Migraines May Cause More Than Temporary Pain: Study Reveals Lasting Brain Damage
So, you think your chronic migraine headaches are simply an aggravation but in reality, they may be taking a permanent toll on your brain. According to a recent study, recurring headaches of any kind—especially the aura type—pose a major threat to your overall long-term brain health. “Traditionally, migraine has been considered a benign disorder without long-term consequences for the brain,” said study author Messoud Ashina, MD, PhD, with the University of Copenhagen in Denmark. “Our review and meta-analysis study suggests that the disorder may permanently alter brain structure in multiple ways.”
Using an MRI, researchers discovered various kinds of damage within the brain structure. In fact, the research data showed that recurring migraine headaches increased brain lesions by 68 percent in those with aura and 34 percent in those without aura. Even more startling, the data revealed substantial evidence of “mini-stroke” damage and an overall shrinkage of brain size.
This is disturbing news on several levels. First, it’s disturbing that our “advanced” Western medicine is still managing migraines by throwing pain killers at the problem, treating only the symptoms without ever addressing the root of the problem. And now, we learn that nothing is being done to repair or restore the mini-stroke damage or shrinkage of the brain. What’s more, based on the results of this study, it is obvious that the recurring migraine headaches are actually speeding up the aging process of the brain. For instance, it’s already known that similar types of brain wear and tear are showing up in adults by age 35, even though they might not manifest as real problems until decades later when the cumulative damage finally severely impacts the normal brain functions.
Of course, migraine headaches are only one form of brain duress in a long list of things that can speed up the aging of our brains. Others include: ongoing stress, depression, PTSD, drug or alcohol abuse, lack of sleep, anxiety, pollution/toxin exposure, chronic pain, cholesterol medication, anti-depressant medication, anti-psychotic medication, pesticides on food, poor nutrition, a lack of exercise, and headaches of any kind.
So, maybe you don’t suffer from recurring migraine headaches but you do battle regular headaches on a pretty consistent basis, these can also cause your brain to age more rapidly. I, like several of my colleagues, choose to categorize the various kinds of headaches by their causes.
*Lymphatic/Pressure Headaches – With these headaches, the pain starts in the back of the neck and works upward. Or they can begin in the top of the head or behind one or both eyes. Some people call them “pressure headaches” because they feel like a build up of pressure, which is exactly what is causing them. They occur when pressure is unable to drain properly from the head because the lymphatic system is clogged, which typically manifests as symptoms of tightness, stiffness, or pain in the shoulder and neck area (location of the major thoracic ducts of the lymph system). Environmental pressure changes can trigger these kinds of headaches, such as: a change in the weather, flying in an airplane, or a full moon/new moon. Also, too much stress can cause these types of headaches, as the trash from the extra activity builds up in the body’s already clogged system.
Wonder if you have a clogged lymph system? Here are some other telltale signs:
*Extra mucous or congestion in the morning or after eating
*Your arm may go numb or fall asleep when at rest
*Your ears may pop or ring
*Hormonal Headaches – These headaches are triggered as the menstrual cycle approaches or after it begins. If this is the only time you experience headaches, then you simply have a hormonal imbalance. They occur when you have a lack of progesterone in comparison to the increased estrogen in your system. These headaches often start above the temples or the sides of the head.
*Blood/Toxic Headaches – Similar to hormonal headaches, these often begin around the temples or sides of the head, as they are also triggered by vascular inflammation. This happens because the blood flow into the head is being reduced by some form of stress. However, more often than not, the dominate factor triggering these kinds of recurring headaches is toxicity coming from digestive and/or sinus cavities. Here’s what happens. The foreign bacteria/yeast make toxic waste products such as LPS (lipopolysaccharide) or acetaldehyde which enters the general circulation of the body and then crosses the blood-brain barrier and triggers headaches.
Nerve Inflammation Headaches – So the previous types of headaches I’ve mentioned are all caused from stimuli outside of the brain itself. Think of it as the brain taking “a punch to the face.” The problem is, that once the brain starts having recurring headaches (no matter what kind), it becomes raw and inflamed. And, in this raw and inflamed state, the brain runs too hot. So, the glial cells in the brain (which act much like the immune cells in the lymph system) begin sending out 911 messages, resulting in a headache and an inflammatory habit which happens each time the headaches recur. This repeated overheating of the brain causes heat-induced damage to the actual brain structure, and eventually that damage shows up on an MRI.
