This morning I woke up with a migraine headache, which was painful but I took care of it and am no longer suffering. This article and video I’ve produced to explain what’s going on inside the body when a migraine headache strikes and how to effectively prevent or reverse one.
Once the mechanisms are understood, a number of options for preventing and treating a headache become clear. But first, a little background information on what is and isn’t known about migraine headaches.
What is a Migraine Headache?
According to the World Health Organization, migraine headaches are recurring headaches that range from moderate to severe pain. (1) The typical duration of a pulsating migraine headache ranges from 2 to 72 hours. (1) Generally, the pain of a migraine is worsened by physical activity. (4) Up to one-third of people who suffer from migraines are known to experience an aura, which is a short period of visual abnormality preceding a headache that makes them aware one is about to occur. (4) However, sometimes people have an aura without ever getting a headache afterwards. (5)
Ancient Egyptians documented a condition consistent with migraine headaches in a text called Ebers Papyrus around 1500 BCE. (18) The word “migraine” is derived from the Greek word ἡμικρανία (hemikrania), “pain on one side of the head”, (19) from ἡμι- (hemi-), “half”, and κρανίον (kranion), “skull”. (20)
Mainstream Theory on The Cause of Migraines?
As far as the root cause of a migraine, mainstream medicine is uncertain. They believe migraine headaches are caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. (6)(12) Since genetic changes occur within cells only after the breakdown of efficient metabolism,(7)(8)(9)(10)(11) it is unlikely that genetics play any kind of significant role in headache occurrance, but the environmental theory is likely. The fact that migraine headaches affect slightly more girls than boys before puberty, and 2-3x more women than men is evidence that hormones also play a role in this condition. (13)(14) Pregnant women are known to have less migraine headaches than women not bearing children, (13) which is indiciative of the elevated levels of progesterone during pregnancy and progesterone’s protective effects against estrogen.
Mainstream Treatments for Migraines?
The first-line of treatment for migraine headaches by the medical establishment is pain medication such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen or any other drug classified as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). (15) Interestingly, all of the drugs in this category cause increased risk of heart disease, cancer and stroke except one – Aspirin – which prevents the risk of heart disease, cancer and stroke. (16)(17)
After decades of research, mainstream medicine still lags behind on what is actually happening inside the brains of people with a migraine headache, admitting that they do not know for certain. Without identifying the precise mechanisms triggering a headache, it’s no wonder the medical establishment has had difficulty formulating a strategy for headaches that doesn’t come with a long list of potentially severe side effects.
Migraine Headaches: Solving the Mystery
While it’s unusual for me to have large meals before bed, last night that’s exactly what I did. This was because I was starving after a few hours of research and writing at the library. Your brain consumes significantly more energy than the rest of your body for its weight; so doing anything that takes a lot of mental activity – writing, reading and speaking, these things use up a lot of energy.
So, to satisfy my hunger, I grabbed a pound of grass fed beef that I obtained from a local farm. I know the farmer’s personally and their cows sit out on pasture; fresh, green grass all day and in the winter they’re given bailed hay.
Grass is the healthiest plant in the world. It’s on par with algae and in fact, I would say algae is probably a bit healthier because it has access to all minerals; every mineral that exists can be found in the ocean, whereas soils are generally depleted.
Grass has enough protein to allow a cow to grow up to 1,500 lbs or more in weight. The reason why it’s able to extract that protein, which is bound to the plant fiber, is because a cow is a ruminant animal. A ruminant animal has 4 stomachs; cows, sheep, goats, etc., and as such can digest grass.
Human beings don’t have the ability to digest fiber, so this is the beauty of the cycle of life: Cows consuming fresh grass on pasture accumulate nutrients in their tissues all day long – this is why meat, and particularly organ meats, are the most nutrient dense foods in all of nature.
Beta carotene, which is a vitamin A precursor. That’s in grass and in some plants that people eat, but it’s not the form that the body needs so calling it Vitamin A is incorrect. It requires a conversion in the body, which is difficult for many people, especially those with low thyroid. Hypothyroidism isn’t really a static condition in the human body; people will fluctuate in and out of hypothyroidism. All that is required to put yourself into a hypothyroid state is to eat a meal containing polyunsaturated fatty acids (unsaturated fat), and it will suppress thyroid on 5 different levels.
