You don’t have to live with migraines – or indeed any headaches. 

There is much you can do

Many patients attend the Vitality Clinic seeking relief from migraines in particular and headaches in general.  In this blog, I want to send a message to everyone who suffers with migraine to say that you should not suffer with pain or take pills for the rest of your life.  There is enough science and technology to discover the root cause of your migraine and do something about it to relieve symptoms for good.

I want to introduce you to a very special patient, who visited the clinic this week.  He booked an appointment, completed the online medical assessment, and provided the additional information necessary for the consultation.

The 21st century patient

He arrived at the clinic with specific questions to ask and a clear goal to achieve.  He was the archetype of a 21st century patient – someone who is taking his healthcare into his own hands, fully empowered, looking for technical and logistical support to manage his case, with doctor and patient in partnership looking for a successful outcome.

This is in contradiction to the 20th century patients, who attended – and continue to attend – the medical service to be “under the doctor.”  The patient wants to stay a passive care recipient.  They would like to pop a pill to make them better.  Such an approach will probably have a good short-term effect of relieving symptoms, but definitely not the long-term solution to the medical problem.

Headaches can be divided into primary and secondary.  A primary headache is type of pain that is not associated with any other symptoms, while secondary headache takes place as part of an underlying condition, such as dental or visual problems, or sinus infections.

Secondary headache can be a sign of serious conditions, such meningitis (brain infection), or brain tumour.  More often, it is a sign of the inflammation of the scalp arteries, a condition known as giant cell arteritis, which requires immediate attention with steroids to prevent blindness.  Hypertensive encephalopathy is another serious medical emergency, which presents with very high blood pressure, often complicated by bleeding in the brain, and stroke.

These are all medical conditions, but headache can also be surgical, often presenting with vomiting after a head injury, a serious sign of increased intracranial pressure that requires immediate neurosurgical intervention to relieve.

Primary headaches

Tension or stress headache is the most common primary headache (42%): it feels like squeezing or a vice-like grip around the head, temple or upper neck.  This type of headache is continuous and lasts from hours to days, usually precipitated by stress, muscle strain and anxiety.  It can result in sleep disturbance, difficulty concentrating and poor performance.  There is a lot of scientific development in this area in terms of genetic, nutritional and biochemical factors that could be corrected to provide lasting relief.

A cluster headache usually clusters for few hours.  It has been considered the most excruciating type of headache, usually developing on one side of the head or face, often feeling like a severe burning sensation that strikes at night.

A migraine headache is preceded by an aurora, flashes of lights or blind sports, with a throbbing pain that last from hours to days.  It is light and/or noise sensitive and usually unilateral.

I will focus on this article on common patterns of migraines.  People often spent their lifetime suffering with these, without thinking that there could be relief, because they assume they are part of normal life.  The commonest types I see are migraines due to chronic mercury toxicity, and those precipitated by hormonal imbalance, together with tension headaches, a separate entity but another form of primary headache.

Migraine headache usually involves one side of the head and is described as severe, intense and throbbing, interfering with the person’s attention and their ability to perform normal daily tasks.  Migraine is commonly preceded by aurora but can happen without.  People experience aurora 10 to 30 minutes before they have the migraine.  They then feel less mentally alert, have trouble thinking, see spots or flashing lights, have sensitivity to light or sounds, feel tingling or numbness in the face or hands, having an unusual sense of smell, taste or touch, sometimes with dizziness, nausea or vomiting.

The affected person feels that this is more than a simple headache.  They will retire to a quiet space with less intense light, away from other people, until the episode is over.

Migraine can be triggered by inadequate sleep or taking certain foods, such as sugar and process carbohydrates, chocolate, cheese, processed meat, MSG, aspartame.  It can also be caused by light and sound stimulation, hormone imbalance and medication.

Migraine is preceded by an aura, flashing lights or black spots.  Often present with one side body weakness (hemiplegic migraine) or with vertigo, slurred speech, ringing in the ears, double vision, staggering gait and loss of consciousness when it involved the brainstem.

Migraine complications can include status migrainous, when the attack lasts longer than 72 hours.  These often require hospitalisation.  Migraine infarction or bleeding when the aura lasts more than one hour.  Could result in anxiety, depression, sleepwalking, sleep-talking and abdominal pain.

Did he have ADHD?

