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Fighting the Migraine Epidemic
How To Treat & Prevent Migraines Without Medicines â?" An Insider's View
By Angela A. Stanton
AuthorHouse LLCCopyright © 2014 Angela A. Stanton, Ph.D.
All rights reserved.
Section 1 Introduction To Migraines
The Migraine Epidemic And Its Challenges
The migraine epidemic is riding on a huge wave. What I mean by this is that our current generation enjoys a truly high level of communication platform—the internet—and as a result the prevalence of this particular disease can be measured by means other than reports by doctors who happen to encounter and diagnose migraines. We can now recognize that many people who have been diagnosed with a migraine later find out that they have no migraines at all and many who have been diagnosed with something other than migraines in fact do have them. Migraines have become so talked about as to almost inviting the clichéd term "fashionable."
I had a friend come over the other day and she said "oh I have the biggest migraine" so I asked her where it hurt and she pointed at her head saying "it hurts everywhere like a cap squeezing." She asked for some common over-the-counter pain killers and after taking two pills she was "migraine free" in one hour, chatting away happily as ever before. This was clearly not a migraine but it is now almost cool to say one has one. So doctors are facing the task of having to separate stress headache complainers from migraine sufferers. It is an expensive process involving many tests before a specialist finally can state with certainty that it is indeed a migraine.
Additionally, numerous other new issues face all of us. There has never been so much fast and even automated access to foods and drinks at any hour of the day in any season. When it comes to food production there are no more geographical barriers of soil and climate type. If something is out of season in Colorado, USA the other side of the planet is experiencing its spring and summer and can ship to Colorado fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats of animals that don't even live in Colorado. Our food may contain preservatives, color-change preventers, color enhancers, etc. Hundreds of years ago people had food when the food was in season. There was no need for preservatives, color enhancements, and fast food places. Families ate at home or rarely in an inn. The beauty of women was not attached to notions of skinniness and men did not consider building their bodies in order to attract females. In parallel we are also fighting a metabolic challenge to reduce obesity and so advertisements are around us everywhere to reduce salt, fat, sugar, go on diet pills, exercise more, etc. Technology did not just change our ease of access; it brought to us a change in our lifestyles as well. And while migraines have probably always existed in the past, the potential for a biochemical imbalance is clearly higher today.
The cell is the basic unit of organic life in our bodies. Most every body part we own is built up of cells. These cells never have the chance to choose between water or soft drinks yet one of these two removes calcium from the body, hurting the cells. These same cells do not have the chance to ask for more salt if the accepted wisdom based on heart health concerns is that too much salt is bad for us. Too much is bad, too little is also bad. But there is not a single advertisement suggesting that too little salt can actually be worse for you than too much! They don't tell you what will happen to your cells if they do not get enough salt. Granted the explanation is not an easy one but from this book you will understand why you need salt and how much and you can decide if you fall into the group of people who need to eat more or the group who needs to eat less of it.
What about other nutrients like fat, sugar, or potassium? We hear a ton about fat and sugar and we also hear now that we have been misled by faulty research suggesting that cutting fat out of our diets will reduce obesity. And cutting fat out meant the taste was also gone and so adding more sugar to our food seemed like a logical step. Did obesity go down? No! It actually increased! Oops! Then we were led to believe that sugar is bad for us so they brought in sugar substitutes. Soon after that we discovered they actually kill animals in the lab so perhaps they may not be that good for people so some were pulled from shelves and others just received a heavily decorated warning label.
What about some other nutrients? Take potassium, for example. The amount of potassium in a typical serving of potato chips is 340mg. Can you to tell me what that means in terms of cell health? In fact can you tell me what potassium is or what 340mg is or why you need potassium and what it does in your body, and why you should care at all? The migraine epidemic today is evolving in a generation that—despite the general information overload—is without enough specific information to make educated choices and form good habits. Choices and habits based on what their body cells need instead of following the demands of an idealized "healthy" image propagated through the popular media. Forget about obesity. This book is about pain and not beauty. I am talking about any person on this planet, fat, thin, whatever type: do they know what to do to prevent a migraine and why they have them in the first place?
Unfortunately when it comes to the brain and migraines, we cannot look inside a live person's head by opening the skull to see what is hurting and why. There is no such as migraine in a Petri dish. There are researchers who place migraine sufferers into scanners during a migraine. Dr. Freitag, medical director of the Comprehensive Headache Center at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas, has a detailed video out about the many unresolved issues even as far as symptoms are concerned when it comes to migraines (ASSFN, 2011). Thus even symptoms are questionable because depending upon what the person's cells do and what exactly is out of balance, the chemical imbalance may manifests itself in different symptoms. At the same time one can find a video recorded by the Mayo Clinic suggesting that all migraines, complex or not, have the same cause (Mayo Clinic D. D., 2011). Except we don't know the cause of migraines, let alone be able to state that they are the same for all kinds of migraines. Mayo Clinic defines complex migraines as the ones with aura and classic migraines as the ones without. This distinction is simply anatomical: the ones with the aura start at the visual cortex whereas the classic ones do not. Why do complex ones start in the visual cortex and others in some other part of the brain? Not even a plausible hypothesis has been offered. Hemiplegic Migraines are not even mentioned by most migraine literature yet they are a lot more severe and complex than migraines with auras (NIH, 2008, 2014).
