In those who suffer from migraine headaches and seizures, anything that can help to reduce the number of attacks they have is a welcome addition. Clearly lifestyle and supplementation play a strong (if not stronger) role in the management of both migraine headaches and seizures along with the mainstream medical approach of pharmacological management. For many sufferers, this information is rarely shared by their physicians.
Before we illuminate today's brain protecting nutrient, we need to cover a little basic physiology. Those of you with very good memories will undoubtably recall that the cells of our organs are made up of a lipid bilayer. Consider our membranes as sort of a fatty moat made up of bunches of molecules that look like a head with legs. On the outsides of both sides of the moat we have the heads, which are soluble in water. The legs that dangle from the heads face toward the center of the moat, meeting each other in the center. These legs are made up of fats that do not dissolve in water.
All by itself, not much can pass through this moat. Things that dissolve in water can make it past the heads, but not the legs in the center. Things that are fat soluble can't make it past the heads to get into the moat at all. A relatively impenetrable moat.
But things still need to get in and out of the cell. The cell needs to get messages in and out, it needs nutrients in and out and things manufactured inside the cell need to get outside of the cell.
The cell does this through the use of pores embedded in the membrane. Some go all the way through the moat, some only go partway. An important factor of how well messages are transmitted, or NOT transmitted, is the health of the cell membrane. Lower quality fats (such as trans fats) will impede healthy cell communication.
On the flip side, higher amounts of healthier fats in the cell membrane ensure that messages that are supposed to be passed along are passed along. Overall, it just makes for a healthier, happier cell.
What does this mean for a condition like epilepsy? Seizures and migraine headaches can occur when a cell is not healthy enough to communicate effectively with its neighbor. This can mean that an inhibitory neuron (that shuts down its neighboring cell) may not be effective at calming a connecting cell. Or, it could mean that an individual brain cell fires before it is supposed to fire, beginning a cascade of wild messages that trigger a headache or a seizure.
A recent study in the March issue of Epilepsy and Behavior demonstrated that the fish oil DHA was able to lower seizure rates. The study was small and non-randomized, but is consistent with our understanding of what triggers seizures as well as prior studies.
Of the ten people in the study receiving 1,000 mg of DHA, 6 had a reduction in the number of seizures. One patient had a marked reduction in seizure activity. Overall, the reduction in seizure activity was 16%. Quite an accomplishment for something as safe and inexpensive as fish oils.
Of course, the big question is, why had fish oils not been a recommendation prior to this study? Even that single patient with the marked reduction in seizure activity could've had a massive impact on his or her quality of life by such a simple intervention long before this study.
Headaches are such a common ailment that many Americans perceive them as normal. More than 45 million Americans suffer from chronic headaches and of those, 28 million people suffer from migraines. Seven million Americans suffer from a headache at least every other day. A headache is the reason for approximately one-third of pain clinic visits. Even more amazing, a severe headache results in five percent of visits to a hospital emergency room. On any given day, millions of people in the U.S. look for ways to get headache relief.
Researchers and medical professionals have diagnosed 150 categories of headaches. Tension headaches, sometimes called chronic daily headaches, are the most common type among adolescents and adults. Muscles contract, causing mild to moderate pain, and these headaches frequently come and go over a prolonged period. Causes of headaches of the migraine variety are unknown, though doctors believe migraines are related to changes within the brain, including blood vessel contractions.
Migraines are often characterized by throbbing, pounding pain that ranges from moderate to severe in degree. A migraine can last from four hours to as long as three days and typically occurs between one and four times per month. Associated symptoms include nausea or vomiting, appetite loss, and sensitivity to noise, odors, or light. Children suffering from migraines may also feel dizzy, look pale, experience blurred vision, and get a fever. The condition can be so debilitating that sufferers of all ages are willing to try anything to get migraine headache relief.
People suffering from sinus headaches report a constant, deep pain in their forehead, cheekbones, or the bridge of their nose. Sudden movement of the head only intensifies this pain. Other sinus-related symptoms including fever, nasal discharge, and facial swelling often accompany these headaches. Cluster headaches are the least common primary headache types and these are characterized by intense constant or throbbing pain behind one eye or within the eye region that has a piercing or burning quality.
Depending on the type of headache being experienced, pain may be felt in the forehead, around the eyes, in the temples, or in the back of the head. While headaches of the cluster variety occur on one side of the head, other types occur on both sides. Patients may grow so accustomed to experiencing a certain type of headache that they refer to it as "normal." While headache pain may be common, it is never normal and migraine, sinus, cluster, and tension headache relief should be sought as soon as possible.
