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This post was written by Page Long, a migraine sufferer and natural medicine advocate.

If you are a migraine sufferer then you are most likely on a constant search for pain relief and migraine prevention. But have you wondered if you are truly doing everything in your power to prevent your migraines?

You’ve probably heard buzzwords around ‘leaky gut syndrome’ if you read anything in the health and wellness field. We all know that every system in our body is in some way shape or form connected to the rest of the body. If you treat only the migraine pain then you are most likely not going to see a huge decrease in the number of migraines that you experience.

We all know that we ingest our migraine medicine, vitamins, and water through our stomach. If our digestive system is not functioning properly then we don’t actually absorb all of the benefits from everything we eat.

Here are some simple things you can do to improve your gut health:

  • Eat foods high in digestive enzymes - It’s very common that with today’s level of processed foods, many people are lacking the proper enzymes to break down the food they ingest. Adding a digestive enzyme supplement and/or eating foods with digestive enzymes in them can greatly improve the amount of nutrients your body is able to absorb.
  • Drink hot tea with your meals - Warm drinks & meals are easier for your body to break down and digest.
  • Take a liquid multi-vitamin - It’s easier to digest a liquid form of a vitamin vs. a chew or tablet.
  • Add magnesium to your diet - Magnesium can help you stay regular along with another estimated 800+ metabolic functions. Many migraine medicines cause constipation which results in your digestive system slowing down more than normal.

If you suffer from IBS along with your migraines, then there is a higher chance that you will benefit from improving your gut health. Challenge yourself to add one new thing each week that focuses on improving your digestion.

What are some of your own top tips on improving gut health? Comment below!

***

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Migraines and digestive disorders are seemingly very closely related.

A 2014 review article published in Frontiers of Neurology found that ‘People who regularly experience gastrointestinal symptoms have a higher prevalence of headaches, with a stronger association with increasing headache frequency’1.

In other words, there is a relationship between general impairment of the stomach, intestine and even gall bladder, and head pain.

We know that for many people, nervous tension can bring about headaches and migraines. Well, interestingly, in herbal theory, nervous tension is said to aggravate the digestive function - especially the stomach and spleen - and one knock-on effect of this can be tension headaches.

Digestive Impairment vs Food Intolerance

On the other side of the same coin is food intolerance. Digestive impairment and food intolerance are however not the same things.

Digestive impairment is a functional issue. Meanwhile, food intolerance may stem from functional issues but also the foods themselves, a factor not necessarily related to digestive issues. Our foods have changed in the past 50 years and we are now eating things that our body is arguably not designed to eat.

Is Modern, Fast-Paced Society Creating New Problems?

Traditional foods as they used to be grown and prepared have never been an issue for most. Those same foods made using modern methods have become an issue for some because of chemicals and other processes used when they are being grown and prepared for sale. These chemicals and processes never existed prior to the the past 50-100 years so it’s interesting to note how this has coincided with a rise in many of our present-day health issues.

If you are looking for natural migraine relief, the foods you eat would be a good place to start.

Migraines and Foods

For some people, simply eating certain types of foods can trigger a migraine.

For some it may be chocolate; for others, rich creamy foods (like dairy products); or foods that are heavy, greasy or hard-to-digest. For others, certain food additives like MSG that interfere with the digestive process may trigger migraines.

The newest culprit being blamed as the cause of headaches and migraines is a naturally occurring micronutrient called tyramine. According to WebMD.com, aged and fermented foods like certain cheeses, smoked or cured meats and fish, and certain varieties of beer may contain high levels of tyramine2.

Meanwhile, for some people who already have an impaired stomach, simply not eating can also bring on a headache or a migraine.

Listen To Your Body

It would seem that the mechanism by which head pain arises from problems arising elsewhere in the body may be less mysterious than some might suspect.

While every person and every migraine is different, by paying attention to what you’re eating and making a note of how you feel/your migraine patterns, you may start to notice certain connections between the foods you eat and your migraine incidence.