More complex scans, such as fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) can reveal that some areas of the brain are more active than others during certain types of brain activity but fMRI registers much unrelated activity as well. During my fMRI certification process at The Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at Harvard University, I could show that areas of brain activity are present even outside of the brain—clearly a false presentation of scanner abilities. Not until we use statistics to reduce the number of activity points to "what we wish them to be" can we consider a location where the activation may be—and even then, that is an activation specifically hoped for and not necessarily an activation of real importance. Harriet Hall, M.D in a column in the Skeptic Magazine, titled "Uncertainty in Medicine" noted that at one point researchers were given a dead fish in a scanner and radiologists found active brain regions even in the dead fish (Harriet Hall, 2013). I had heard statements like "well how long was that fish dead" or "perhaps you know how the frog's legs still kick after its death, perhaps the brain is also continuing to show some rudimentary functioning after death." True, all of that is possible. But then we enter another area of controversy: when exactly is a person (or in this case fish) dead or alive and shouldn't the radiologist be able to tell the difference? If we have difficulties recognizing this pretty fundamental difference should we make any health decisions at all using the scanners? Perhaps we are not yet fully ready to interpret what our technologies bring to light.
Another major problem area is that each person's brain is unique, different to some degree from other people's brains. Men and women have very different brains, for example, not just in size but also in structural and functional areas. As a basic tenet, science does not consider individual studies statistically reliable. Attempts of mapping many brains to produce a larger data base inevitably bring their own set of problems. Migraine locations in the brain are not necessarily the same in each person and even two separate migraines may not be located in the same place in the same person. People who experience auras during their migraine have their visual cortex active, for example, but those (like me) who do not have auras, do not. What we see in the scanner are the areas of activity: are those the areas that happen to be in pain or the areas causing the pain or the areas that are trying to make up for the lack of functionalities of other areas during the migraine? Research done using scanners of any kind can only attempt to tie the pain to a certain brain region at best but cannot define its cause. Few illnesses can be seen on the screen in a scanner: tumors, stroke, Parkinson's Disease, and Alzheimer's come to mind immediately; in these cases there are visible changes in the brain. Of course, even for some of these, we don't know if the brain changes are the causes or the symptoms of the illnesses in question. Changes in the gray matter for Alzheimer's patients, for example, are visible but are they the cause or the outcome of the underlying disease?
We do not have the privilege to sample a living person's brain to examine under microscope what actually is happening inside of a brain cell. Replicating migraines in a Petri dish or looking at brain regions of a migraine post mortem are neither practical nor possible most of the time. As you can see, a standard researcher with conventional methods is likely to fail when it comes to finding a cause for migraines if the pain is the focus of the research. It seems to me that for most researchers it is.
Migraine is quite challenging in other ways as well. As a result of the migraine epidemic, we now have migraine specialists. Migraine specialist doctors are not usually trained to do lab research to find the underlying cause of migraines. On the other hand, researchers who do conduct migraine research face multiple challenges noted earlier. If you go to a migraine specialist today, chances are you will go home with a bunch of prescription medications for your pain. If you are unlucky, they may suggest nerve stimulation methods as well. Unfortunately, the most common medications prescribed today are serotonin modifying drugs, which have little to do with the cause of migraines and are not pain killers for them—and I hear from so many people using them that they don't even work—they certainly did not work for me. Serotonin is a "feel good" hormone and is also responsible for many other bodily functions. Giving serotonin to the brain, blocking the natural manufacturing inhibitory responses of the neuron that would tell the neuron to "STOP making it now," or blocking the release of serotonin altogether are very dangerous practices. Modifying serotonin manufacturing of the brain by drugs changes the brain's ability to know when to manufacture its own serotonin, which it normally can do very well. The brain can also forget to recognize when to stop manufacturing serotonin. The brain is a very adaptive organ and not by accident. The adaptability has been an absolute necessity during our haphazard evolutionary process but this plasticity can become a hindrance as well. If extra serotonin is provided to the brain, the brain may reassign serotonin manufacturing neurons to manufacturing something else. This may make the brain forget how to make serotonin. On the other hand, if we block the mechanism that tells the brain to stop making serotonin, like reuptake inhibitors do, the neurons in charge of making serotonin keep on making them until they exhaust themselves and may get damaged in the process. Or they stay over-active forever and there is no way to shut them down without taking some counteragent.