While exact causes of headaches that fall into some categories are unknown, research indicates that upper neck joints and nerves are the source of pain experienced by many common headache suffers. This area of the body is referred to as the cervical spine and the condition is referred to as a cerviogenic headache, which means "headaches coming from the neck." In its headache classification system, the National Institutes of Health classifies cerviogenic headaches as one of the five major types of headaches.
Spinal manipulations, also called spinal adjustments, are safe and effective remedies for headaches due to irritated upper neck joints and nerves. Within the U.S., Doctors of Chiropractic perform most spinal manipulations. The adjustments they perform safely and gently establish proper movement of the upper neck and its joints. Reported side effects have been few, if any, making spinal manipulation a viable alternative to medication-based headache remedies commonly used by American headache sufferers.
Non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDS, are commonly taken to achieve stress, tension, and migraine headache relief. These medications are available without a prescription, making them easy for headache sufferers to obtain. However, they can also be quite harmful due to their side effects. Every year in the U.S., more than 100,000 people are hospitalized and more than 16,000 die from irritation or bleeding ulcers within the stomach and gastric tract stemming from NSAID side effects.
Another difference between medications and spinal manipulations is the result of the treatment. Medications tend to mask the pain experienced by headache sufferers. Spinal adjustments are designed to correct the cause of the headache. Using spinal manipulation rather than medication treatments for headaches also has major healthcare cost-saving implications. Research conducted by one expert reveals that the U.S. healthcare system could save more than $13 billion dollars a year if chiropractic treatments primarily used as headache remedies.
Whether they are seeking migraine, stress, tension, or sinus headache relief, people should explore all available treatments. Some may come to discover that the most recommended remedies for headaches are not as beneficial as they claim to be, due to their side effects. Chiropractic manipulation represents a safe and effective treatment option.
If you are reading this, it is because you may be interested in the subject, or you may be experiencing these headaches yourself. The first thing I would like to share with you is that I know what it feels like, because I've been there for many years, struggling with my own demons breaking my head in two.
But after a lot of research, I learned much about these Migraine Headaches, enough to find the source of my own disorder.
All I can say now is that I consider myself cured from this. Of course I have some headaches sometimes, we all do, but the most important thing I made in my life was to change certain habits that were triggering these headaches, and being powered because of my life style, they were becoming really a danger to my health.
What was my trigger in particular?
Before I realized all this, I had a very stressed life, a stressful job that took me many hours almost every day with overtime hours, and in that moment I was having some issues at home. And not to count that I go to college everyday after work.
Many stressful situations, and being myself a stressed person, I was collapsing. And then I started to experience these painful Migraine Headaches.
I had almost three to four episodes every week, that lasted more than five hours or so. I often woke up at night with my skull in flames, lot of pain behind my eye-balls.
As you can see, It was becoming a really dangerous situation in my life. Of course I seek for Medical advice. And they gave me relief pills, there are tons of them to try, and depending on each person, they really work. They worked for me as well, but the problem was that, the more I took them, the less effect they were giving me.
Then I realized that I had to track the source of it, because it was not normal at all, and it was not pathological as well.
When I discovered all these triggers, I just couldn't believe it, all the information that we don't have if we don't research for it. After taking some action, it took me like six months to make a life style change that suited me better, and guess what? My migraines started to decrease considerably!
So that you already know that STRESS might be one trigger for migraines, I will share some other that are vital in every person life, like:
Diets: Diets can be a trouble if not followed correctly, and it can be as well a trigger for headaches.
Sleep: Sleeping disorders are a very common trigger for headaches, and the way we live today nowadays, it is very likely almost all of us have some problems here some times.
Sex Life: you can find this funny, but this IS a trigger. Emotional feelings are very much related to having headaches, and a mix of emotions and sex, it just can happen!
Period time: for women, same as above, feelings play their part here.
Weather: Humidity, rain, excessive heat, these are all factors that trigger headaches.
Environment: Like cigarettes, smoke, smog in suburbs, perfumes, all triggers as well.
There are more triggers, but I consider these as the most common and the most relevant for all migraine sufferers.
