants such as alcohol and foods or drinks which contain caffeine (coffee, tea, cola drinks, etc.).
In January 2009 Psychopharmacology reported that one of the studies found that also stress greatly decreases serotonin levels.
If you want to have enough serotonin you should stay away from the low-calorie slimming diets as experiments with rats demonstrated that reducing calories in their diet decreased serotonin levels. Instead, follow the normal-calorie unrefined plant-based diet which is the best, most healthy and effective way to elevate serotonin levels in the body.
Fortunately there are some natural ways you can use to have more of this precious hormone. According to Harvard psychiatrist Joseph Glenmullen serotonin can be enhanced by positive thinking, stress control, and by aerobic exercise such as brisk walking. Exercise can raise serotonin levels by both increasing the synthesis and release of it.
According to Dr. Sang Lee even looking at certain lights and colours such as blue or green can positively affect serotonin levels. That is why seeing the green colour of grass or trees and blue colour of the sky, ocean, lake, river, or even swimming pool water may positively influence serotonin levels. Knowing this we can understand why the surrounding us nature is dominated by these two colours. Our loving Creator, who intended us to spend most of the time outside, gave us so much blue and green colours in order to boost good hormones, soothe our nervous system and to energize us at the same time during the day stimulating our metabolism.
It is now a well-documented scientific fact that it is the lack of light (especially during winter season) which is responsible for causing a popular form of depression called SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) that occurs at the same time every year. For this reason light therapy is used in this case with excellent results. That is why in the northern areas of the United States significantly more people suffer from depression than in the southern and sunny states.
In one interesting experiment scientists asked patients with depression to wake up early in the morning at 5 am, go out and expose themselves to the sunlight. As a result the symptoms of depression disappeared. They also demonstrated that the early morning sunlight was the most effective in fighting depression. However, in order to wake up early in the morning you also need to go to bad before 10pm.
It was demonstrated that the full-spectrum light stimulated chickens to release serotonin so well that they lived twice as long! In addition to that, they were also calmer and produced eggs which were much lower in cholesterol! That is why also when we wisely expose our body to the sunlight we feel more relaxed, have stronger immune system, and have lower blood cholesterol.
It was reported that the non-full-spectrum lighting, which is often used in work places and our homes, has created stressful amounts of hormones such as cortisol and ACTH. On the other hand, the artificial full spectrum lighting, which imitates the natural light found in sunlight, can significantly improve our mood and energy level.
Some experts, however, conclude that it is not the type of light but rather its intensity which is more important as the therapeutic value comes from the brightness of the light. They seem to agree that the full spectrum light is healthier but they suggest that at the same time any bright light therapy helps to decrease the symptoms of SAD, PMS, heart rhythm disorders, insomnia, or fibromyalgia, and help to cope with obesity through elevating the serotonin levels.
Unfortunately, for therapeutic purposes we need very bright light of at least 2,500 lux. The stronger the light the better results can be achieved. That is why it is so important to go for a walk and use benefits of the natural sunlight any time the weather is fine because in a full daylight even without direct sun the strength of light is 10,00025,000 lux, while in direct sunlight it is 32,000130,000 lux! Even on a cloudy day we have about 1,000 lux of light available. Unfortunately, the artificial light we have at home or work is usually only between 50 to 150 lux.
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