Did you know migraine sufferers have different brains from other people?
It’s true. The latest neuroscience reveals that those who experience migraines have marked differences in their brain structures. Migraine-prone individuals experience sensory input – including pain – differently from those who never get migraines. Their brain matter in the area that counts, the somatosensory cortex, is thicker. What scientists don’t know is if migraines cause brain matter changes, or if some folks are simply born with different brains and are therefore susceptible to migraines later in life. Folks with Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis have similar brain differences.
Unlike chronic tension headaches or reactive headaches (such as those brought on by consuming too much alcohol or caffeine withdrawal), migraine headaches are dangerous because they alter the brain permanently. That’s why it is essential for migraine sufferers to treat their migraines through both natural and medical avenues. Experts explain that it is imperative for migraine-prone individuals to limit the severity and frequency of their migraines; that is, it is actually safer for a migraine sufferer to take a limited amount of migraine medication in order to reduce the aggregate damage of ongoing migraines left untreated. This is a case where I don’t come down on the use of a pharmaceutical therapy (yes, you heard it from me). While migraine treatments can have side effects, the alternative – downing huge piles of pills in desperation when a migraine hits – is demonstrably worse for your health. Of course, there are often triggers for migraine, and it’s crucial to examine your lifestyle and eliminate any triggers – especially now that we know such violent headaches may alter your brain structure.
- Refined carbohydrates
- Overripe fruit
- Sleep deprivation
- Menstrual cycles
- Smoke (cigarette/cigar smoke)
- Excess sun (or too little sun)
Seeing a pattern here? Migraine rates have increased in recent years. While better diagnosis probably plays a significant role in this, I believe our standard American lifestyle is clearly implicated as well. Few folks eat fresh, chemical-free, sugar-free, unprocessed foods as a matter of course. Going further, our modern pace of living is incredibly stressful, both emotionally and hormonally. If you suffer from migraines, give my Primal Health lifestyle a try and see if that helps clear things up (link 1, link 2). If you’re a regular reader you know we focus on fresh, clean, wholesome foods, coupled with stress management (both physical and mental).
Curious about migraines? I’m lucky; I don’t get them. But I’ve got friends and family members and staff who have experienced these terrible, gut-wrenching, blinding headaches. For the record, a migraine is not simply a really bad headache. They are a true health condition, like inflammation or bipolar disorder. You can’t will them away and the pain is not an exaggeration.
- Migraines can’t be cured.
While this is generally true, they can often be controlled and even eliminated (if that’s not “cured”…). A staff member suffered migraines for years; after cutting out all carbohydrates from grain sources, the migraines cleared up permanently. Diet, lifestyle, and medical therapy can all help to keep migraines under control for good.
- Migraines are caused by allergies/toxins.
Conspiracy theorists wish it were true. Migraines are not caused by allergies or contaminants. While lifestyle plays a dramatic part in migraine treatment, it is unclear if lifestyle causes migraines, or if some folks are simply more susceptible to migraines due to brain differences. This recent study we discussed above seems to suggest the latter. While we all have a single genetic “blueprint” finished some 10,000 years ago, there are bound to be plenty of variations. Some of us are lactose-intolerant; others cannot metabolize alcohol; and others experience migraines. I believe migraines are likely due to a combination of slight genetic variation combined with modern lifestyle factors.
Auntie P Flickr Photo (CC)