In this week’s blog, we are talking about gut health and your gut’s relationship to migraines. I have taught classes on this issue before. Why? Well, I have noticed a direct correlation in my own life between headaches/migraines and gut issues. It’s interesting that there is now new research has shown that migraines may be linked to your gut health.
You may have seen articles and social media posts recently relating to gut issues. We are hearing more and more about this topic lately.
There is now information out there which links the cause of some migraines to “gut hyperpermeability” (higher than normal permeability of the gut or a blood vessel — permeability being how easily liquid and gas passes through something). This is a condition that has also been dubbed as “leaky gut syndrome.”
The gut-migraine link
We already know that things like dehydration, blood sugar fluctuations, artificial sweeteners, not sleeping well, even a glass of wine can cause migraines. For women, hormonal shifts can be the culprit, while for men, an age-related testosterone deficiency (andropause) can trigger an incident.
Dr. Vincent M. Pedre, an integrative and functional medicine doctor in New York City, recently stated that “Migraines are the result of a perfect storm….Up to a third of people with leaky gut may not even experience GI issues, a common symptom of leaky gut syndrome.”
Experts do seem to agree that there are also inflammatory factors which can lead to leaky gut. The increase in likelihood of leaky gut can be caused by frequent use of antibiotics, an imbalance of good and bad bacteria, an overgrowth of yeast and stress and food sensitivities. Additionally, NSAID pain killers like ibuprofen can increase intestinal permeability within 24 hours of taking them and also when they’re taken long term. This is according to a review in the Journal of Gastroenterology.
Stress, in particular, affects the production of gastric enzymes, which aid digestion. If you’re not sufficiently breaking down proteins and your gut is hyperpermeable, then your immune system is exposed to partially digested proteins that lead to an immune response. Your immune system is essentially going to be attacked by those foreign proteins and your tissues could look similar to those proteins,” said Shawn Stevenson, a nutritionist in St. Louis, Mo.
The same immune response that causes migraines can also lead to fatigue, along with the auras that precede migraines by one or two days or after the migraine has passed. (Also according to Dr. Vincent M. Pedre.)
Gluten can increase gut permeability
Although food sensitivities can trigger migraines, gluten, in particular, can cause hyperpermeability of the gut whether you have celiac disease, are gluten sensitive, or not. When trying to figure out gluten sensitivity, it is always best to seek out the advice of your doctor, as there are tests that can be performed to see if this is a contributing factor for you. For the most part, leaky gut is controversial and not typically validated by conventional medical doctors so if possible, see a functional medicine doctor, integrative physician or homeopath who can help to identify the underlying cause of your migraines.
As you may know, I offer a 7, 14 and 21 day “detox” or elimination diet which excludes common food triggers and includes anti-inflammatory foods. Then we slowly re-introduce the trigger foods and pay close attention to your symptoms. This can be extremely helpful for migraine sufferers. If you are interested in finding out more about how to work with me for a detox/elimination diet, >>CLICK HERE<<.
In the meantime, here are some things that can help you with your migraines and counter-act issues caused by leaky gut.
Drink plenty of water.
When you’re dehydrated, the tiny capillaries in the brain become smaller, which makes it painful for the blood to pass through and circulate around the brain.So, as a migraine sufferer, keeping hydrated and opening up those blood vessels is extremely important.
Try bone broth.
Bone broth has become very popular, and in fact, experts say drinking it can help restore the gut microbiome.
Eat probiotic-rich foods.
Try adding foods rich in probiotics into your diet. These would be foods like sauerkraut, kimchi and kefir as well as prebiotic foods like Jerusalem artichokes, garlic and onion.
As a migraine sufferer, you are well aware that some of the most difficult things to make room for in your life are stress-reduction activities like yoga, meditation, relaxation, and spending time in nature. These are important to restore gut health, relieve stress, and prevent migraines.
If you have changed your diet to accommodate your migraines, and ease any gut issues, you are still missing a big piece of the puzzle. If you are still living rushed, busy, stress-out life, you are definitely missing part of the picture.
So this week, start listening to your body and checking out how your digestive system is feeling. See if you can find a link to possible gut issues that may be causing headaches. Then try the tips above and see if you get any relief.
P.S. If you would like more information on how to help relieve your migraine symptoms and find out how to incorporate some natural remedies that will help reduce your migraine pain, check out my book, “The Ultimate Migraine Handbook: An Holistic Approach to Pain Relief.“