This 44-year-old patient had multiple head trauma: he had suffered a hard blow by a cricket bat in 1990, when he passed out for a few minutes but was then able to continue as normal with no further consequences.  On the second occasion, he was punched on the nose during a random attack on the street in 1997.  This resulted in a serious injury to the nasal bone, interfering with his breathing.  Six months later, he had septoplasty (correction of the nasal septum) surgery.  He continued to have difficulty breathing, so he had more surgery nine years later – rhino (correction of the nose shape) and septoplasty that helped eventually.

He later had an accident at home when he fell into a golf trolley and a tool went into the gap between his incisor teeth.  He attended a biological dentist, and the tooth was extracted.  In 2012, he had a deep lower leg wound, sustained during an outdoor sports activity.  This level of injuries is consistent with a diagnosis of ADD or ADHD, but my patient denied any symptoms suggestive of these conditions.

My patient had been fitted with 10 silver dental fillings and had one root canal treatment.  All silver fillings were replaced with white fillings in 2017/18.  He also had all four wisdom teeth extracted.  The work was completed to a high standard by a biological dentist.  All cavities were cleaned and disinfected with ozone, which also enhance the healing.  He also had an intravenous ozone treatment.

He received a full heavy metal detoxification and his mercury level plummeted.  He continued to have problems with his TMJ and was diagnosed with stage 3 abnormality. He used to snore and grind his teeth while sleeping, when he was younger, but this is not a problem anymore.

The patient has had recurrent yeast infections, resulting in an inflamed throat and difficulty swallowing, together with ringing in his ear.  He was investigated with scans that confirmed narrow airway passages – enough to make a diagnosis of sleep apnoea and partially blocked left Eustachian tube.  He visited a sleep specialist in New York and was fitted with special device that expanded his palate and opened his bite, easing the pressure on the TMJ.

The patient continued to suffer with migraines attacks (pressure sensation), that happened on a regular basis; however, he continued to perform daily activities during the attacks.  He felt that lying down in a dark room didn’t help.  He also continued to suffer with neck and sinus pain.  He attended the clinic hoping to resolve his chronic pain for a better quality of life.

He had history of recurrent tonsilitis since early childhood, treated with multiple courses of antibiotics.  He had tonsillectomy at the age of 15.  He had further courses of antibiotics as adolescent for acne and red face.  He continues to consume wheat and other gluten food and genetic tests confirmed gluten sensitivity.  Recent GI-MAP revealed low good gut bacteria, and high pathogenic bacteria (pseudomonas).  Pancreatic function was good, but he had high faecal fat, suggestive of insufficient bile flow.

The patient’s B12 was low, suggesting that the gut lining would not be in the best health.  The glue that sticks cells together (zonulin) was broken and hence its level was high on the stool test.  We know that pathogenic bacteria toxins (LPS) and the gluten in food were the cause of the patient’s leaky bowel, resulting in the psoriatic patches on his skin.  A recent thyroid test showed high level of a free T4 and free T3, likely to be an early manifestation of an overactive thyroid (Grave’s disease), another autoimmune disease.

Scandinavian countries ban mercury

Norway, Denmark and Sweden have banned the use of mercury in dental amalgam for many years.  Others still use it, because it is easy to shape, less expensive and long-lasting.

These dental fillings consist of 50% elemental Mercury (liquid form) added to a powder mix of silver, copper and tin.  The toxicity of mercury comes from its high affinity to proteins and amino acids.  It is toxic to the liver, to the kidneys and (because of the proximity of the oral cavity) to the brain.

Mercury vapour is more toxic than the liquid form.  The bacteria in the mouth can turn elemental mercury into methyl mercury (MeHg) and methyl dimercury (Me2Hg).  These are very potent neurotoxins.  Mercury is also found in large fish, so having multiple mercury fillings and eating large fish is not a good combination.

Mercury vapour, even in small amounts, can be absorbed into the respiratory tract and consequently distributed throughout the body by the bloodstream.  Mercury can bind and deactivate the enzymes that run the body’s metabolism, causing chronic fatigue and migraine.

Mercury vapour can pass through the blood brain barrier into the brain and can potentially cause neuronal damage, resulting in neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s and Anterior lateral sclerosis.

Mercury in your mouth can cause gingivitis (inflammation of the gum) but can also suppress immunity, cause chronic fatigue.  It can also leak into the brain to cause neurotoxicity and migraine – and more in a genetic susceptible person.