Many people suffer from what are believed to be sinus headaches. These are the headaches that cause discomfort and hurt over the front of the face and forehead. Some people even get sinus infections which it is felt, lead to sinus headaches. Surprisingly however, a recent study from November 2011 begs to differ. Researchers had 58 patients who clearly seemed to have sinusitis, which is a sinus irritation, examined by specialists including a neurologist and an ear, nose and throat specialist, called an otolaryngologist. The examination found that only 3 of the patients had a sinus problem. The remaining 55 did not have a sinus condition but were instead suffering from migraine and tension-type headaches.
This, of course, means that many people having headaches are being misdiagnosed and consequently treated inappropriately with antibiotics and possibly with sinus surgery. It is commonly known that antibiotic therapy has side effects: stomach and intestinal irritation, nausea and if one is allergic antibiotics, a potentially life-threatening condition called anaphylactic shock. Also it has been recommended that antibiotics only be prescribed if, and only if, there is a confirmed bacterial infection. This is mainly because it has been found that bacteria are progressively becoming immune to our common antibiotics. If this trend continues, the day may come when we are unable to treat bacterial infections effectively with any medication. None of us want to return to a world where one has to be gravely worried over a small skin cut or scrape. Sinus surgery has the potential risks of complications of anesthesia and operation-caused infections.
If migraine and tension headaches are the true source of the headaches, what is to be done in the way of treatment?
Fortunately a wise choice in the treatment of headaches is chiropractic care. One research publication released in 2010 found that both migraine and tension-type headaches actually come from irritated areas in the upper bones of the neck, called vertebrae, which can irritate nerves and joints which is where the headaches originate. By using various forms of gentle, safe manipulation, chiropractic treatment is also a very cost-effective approach to helping this disabling condition. Chiropractors in the United States are licensed and regulated by the state in with they practice and take on going continuing education classes.
Instead of possible inappropriate treatment of antibiotics or surgery for sinus headaches, the treatment of choice has been found to be best performed by doctors of chiropractic.
Finding effective treatments for migraines can be challenging to say the least - but it doesn't have to drive you to the brink of insanity, nor does it require risky or potentially harmful medications or procedures.
Often, doctors will prescribe any of a variety of medications - from those that are supposed to bring relief by masking symptoms, to those that attempt to prevent the onset of a migraine episode.
There are over 100 medications that a doctor can choose from and nearly endless combinations of them. The list is ever-evolving and a migraine patient can quickly feel like they've become a prescription medicine guinea pig as they are prescribed one thing after another.
However, many of the very medications that are intended to make things better end up making things worse when you consider their side effects - and they can all pose a huge risk to one's health in a many ways.
A person taking these medications can develop rebound headaches - where the medication actually causes migraines. Not only that, if they were to discontinue taking the medications abruptly that can cause migraines as well.
Amidst all of the traditional medications that Western medicine has to offer, even the most savvy and experienced doctor can end up running out of ideas... then what can be done when that happens?
This is no way to live and certainly cannot be the only or best approach to treating migraines. Here are several other ideas, among many, that you can try:
Start by knowing what your triggers are and avoid them at all costs
Losing weight and becoming just a little more physically active can effectively ward off the next migraine episode.
Investigate whether or not you may have a gluten intolerance. Some have found that by avoiding products high in gluten have seen a significant reduction in migraines.
Oxygen has been used to treat those who experience cluster headache patients and some specialists believe it can be effective for migraine patients. Speak with your physician, neurologist, or pain specialist and perhaps they can prescribe oxygen on a trial basis to determine if it can make a difference for you.
Therapeutic massage has proven to be an effective treatment for migraines as well. Try starting with one massage every one or two weeks.
In the midst of a migraine, use ice and heat interchangeably in the areas where you feel the most pain or throbbing sensations.
Ask your doctor if you could try a TENS unit - a small battery-operated device that has sticky pads that are strategically placed on the outside of your body. The device emits gentle electrical impulses to stimulate and relax muscles in a target area.
The use of dietary supplements - such as coenzyme Q10, magnesium, or vitamin B2 - can be effective in the prevention of migraines.
Along with activating specific pressure points on your head, pinching the top of your nasal passage, temple, or behind your ear can relieve pain.
Sleeping with a buckwheat hull pillow can help you get better sleep and could support your head and neck in a way that prevents the likeliness of migraines.
Don't be afraid to try different neurologist or pain specialist. Ask your primary care physician for a referral if you suspect that a change could be beneficial.