Meanwhile, if you have already been diagnosed with some sort of digestive or stomach impairment, then perhaps you are more sensitive to nervous tension or eating foods containing MSG.

Naturopaths and other practitioners like Bowen may be able to offer solutions for nervous tension.


References

1. “Migraine Associated with Gastrointestinal Disorders: Review of the Literature and Clinical Implications”, Frontiers of Neurology, November 2014

2. “Tyramine and Migraines”, WebMD, online

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By Kevin Crocombe

Migraine researcher
Photo credit: Jernej Graj, Unsplash

Floating is the most rapid and effective method of getting into a deeply relaxed state that I know of. Relaxing and lowering stress is an effective way to drain your migraine bucket.

I love floating and have used it on and off as a relaxation tool since the late 1980s. Decades!

The alpha state is a deeply relaxed state where the brain is very relaxed and very receptive to any stimulus. This is easy to achieve by lying in a float tank.

I usually take my personal blood pressure monitor to the float centre and take readings before and after the float.

Blood pressure readings dropped 25 points & 17 points in 50 minutes

During a recent float, my blood pressure readings showed a 25-point drop in the systolic and 17-point drop in diastolic in 50 minutes. Take your own monitor and test yourself should you decide to try floatation.

Floating has been recognised and used for centuries as a therapeutic treatment in the mineral-rich waters of the Dead Sea, and other inland lakes. Minerals from streams have fed these lakes for tens of thousands of years to the point where they have very dense concentrations of minerals, so much so that one can lie in the Dead Sea and float unaided by any buoyancy aids.

The modern floating phenomenon was discovered and initially publicised and made popular by American neuroscientist Dr John C. Lilly who was experimenting with sensory deprivation and its effects on the human body.

He wanted to cut off all sensory feelings to the body and see how the body and mind reacted.

Being unable to hover in a vacuum in space, he decided to try floating in water saturated in mineral salts, while blocking out all light, noise and outside stimuli. At that time, in the 1950s it was thought that depriving the body of all feeling would send the mind insane. But instead of that, he found that floating in a dark environment led him into a deeply relaxed, meditative state.

Floating became popular in the late 1980s and early 1990s and is seeing a bit of a revival now.

The Alpha state is a deeply relaxed state

Many commercial float centres exist around the world where you can float for 40 minutes to 60 minutes and drift into a deeply relaxed state. Perfect for letting those stresses melt away, lowering blood pressure.

Physical stress is drained from the body and the mind goes into a deeply relaxed state with the brainwaves smoothing out into the alpha state of around 8 to 12 cycles per seconds (or hertz).

Your brainwaves normally oscillate at 13-25 hertz which is called the beta state, and this is the frequency at which our brainwaves oscillate during most of our days as we go about our daily lives.

Deeper down the end of the spectrum, below the alpha state we find the theta state which is even slower than alpha.

When the brainwaves are in the theta state there is an even deeper sense of relaxation. In the alpha state, however, one’s mind is sharply alert and able to absorb new learning information.

As a result, you can "superlearn" any subject in a float tank as your brainwaves in the alpha state are more receptive to learning material.

What does a float tank look like?

The typical float tank is like a very large covered bath - a pod, if you will.

The bath is filled with warm water to about 50 or 60 centimetres in depth. Into the water, about 600 kilograms of Epsom Salts is poured and allowed to dissolve.

The Epsom salts, which are magnesium sulphate flakes, dissolve to make the water extremely dense. You step into the bath and then lie in it and your body floats in the water unaided, and without the need or kick or do any strokes to stay afloat.

Usually, you would close the door to the float tank to block out any light and external sounds. Ideally, the tank should be in a soundproof room.

Initially, the sounds of the water are very loud, and as you relax into it, the sounds of your breathing and heartbeat become the focus of your thoughts. They are very loud, as you cannot hear a lot else because your ears are under water.