Genetic susceptibility is high in people in possession of a COMT variants.  COMT detoxifies mercury, as well as stress hormones and oestrogens.  Glutathione genes (GSTM1 and GSTT1) play a major role in mercury detoxification.  Hence people with GSTM1 and GSTT1 deletion are at high risk of mercury toxicity.  This is the simple explanation for high prevalence of these genetic patterns among patient with neuro degenerative conditions.

Silver dental fillings in a susceptible person can result in migraine and chronic fatigue syndrome.  This is because mercury has a high affinity to proteins.  It can stick to and inactivate the enzymes necessary for making energy, and hence result in fatigue, susceptibility to infection and neurological conditions.

Mercury toxicity is an increasing problem that leads many dentists to stop using amalgam, and to take precautions while removing amalgam fillings.  This has created the current biological dentistry for the safe removal of mercury fillings and replacing them with white fillings.

Simple ways to detoxify mercury

Easy ways to detoxify the mercury in your body include the regular consumption of cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale and cabbage.  These contain sulforaphane, a substance that supports the second phase of mercury detoxification.

Also, regularly consume bitter food, such as lemons or limes, and bitter melon to increase bile flow.  You can also have regular infrared or steam saunas to sweat out the mercury, taking a big burden off the liver and kidneys.  (This might not be available at the moment in view of social distancing and measures to prevent COVID-19.)  Regular exercise also sweats out mercury.  You can sweat profusely indoors or out, wearing heavy clothes such as a woolly hood.

A castor oil pad increases the liver blood flow and enhances the liver detox function.  Coffee enema increases bile flow and glutathione (master antioxidant) production.  Acupuncture, chiropractic and physical therapy massage also help.  Relaxation techniques include deep breathing pranayama, mindfulness and meditation.  And of course, you should eat organic foods (low in toxins) and take detox support.

Why migraine is common among teenage girls?

Menarche is when teenage girls can experience their first migraine attack.  Studies show that it is related to a drop-in oestrogen level and raised prostaglandins.  For the same reason (changes in hormone levels), women experience migraine three times more often than men.  Migraine is more common just before a period or at mid-cycle, due to hormonal imbalance.

Migraine triggers include foods such as dairy, gluten, eggs, processed food, refined carbohydrates and food preservatives.  Low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia) can trigger a migraine.  Also, to blame can be a lack of sleep, too much sleep or a change in sleep patterns.  Similarly, severe physical or mental stress can be a trigger, along with perfume, cigarette smoke and exhaust fumes in a sensitive patient.  B vitamins deficiency, particularly not enough riboflavin (vitamin B2), can set off migraines, along with melatonin and magnesium deficiency.

Migraine triggers also include emotional stress, depression, anxiety, sensory overload, contraceptive pills, sleeping pills, bright lights, loud sounds, a stuffy room, strong smells and hormonal imbalance during the cycle in women.

This 50-year-old lady presented with chronic fatigue and migraine, related to ovulation and just before periods.  Her migraine is associated with neck muscle tightness and tension in the jaw, but no teeth grinding at night.

She had a history of nasal congestion, which responded well to antihistamine, some eye twitches but no problem with speech.  She also had central bony chest pain, related to the viral illness, which got better after osteopath treatment.  She also had a history of ovarian cysts, which responded well to contraceptive pills with no further problems.

She had patches of psoriasis and eczema at the back of her neck, she had 10 silver fillings, of which four had been removed.  Her current medication was Zolmitriptan for migraine, as required.

Her migraine was triggered by hormonal imbalance during the cycle, that we are currently working to correct together with an element related to mercury that we will address in due course.

Heading off migraine attacks

The steps you can take right now to avoid migraines include balancing your hormones with exercise, both cardio and strength training, together with yoga pranayama.  You should eat whole real food, mainly fruit and vegetables, healthy fats, nuts, seeds, fish, fermented food, probiotics, vitamin C, COQ10, magnesium and Alpha lipoic acid.

An elimination diet can diagnose food sensitivity, reinstate the gut microbiome and ensure bacterial balance.  Detoxification is very important to avoid migraines because toxins come from food and from the environment (plastic).

As you can see, my friends, migraine is not the life sentence you may have imagined it to be.  Please do ask me any questions, and do share your experience of migraine or headaches, because your journey may well help others to progress along the same path to a successful outcome.  Thank you!