While most sufferers consider them separate entities, migraines and seizures share many common characteristics, and the underlying problem with the cells of the brain are also similar. What contributes to or triggers a migraine headache can also trigger a seizure, such as lack of sleep, stress or skipping a meal. In the short term, both of these conditions dramatically affect quality of life. Even more concerning is what these conditions due to the brain in the long run.
Memory loss and cognitive decline are very common in migraineurs and epileptics. The progression to dementia is slow but steady. As I've mentioned in previous posts, the mere control of the condition with medication does nothing to fix the underlying problem in the brain. This merely masks the warning signs the brain is giving off as brain cells continue to become progressively more sick and dysfunctional. Multiple research studies support the idea that both epilepsy and migraines are progressive brain disorders, and some medications used to treat these conditions, have actually been shown to increase memory loss and brain damage.
For these reasons, anything that we can do to prevent this decline and protect the brain is of the utmost importance. Good thing there are some good answers. Here are 3 ideas:
1) The modified ketogenic diet is exceedingly powerful. In addition, patients who follow the diet are very likely to stay on it long term. AND, it seems to positively change the long term likelihood of having a seizure even in those who discontinue the diet.
2) GABA, or gamma-amino-butyric acid, is a very powerful neurotransmitter that calms the brain, lowering the risk of brain cells going wild and causing a migraine or seizure. Medications like Valium and Xanax act on GABA pathways. Glutamine is an amino acid that the body uses to make more GABA. Some studies have suggested that using glutamine as a supplement can help calm the brain.
3) Melatonin is a hormone produced deep in the brain by the pineal gland. It's production is shut down by sunlight hitting the retina, thus regulating our sleeping cycle to daylight hours. But in recent years, the power of melatonin to protect the brain has been brought to light (so to speak...). One of melatonin's benefits is as a potent antioxidant that can protect the brain.
A study in the March Epilepsy and Behavior journal further confirms the potential benefit of melatonin on patients suffering with migraines and seizures.
Researchers looked at the effect of melatonin on seizures in rats when the melatonin was given before the seizures. While it had no effect when given after a seizure, there was a benefit on the behavior and memory of the rats who were given melatonin prior to a seizure.
While this is an animal study, given prior research along these lines on the benefits of melatonin, I would not consider it a great stretch to apply this study to a person suffering with migraines and seizures.
A side note on melatonin usage: I have had many patients who start with dosages as high as 10 grams. I am unsure why they would start that high unless it was based on recommendations from wherever the supplement was purchased. I will usually start a patient on.5 mg and, if needed, work up to 3 mg, but will rarely go past this dosage. Too high of a dose can induce nightmares and lead to excessive grogginess in the morning.
Have you noticed how you get a headache and a feeling of disorientation when you travel from one part of the globe to another? Say the trip is from a Western country to an Asian one. Upon your arrival, you are likely to feel fatigue and even a mild sense of depression. In some cases, you would even become irritable and groggy. You can also develop diarrhea or its counterpart constipation. Or, you may also suffer from a temporary bout of insomnia.
All of these symptoms are indicative of a jet lag. Known in the medical field as desynchronosis, jet lag is classified all the same as a physiological condition, a mental state and a sleeping disorder. But as a whole, the condition refers to the way your body reacts when it is exposed to a change in time zones. For example, if you leave from Paris on your way to New York, chances are your biological clock is still attuned to the Parisian time. So when you get to New York, which is 6 hours behind the Parisian clock, your body's sleeping pattern and physiological orientation is disrupted.
Medical researchers have attributed to jet lag most of the immunity problems that are experienced by travelers. Immunity problem refers to your susceptibility to be affected by a number of infections. This is because your biological clock helps in the production of a particular type of protein that in turn aids in the detection of harmful bacteria.
Another effect of jet lag is a disturbance in your sleeping pattern. When you travel from one place to another, and effectively cross time zones, your body adapts to a change in climate, temperature level and the surrounding noise. This is why most people who are jet-lagged tend to experience difficulty in falling asleep easily in the new place. This is not to mention the hours you spend awake even if your body already tells you that it should be resting at that time-just because your surroundings are still very much alive.
Finally, jet lag's symptoms affect your social and physiological functions. As your sleeping pattern suffers and your symptoms continue to bother, you would find it more difficult to communicate with people around you as well as perform different tasks that involve physical and mental well-being.
However, you need not worry because as in most conditions, jet lag lasts only for a few days until you have adjusted to your surroundings. If you always experience jet lag, better consult a doctor first before your travel to get the best advice to prevent jet lag.