June is National Headache and Migraine Awareness Month
Headaches and migraines are the cause of the loss of vitality for people around the world in every minute of every day. The sad truth is they are not necessary. There are a number of possible root causes for migraines and headaches and finding your root cause is essential for prevention. Naturally, that’s what we want—prevention, which is much better than stopping a headache once it’s started. However, there are ways to do that too.
As I teach my integrative medicine health coach students at the Academy for Integrative Medicine, always test and don’t guess. Here are some of the causes of migraines and the tests needed to uncover the root cause(s).
Food Allergies, sensitivities, and intolerances
- Go on an elimination diet for 100 days at 100% adherence because gluten, sugar, dairy, eggs, soy, caffeine, alcohol, and processed foods are among the biggest causes of headaches and migraines.
- If you want to really get to the bottom of your migraines immediately and don’t want to fool around for 100 days without guaranteed results, do food sensitivity testing. You can order a food sensitivity test here. It’s important to know that the goal is to make friends with everything you eat, not eliminate foods until you have nothing left on your menu. This requires healing your digestive system, not just eliminating foods.
Gut Dysbiosis (bad bugs and poor diversity in the intestinal system)
- Comprehensive stool testing for parasitic, yeast, or bacterial imbalances that come from the gut is important in healing migraines. The microbiome influences everything our body does, including inflammation and pain levels.
A processed food diet including aspartame, MSG (monosodium glutamate), nitrates (in deli meats), sulfites (found in wine, dried fruit, and food from salad bars) are common triggers. One of the most important foods I get my patients to work on removing are those containing tyramine. Tyramine is a compound that is found in old food: fermented foods, smoked foods, aged foods, cured foods, and leftovers. This includes all of those yummy fermented foods everyone says are good for you. This is another example of “no one size fits all.” Certain people have genetic problems processing foods containing tyramine and histamine. You can do a genetic consultation with me by starting with the test.
Premenstrual syndrome, the oral contraceptive pill or hormone replacement therapy, being pre-menopausal, and going through menopause all cause hormone changes that can cause migraines.
- Salivary hormone and adrenal testing is an important part of any migraine investigation.
- Check red blood cell magnesium levels. Even this can be normal in the face of total body deficiency, so treatment with magnesium based on the symptoms is the first choice.
You can do a trial of magnesium to see if it helps. I love a product called Calm and Clear. Take 1 scoop at bedtime with water.
Your mitochondria are the little engines in your cells that produce energy for you to perform every function in your life, from cellular reproduction to getting yourself through the activities of daily living.
- Checking urine metabolite testing can be helpful to assess the function of the mitochondria and energy production.
You can start by trying 400 mg of riboflavin (B2) twice a day and 100 to 400 mg a day of coenzyme Q10 and see if they are helpful.
I rarely find that there is one root cause of migraines. They are usually a result of what I call “critical mass” of several “holes in the bottom of your boat.” Past trauma and the way you hold your stress is a huge contributing factor to migraines and other headaches. I have found that the #1 most helpful intervention is the Stress Busting Tool Kit, which includes 2 audios and an instructional pdf and a biofeedback thermometer that you use to monitor your progress. If you have had past trauma, the Stress Busting Tool Kit is included in an online do-it-yourself trauma-healing program called You Unbroken. In that program, you learn to increase your emotional resilience, which increases your stress coping resilience, which increases your cardiovascular, hormonal, immunological, and neurological resilience—all of which are root causes for headaches