Having too much serotonin can cause serotonin toxicity, a syndrome in which you have too much serotonin in your brain and body. If it is a serotonin blocker, it will reduce the available serotonin in your entire body. Both changes can potentially modify your digestive track's behavior and how you absorb food, can influence how well you sleep, and can—in rare cases—even push you to a tipping point of committing suicide. Tinkering with serotonin in any direction can and most likely will harm you. Unfortunately, migraine sufferers—similarly to other patients—are not typically informed in detail about drugs and their ingredients. In this book I show migraine sufferers why they do not need serotonin to get rid of their migraines. Instead, we discuss the important chemical connections between what they eat and what the neurons in their brains need, and the necessity of striving for a biochemical balance. Why migraineurs need to more meticulously keep a biochemical balance than non-migraineurs and how, is not a thankful job to explain. Clearly, to follow a program built on this principle requires commitment and dedication. This is not a one-time pop-a-pill method but a lifelong process for the person who has experienced chronic migraines in his or her life and who wants to eliminate or minimize the chances of having this debilitating experience again.
One of the biggest changes I found is that people today want pushbutton take-a-pill solutions for everything. I have been providing some guidance to a few migraine sufferers on Facebook about some of the biochemical balancing methods, which require constant attention and maintenance on their part. The next thing I would nearly always find is the same people discussing with other migraineurs what pills they pop to take the pain away and if it would help them as well. They would rather take a pill than put forth any effort. This book is for people who are willing to work for the quality of their lives. Much of the blame goes to the pharmaceutical and supplement industries that have given pills for just about everything that could otherwise be naturally taken care of. Migraineurs in particular have been given medications that were not even made for migraines but for depression, anxiety, seizures, or to lower blood pressure. There is not a single medication today specifically created for migraines! Yet migraineurs rather pop a pill for depression than commit to drinking an extra glass of water every day or eat an extra dish of salads or in case of very low blood pressure add extra salt to their diets. The solution can be this simple but it is a lifelong commitment. I know, a pill to take is much easier.
The speed with which changes occur in our lives does not afford much time for long-term testing, analysis, and confirmation to see if something is harmful or healthy and many medications are pulled off the shelves a few years after they were released. Taking medications have risks and side effects attached to them, some unknown until a few patients discover them and perhaps get hurt in the process. Most everything is looked at from the perspective of symptoms, rather than the cause and this is particularly true in case of migraines. Our eating styles have also changed tremendously, affecting our bodies and health. Along these lines I had a discussion with a migraineur who demanded that I use the term "cure" since she wanted a cure. After I explained that we don't yet have a cure even for a cold, she literally got angry at me for not "considering the chance of finding a cure." Migraine sufferers are in pain all day and night, some for over 40 years and I understand that they want a "cure." But if the "cure" requires constant maintenance by proper eating and drinking habits, are they ready to commit to that? I want the answer to be "yes;" my reason for writing this book.
Migraineurs ask "why is it me with the migraine and not someone else?" The book answers this question in great detail. For now, here is an overture to this subject. Migraine is "sensitivity" and the source of this sensitivity can either be environmental or genetic. If it were purely genetic most members within a family would have the same sensitivity and that is clearly not the case. Thus I must add what is called the expression of a gene or a "genetic switch" to the picture to determine why one member of the family turns out to have this sensitivity and another does not. At a certain time in a person's life a genetic switch may turn on and makes the person's brain cells (neurons) sensitive to chemical imbalances while another person whose switch did not turn on remains insensitive. Why that genetic expression may take place is also discussed, some cues for it are provided but its full examination is left for interested geneticists.
Excerpted from Fighting the Migraine Epidemic by Angela A. Stanton. Copyright © 2014 Angela A. Stanton, Ph.D.. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Section 1: Introduction To Migraines, 1,
Section 2: Biochemistry of the Brain, 59,
Section 3: Triggers, 101,
Section 4: Pre-Migraine Signs, 131,
Section 5: How to Eat Your Food Triggers Safely, 163,
Section 6: For Scientists, 189,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I truly think this is a revolutionary book in the way it explains and attacks migraines. I have never understood how different the brain was in what it needed to survive and that migraines are caused by cells without energy. The solution is so simple and it worked for me. I am amazed. No pills, nothing. Easy to read too, clear sections so you can go straight to the part you are interested in. My favorite part is where she explains barometric pressures since that was my biggest trigger. I highly recommend the book if you have migraines.
Very informative book on migraines and good suggestions for treatment without drugs. I loved it and would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in trying a new approach. Dr. Angela replied to questions I had regarding my own migraines and I appreciate the book from a scientific perspective.
If you only buy one migraine book, this should be it! This is the first book, the first piece of information that has offered me a realistic way out of 30+ years of chronic daily migraines. It's not pushing drugs, nothing expensive, it's not technical medical jargon that can't be turned into real help. This book is real help for migraineurs.
I have been held hostage to migraine headaches my entire adult life. After hearing about this book and reading all I could on Dr. Angela Stanton I felt she had offered hope where none had ever been found with any medical doctor. The book and following the protocol has given me my life back. I highly recommend anyone who lives with migraines to get this book and live without taking all the medications that doctors have been prescribing.