A better option for acquiring nutrients is to eat a grass fed cow or other ruminant animal. These ruminants are very efficient converters of the vitamin precursors into the forms utilizable by the human body. Back to the story.
I added the grass fed beef to a heated pan with taco seasoning, salt and pepper. I put a spoonful of tomato sauce on top and I cooked it up with garlic and onions.
After I ate this I ate some peaches, but not many peaches – and therein lies the problem. This is where the headache began, and where go down the rabbit hole and begin to examine the consequences of not eating enough carbohydrates with a high protein meal.
Inadequate Carbohydrates and the Stress Hormone Cascade
Most people know that glucose stimulates insulin. Insulin has been called the fat-storage hormone, so when you eat glucose, the idea is that insulin will rise and will sweet up from the blood stream some of that glucose, move it into cells and create new fat cells. This is the basis for the theory that carbohydrates are fattening, which I think is partially true.
The point I want to make is that nothing is more insulinergic than protein: Not even glucose. So, when you eat a meal of protein without carbohydrates, and what will happen is insulin will rise, and if you don’t eat a lot of carbohydrates with it, the insulin spike from the protein will lower your blood sugar. This is called hypoglycemia.
Hypoglycemia, whether induced by a high protein meal or just by not eating carbohydrates altogether stimulates a cascade of events and the first thing that happens when your bloodstream runs low on sugar is your body upregulates the production of the hormones cortisol and adrenaline. These are two stress hormones because hypoglycemia is considered an emergency by your body.
Cortisol’s action in this situation is to break down your muscle tissue into amino acids which are then distributed to the liver and converted into glucose via a process called gluconeogenesis. So you can avoid eating sugar, if you believe that it’s bad for you like society says – but your body will still get it. If you avoid sugar, you’ll still get sugar but will force your body to go into stress to get it.
Adrenaline is the other component here, which is a primary mediator of the process called lipolysis – the breakdown of your fat tissue into free fatty acids. So, while cortisol will break down muscle into amino acids, adrenaline will break down your fat into free fatty acids and release those into your bloodstream.
Now, there’s a very important concept called The Randall Effect, and basically it’s about a competition of metabolic substrates. So if you have a certain level of glucose and a higher level of free fatty acids, those free fatty acids will block glucose use by your cells. Unsaturated free fatty acids also block glucose use by cells because they’re insulin receptor antagonists.
So, in this situation, your free fatty acids will elevate and inhibit glucose use, and instead of a healthy cell which fully-oxidizes glucose, you’re now in the stress metabolism and burning free fatty acids instead.
To the extent that those free fatty acids in your tissues are unsaturated – and polyunsaturated fatty acids tend to accumulate in your tissues with age – it will be metabolized into highly toxic breakdown products. Omega-6, linoleic acid, happens to break down into a toxic metabolite called prostaglandins.
When you research prostaglandins, you’ll find they are the mediators of pain. Without prostaglandins your headache would not exist, and the prostaglandins can only be produced from the oxidation of unsaturated linoleic acid. When oxidized, linoleic acid produces prostaglandins which are the cause of your headache. A 2002 study found that prostaglandin E2 could induce an immediate migraine headache in humans.(2)
Here’s a quote from my book Cancer Cured for even greater detail into the mechanisms behind Aspirin:
Aspirin works in part by inhibiting the COX-2 enzyme that converts unsaturated fatty acids into prostaglandins – but aspirin is far more than just a COX-2 inhibitor. Aspirin directly inhibits the release of free fatty acids into the bloodstream (lipolysis)795-797 and it also inhibits the enzyme responsible for the synthesis of cortisol.798 So while aspirin prevents the production of prostaglandins, it’s also inhibiting cortisol production and lipolysis, which cuts off the direct estrogenic, anti-thyroid and immunosuppressive effects of unsaturated fatty acids.
