Migraines: A pain to reckon with or resolve? Simple steps that can help you live pain free.

dR. Nisha Chellam
5 min readJul 14, 2018

Some pain you can distance yourself from, but a headache sits right where you live. Mark Lawrence

What is a Migraine?

A headache from migraines is not normal and it is not benign.

Imagine a fire held to your hand-Ouch!

That is exactly what a migraine is: fire in your brain.

A migraine is always diagnosed when other more catastrophic causes of headaches have been excluded, like tumor, stroke, meningitis.

Due to the chronicity and the prevalence of this pain we tend to rationalize that it is a normal part of living.

There are 4 major things happening in your brain when you have a migraine headache.

  1. Defective energy production
  2. Leads to stimulation of the immune cells in the brain
  3. Leads to defense and inflammation in the brain.

4. This defense affects the 5th nerve or trigeminal nerve of the 12 nerves from the brain and this nerve activation causes blood vessels to tighten then relax and cause the throbbing pain.

Migraines characteristically are present on one side of the head, throbbing in nature, sometimes affecting the eyesight( flashes of light), sometimes causing nausea and vomiting, but always an impairment of thinking.

Mostly, it simply causes temporary disability to function normally due to disabling pain.

Migraines and their toll

In headaches and in worry vaguely life leaks away. W.H Auden

Ask anyone who has had a migraine headache.

They will tell you that they are unable to do their normal functions.

There is a certain dysfunction to the thought processes that creates the inability to think.

It can be accompanied by disturbing visual waves of light called “flashes of light”(known as aura)and nausea.

It can be accompanied by loss of time.

There has been an increase in the incidence of migraines over the last few decades.

The CDC.gov ( centers for disease control) calls this a disease of unknown cause and treatment.

Is it really?

The Triggers

His headache was still sitting over his right eye as if it had been nailed there. Ian Fleming

The triggers that have been studied are similar to many chronic illnesses.

Causes coexist

Stress:

Stress can be from less sleep or missing meals and sometimes simply emotional stress.

All of the above can lead to the cascade of defective energy production, inflammation and the vascular reaction.

It is seen 3 times more in women than men and associated with menstruation ( hormones).

Diet: 3 different types of foods cause and can act as triggers of migraines.

Foods that trigger instability in blood glucose levels ( insulin resistance)

Foods that impact the function of the blood vessel ( called vasoactive compounds like wine, cheese, chocolate that have tyramine)

Foods that can cause allergies or sensitivities like wheat, dairy, sugar, caffeine, soy, peanuts and mushrooms.

Nutritional deficiency:

Lack of certain vitamins and minerals can also cause this dysfunction in energy production therefore inflammation and pain.

The following is a summary of the list:

Low B vitamins

Low magnesium (thought to be the trigger of menstrual migraines)

Deficiency of nutrients that help with energy production: Riboflavin, Coq10, omega 3, Niacin.

The Problem with Migraines: it is not benign, it more than a headache

And then a throb hits you on the left side of the head so hard that your head bobs to the right…There’s no way that came from inside your head, you think. That’s no metaphysical crisis. God just punched you in the face.

Andrew Levy

People who have migraines are at a higher risk for other conditions, more life threatening than a migraine. Below is a short but important list.

Heart disease

Stroke

Depression

Blood clots

Asthma

Heart rhythm abnormalities like atrial fibrillation

It may be that the mechanism of disruption of immunity, and the inflammation is common to all of the above conditions. So the approach should always be to address the underlying cause.

So migraines are not simply a “headache” but a signal that there is an underlying faulty mechanism not only disrupting energy production, but causing chronic inflammation and long term vascular damage.

Though genetics play a role it is really the environment that pulls the trigger.

Steps to overcome this headache therefore becomes easy simple and real

Right there is the usefulness of migraine, there in that imposed yoga, the concentration on the pain. The migraine has acted as a circuit breaker, and the fuses have emerged intact. There is a pleasant convalescent euphoria.

Joan Didion

As with any dysfunction or disease states, always understand the pillars of good health:

  1. Understand your triggers.( stress,menstruation, wine or chocolate and cheese)
  2. Eliminate the known food allergens(optimize the diet)
  3. Get tested for nutritional deficiencies.

4. Replace the following nutrients:( if you cannot get tested)

> Magnesium

> B complex ( with niacin and riboflavin)

> Vitamin D with calcium

>CoQ10

5. Special nutrients based on testing and frequency and intensity ( always do under medical guidance)

>L-tryptophan a precursor of serotonin a neurotransmitter found to be low in some migraines sufferers.

>Alpha Lipoic acid

>Melatonin

To get a list of the nutrients and the doses recommended please click on our checklist.

As you can see before you embark on the journey of taking a handful of pills for a lifetime look at the list above, and have a systematic approach.

People take medications and still struggle with migraines, because they are simply addressing only the immediate symptom.

It is a condition that can be unpredictable and diabolical denoting that the the whole system needs to be taken into account ( immune, vascular, inflammation)not simply the symptom or condition.

So address your triggers, your nutrition, and the nutrients and take charge of your health.

As we always say in the end there is only one good doctor for you and that is YOU!!!

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dR. Nisha Chellam

A traditional physician who practices functional medicine disrupting the disease and wellness space. She is a mother and has great passion for teaching.