With the intense pain associated with such headaches, people end up living on pain medication, which will block the inflammation and offer some relief in the short term, but get in the way of the healing process of the injured brain tissue in the long term.
The Good News
By managing your headaches and by nourishing the brain, the inflammation can be cooled off over time and the headaches minimized or even eliminated. Experts estimate this process could take two to six months—longer if the problem has persisted for a significant period of time. Working with a physician, you can gradually decrease your pain medications simply because you will start having fewer and less painful headaches.
Also, nutrition plays a big part in resolving or even preventing headaches. You should make sure you are taking in the most fundamental nutrients that the brain uses:
While higher magnesium and fatty acids help reduce brain inflammation, B vitamins and calcium help nerve transmission. So, the higher the stress you’re under, the higher the level of nutritional support needed.
Fiber is another nutritional factor in the war against headaches because many headaches are a result of constipation. In general, every person should have at least one good bowel movement per day or headaches are unlikely to improve because constipation keeps toxins moving back into the blood, which aggravates the problem. If you struggle with constipation, increase your dietary fiber,such as Intestinal Cleaner, higher magnesium, extra vitamin C, and friendly flora probiotics like Probiotic Blend. Until the nutritional plan of attack stimulates regular bowel movements, laxatives are an alternative.
To combat menstrual headaches, increase your B vitamins, minerals and fatty acids from day 14 to day 28. Also, it’s important to eat more protein at every meal during that part of the cycle. Lastly, adrenal support is a good idea from day 14 to 28. Take CoQ10, which will help promote energy and stress tolerance. In addition, some women have benefited from progesterone cream when used beginning day 14 of their cycle. Typically, the woman uses ¼ teaspoon from day 14 to 21 until the period starts or even a few days after for headache prevention.
Want to ward off lymphatic/pressure headaches? Take arabinogalactan—use Beet powder and GHI cleanse both before bedtime and first thing in the morning. You can take as many as four doses per day if needed or until you feel less pressure and less upper back area stiffness. Also, if you’re experiencing sinus congestion, takeGHI Cleanse to clear the sinuses. In addition to taking nutritional supplements, move it! The lymph system responds to body movement, so if you’re more active, that’s a real plus. Ease into increased exercise, however, as strenuous activity has been known to trigger some headaches. Just know that as your lymph system improves, you can do more without triggering a migraine.
As for the best nutrients to decrease blood/toxic headaches, try Beet Juice powder, milk thistle extract (silymarin) and alpha lipoic acid. Those are the best, but the following will also be beneficial: chlorella (binds up toxins), pantethine (clears brain fog and acetaldehyde), and MSM sulfur.
If you struggle with intense recurring headaches, you may have all of the issues mentioned in this article (Lymphatic/Pressure, hormonal issues, Blood/Toxicity, nerve inflammation), meaning your trashcan is full. The moment you add any stress on top of the already full trashcan, you trigger a headache and the pain spills over. But, as you lower the amount of trash in your trashcan, you’ll be able to do a little more and handle more stressors each day. And, eventually, your headaches will only happen once in a great while.
Nutrition Repair = Brain Care
Have you ever seen someone with deep wrinkles all over his/her face? Didn’t you think, “Wow, that person should’ve started doing something about those wrinkles a long time ago”? Well, it’s the same way with our brains. At the first sign of “crow’s feet” on your brain, you should recognize it and do something about it. You see, it’s the microscopic brain structural damage that progressively accumulates over the decades and eventually causes major problems. So, be proactive!
While Study Author Messoud Ashina, MD, PhD, with the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, shared: “Our review and meta-analysis study suggests that the disorder may permanently alter brain structure in multiple ways,” I don’t believe the damage has to be permanent, not if you do something to improve and combat the problem. That’s why reducing and eliminating intense stressors of any type, such as headaches, is a necessity. Also, getting enough sleep and engaging in regular exercise are important ways to help your brain rejuvenate. Eating high-quality food and taking needed/recommended supplements are other ways to aid the healing of your brain. And, yes, your brain can be restored. Research now shows that brain inflammation can be reduced, brain cells can be repaired, and new brain cells can form!
It’s time we start taking our brain health more seriously and work to combat aging in our brains with as much vigor as we ward off wrinkles on our faces and necks. This study has opened the door for solutions that can maintain better brain health into older age, as well as help to promote better brain function in younger years.
You can also read my other article on migraines here.