Migraine is a term used to describe a specific kind of headache. People usually call any bad headache a Migraine. But, this term is used for a neurological phenomenon that usually includes a headache, but not always.
Normally, the treatment includes staying away from any triggers that can be found and using medications like B-blockers, Calcium Channel blocker, tryptans, anti-inflammatories, pain medications, steroids and others. Even with all these treatments, many people get minimal, if any, relief and continue to need medications for much of their lives. Migraine sufferers may have such disabling symptoms that they miss work or school regularly and have to stay in a quiet, dark room and try to sleep it off
From an alternative medical view, there can be many contributing causes to Migraines.
- Triggers. Many substances in processed foods can be culprits. Artificial sweeteners, like Aspartame, MSG and others can be hidden in food. Food Preservatives, like Nitrates, Nitrites and Sulfites in bacon, dried fruit and wines can cause trouble. Foods containing Tyramine, like chocolate and cheese, can also be triggers. To avoid these and other triggers, it is important to eat a whole food diet and to drink plenty of water. Your Functional Medicine Provider may order Food Sensitivity Testing or put you on a Comprehensive Elimination Diet. Testing can help identify foods or other substances that have been causing trouble.
- Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies. Magnesium deficiency is rampant and is a frequent cause of Migraines. It’s important to have access to gentle, well absorbed forms of Magnesium, as diarrhea is a frequent side effects of treating with Magnesium. B vitamins also play a part in some Migraines and even fixing Vitamin D deficiency has helped some.
- Hormone imbalances. Excess Estrogen is a common imbalance in men and women, followed by Testosterone and Progesterone deficiencies. Many women have Migraines at the same time every month as their hormones fluctuate. Usually, there is an imbalance or some deficiency that increases or decreases a metabolic pathway and results in too much or two little of one or more hormones. They aren’t crazy, it really does happen and is more common than many people think. Working with a Functional Medicine Provider to assess your hormone levels and improve them can be invaluable.
- Mitochondrial Dysfunction. Mitochondria are the energy producing powerhouses in our cells. Common deficiencies like CoQ10, B Vitamins, Alpha Lipoic Acid, Carnitine, other Amino Acids can grind the mitochondria to a halt and result in Fatigue, Brain Fog and muscle aches. Getting Urinary Organic Acids tested can find some of these deficiencies.
- Generalized Inflammation. Any source of inflammation can cause Migraines and other dysfunctions. Your Functional Medicine Provider can get IgG Food Sensitivity testing, Gluten Sensitivity testing, Candida and Yeast, Parasites, Bacterial Overgrowth, Lack of Digestive Enzymes, Leaky Gut Syndrome and other testing by blood, urine and stool sampling.
These are just a few of the common things I find regularly that contribute to Migraines, but there are many more. Each person is unique and has their own set of circumstances. Traditional medical providers may not have the tools or training to search for these causes and may be limited to prescribing medications to just handling the symptoms. Seeing a provider trained in Functional Medicine (looking for causes) can be a step toward the non-traditional testing and treatment sometimes needed to help people with this and other difficult conditions.
To see Dr. Gilmore for these or other challenging conditions, call The Maine Center for Functional Medicine at (207)941-0080.