Some people like to use earplugs, which commercial float centres often provide. These block the water from entering the ears.

You can use an inflatable pillow around your neck - like those used on aircraft to stop you getting a crick in the neck while trying to sleep while sitting up.

In the float tank, physical stress drains out of your body as physical sensations are taken off the body. The mind, being deprived of outside stimulus ‘focuses inward’ and quickly goes into a deeply relaxed state.

Relaxation allows the body to dissipate adrenaline and cortisol and other stress hormones and stimulates the release of ‘feel-good’ hormones like serotonin, melatonin, endorphins and oxytocin.

This allows your body and brain to lower your migraine threshold.

Many float tanks have audio speakers fitted. These can be hooked up to a sound system which can be used to play music or any learning material that you may want to listen to while you float in a deeply relaxed and meditative state.

Magnesium sulphate absorbs transdermally into the body while floating

One of the key health benefits from the float tank comes from lying suspended in its 600kg of dissolved Epsom salts, also known as magnesium sulphate.

Following extensive research, I would go as far as saying magnesium is a miracle mineral. It is responsible for over 700 enzymatic reactions in the body, making it one of the most important minerals that your body needs.

Magnesium is known to aid relaxation, and many scientific research studies have shown that magnesium supplementation is highly effective at reducing the frequency and intensity of migraines for many migraine sufferers.

Magnesium sulphate is one of the most absorbable forms of magnesium and when you float in it, the magnesium enters the body through the pores of the skin (transdermally) and then into the tissue.

Floating once a week is highly recommended as a stress-buster to lower your migraine threshold and your blood pressure. Record your own readings and track the results for yourself. I think you will be positively surprised.

 

Further Reading

Why Use Epsom Salts by Enzyme Stuff

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Do you get migraines or headaches when you eat citrusy fruits like orange, lemon or pineapple?

What about tomatoes, eggplant or cucumber?

Or even spinach or broccoli?

This might indicate that you are sensitive or allergic to salicylates, a natural chemical found in most fruits & veges, but particularly high in these ones.

Salicylates are one of Mother Nature’s many ways of preventing rot and disease. They are also designed to protect the food being eaten by pests, like humans!

Our body has its own detox functions that clear out the effects of salicylates.

But there is a threshold, and a build up of salicylates can cause inflammation, which is a major contributing factor to migraine.

If you are sensitive or allergic to salicylates it basically means you have a lower threshold for salicylates and/or you are consuming too many.

If a glass of orange juice gives me a migraine, what can I do?

Firstly, the obvious - don’t drink orange juice, eat oranges or any other foods high in salicylates.

When you do eat these fruits and vegetables, peel off skins, discard seeds and eat them as ripe as possible.

We also absorb artificial salicylates from bath & beauty products like mouthwash, toothpaste, shampoo and conditioners, to name a few.

We can’t not live with these things these days, but they are part of salicylates mix so you can perhaps look at natural or specially formulated “low salicylate” versions instead.

What else?

Going deeper into the science suggests that lack of sulfates causes problems with salicylates.

One way to increase your sulfate levels is by “floating” in a floatation tank or bathing at home in epsom salts.

Epsom salts are high in magnesium sulfate. This means they can help both to moderate your salicylate sensitivity AND give a nice healthy dose of magnesium.

Learn more about floating, epsom salts and magnesium sulfate here

Another factor in salicylate sensitivity is the balance between Vitamin B6 and magnesium.

Vitamin B6 is shown to suppress the enzyme responsible for detoxing salicylates and interrupt the paths of sulfate in the body. Magnesium meanwhile has an opposite effect.

Studies show that a 1:1 ratio of the two allows for a healthy balance.

So if you are taking Vitamin B6 supplements or eat a diet high in B6, supplementing daily with a high quality magnesium should help with your salicylate troubles.

Once again proper magnesium supplementation gets a mention for being one of the most important minerals in the body for optimal health and wellbeing. Learn more here.

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