Whole Body Health

Migraines & Headaches

Migraines & Headaches

What Is A Migraine?

A migraine/headache could be your body’s way of telling you that something more is wrong. Did you know that approximately one out of every ten Americans experience migraines, with women being affected three times more often than men?

This vascular headache is most commonly experienced between the ages of fifteen and fifty-five, and seventy to eighty percent of sufferers have a family history of migraine. Symptoms may be, but are not limited to, intense throbbing often on one side of the head only, visual disturbances, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, increased sensitivity to light, sounds, and smells, stiffness of the neck and shoulders, tingling or stiffness in the limbs, and an inability to concentrate.

A variety of factors can trigger a migraine. Triggers include alteration of sleep-wake cycle; missing or delaying a meal; medications that cause a swelling of the blood vessels; daily or near daily use of medications designed for relieving headache attacks; bright lights, sunlight, fluorescent lights, TV and movie viewing; certain foods; and excessive noise. But that’s not all, even stress and/or underlying depression are triggers that can cause a migraine. Wow, isn’t the body an amazing thing? It can give a clue as obvious as a migraine to remind you that you are forgetting to take care of something very important…YOU!

Migraines are characterized by head pain to one or both sides of the head and are normally accompanied by sensitivity to light and sound along with nausea. This excruciating pain can last from several hours to several days. Some migraines are preceded by auras. Auras are an irritated sensation varying from visualizing flashing lights to detections of odd odors. Not all migraine sufferers experience auras. There are different types of migraines based on the experience the individual has along with the cause of the migraine. Migraines often impair an individual to the extent that they can’t function normally. For most individuals experiencing a migraine it is difficult to concentrate, to keep your eyes open, and even difficult to speak. Obviously, this can be disabling. Fortunately, there are things that can be of help.

Migraines can prevent you from enjoying your life to the fullest, and anyone who has had a migraine can attest to that! Don’t let something “stop you in your tracks.” Research has linked the migraine headaches with imbalances in brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters can be measured, and with that information, your Austin doctor can recommend the best program for you.

Migraines and Neurotransmitter Levels

Migraines are often a result of impairment in the nervous system. Particularly, imbalances in neurotransmitters can be an underlying component in the development of migraines.
Neurotransmitters are chemicals that relay signals between nerve cells, called “neurons.” They are present throughout the body and are required for proper brain and body functions. Serious health problems, including migraine, can occur when neurotransmitter levels are too high or too low.

Every neurotransmitter behaves differently. Some neurotransmitters are inhibitory and tend to calm, while others are excitatory and stimulate the brain. Healthcare professionals conclude that specific neurotransmitter imbalances are more likely to underlie certain conditions. Deficiencies involving the central nervous system’s neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine appear to be involved in the development of migraines.

Environmental and biological factors— including stress, foods, hormonal changes, or genetics— can cause imbalances in the levels of neurotransmitter chemicals in the brain. These imbalances can trigger or exacerbate migraines.

Acute & Chronic Pain Relief

Improving Treatment

Most of the pharmaceutical medicationsused to treat migraines either focus on the pain associated with migraines or the prevention of migraines. Common classes of medication used to alleviate the pain and prevent moderate migraines from occurring are the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. If taken for long periods of time however, they may leadto ulcers or gastrointestinal bleeding. Drugs such as triptans are quite common for the treatment of migraines. They mimic the actions of serotonin by binding to serotonin receptors causing constriction of cerebral blood vessels. Preventive medications such as cardiovascular drugs, antidepressants, anti-seizure drugs,and NSAIDs, have been shown to reduce the frequency, severity, and length of migraines. Some of these drugs can have serious side effects (Data adapted from the Mayo Clinic Staff).

Neurotransmitter function can also be supported with nutrient-based programs. Neurotransmitters are made from various components found in food of a normal, healthy diet. Increasing the amounts of these dietary constituents can help maintain normal neurotransmitter levels.

While no program can guarantee success for everyone, it is worthwhile to effectively match a drug-based and/or nutrient-based program to the specific needs of the individual.

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