Now that you understand what’s causing the headache, let’s talk about solutions. What are the best ways to prevent a headache and to reverse it?
How to Prevent or Reverse a Migraine Headache
Keeping the randall effect in mind, in the case of a headache, blood levels of free fatty acids are inhibiting glucose oxidation by cells.
To offset this, one thing you can do is ingest a large amount of sugar. Not all carbohydrates are equal, however. Fruit is better than bread because bread is 100% glucose and fruit contains a balanced 50% glucose and 50% fructose. Fructose, although villefied by modern culture, is largely misunderstood. Whereas glucose stimulates insulin production, fructose actually inhibits it; so carbohydrates in the form of grains or bread is more insulinergic than carbohydrates in the form of fruit, of even granulated sugar.
To quickly recap, one medicinal option is to consume a large amount of good carbohydrates. The other option is to lower free fatty acids in your blood, which can be accomplished by consuming substances that inhibit lipolysis.
In a study which compared 10,000 different plant-derived medicinal substances for their effects on life extension in yeast, the plant substance salicate was determined to be number 1 (3). What is salicate? It’s the active ingredient in aspirin. And for the same reason that salicate is effective at extending the duration of biological life, it is also effective for reversing headaches.
Salicate is a direct inhibitor of lipolysis, so it will prevent the release of free fatty acids from your fat stores into your blood stream, thus reducing the production of prostaglandins, the competition of substrates, and glucose oxidation is restored.
Once you lower free fatty acids and raise glucose levels, suddenly your cells begin metabolizing glucose properly into ATP, water and very importantly, carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide keeps your vasculature open as a vasodilator and it also moves oxygen into cells via the Bohr effect. Carbon dioxide is a key player in the overall health of your body.
One of the things Aspirin is well known to do is inhibit prostaglandin production. This is a downstream effect of the inhibition of lipolysis.
By preventing free fatty acid release from fat stores through dietary carbohydrate intake and through substances that inhibit lipolysis, prostaglandin formation can be prevented and headaches successfully prevented or reversed.
- World Health Organization. “Headache disorders Fact sheet N°277”. October 2012.
- Maria Antonova, Troels Wienecke, Jes Olesen, Messoud Ashina. Prostaglandin E2 induces immediate migraine-like attack in migraine patients without aura. Cephalalgia. 2012. 31(11): 822-833.
- Lutchman, Vicky; Medkour, Younes; Samson, Eugenie; Arlia-Ciommo, Anthony; Dakik, Pamela; Cortes, Berly; Feldman, Rachel; Mohtashami, Sadaf; McAuley, Mélissa; Chancharoen, Marisa; Rukundo, Belise; Simard, Éric; Titorenko, Vladimir I. Discovery of plant extracts that greatly delay yeast chronological aging and have different effects on longevity-defining cellular processes. Oncotarget. 7(13):16542.
- Headache Classification Subcommittee of the International Headache Society (2004). “The International Classification of Headache Disorders: 2nd edition”. Cephalalgia. 24 (Suppl 1): 9–160.
- Pryse-Phillips,, William (2003). Companion to clinical neurology (2nd ed.). Oxford: Oxford university press. p. 587.
- Piane M, Lulli P, Farinelli I, Simeoni S, De Filippis S, Patacchioli FR, Martelletti P (December 2007). “Genetics of migraine and pharmacogenomics: some considerations”. The journal of headache and pain. 8 (6): 334–9.
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- FDA Strengthens Warning of Heart Attack and Stroke Risk for Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs. FDA.gov. 2015.
- Takeuchi K, Hase S, Mizoguchi H, Komoike Y, Tanaka A. Protection by aspirin of indomethacin-induced small intestinal damage in rats: mediation by salicylic acid. J Physiol Paris. 2001;95(1-6):51-7.
- Miller, Neil (2005). Walsh and Hoyt’s clinical neuro-ophthalmology (6 ed.). Philadelphia, Pa.: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. p. 1275.
- Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert. “ἡμικρανία”. A Greek-English Lexicon. Archived from the original on 2013-11-08.
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