Are you one of the almost 40 million Americans who experience migraines? If yes, this is for you.
A migraine is a headache, only worse than any other. It is characterized by a throbbing or pulsating sensation, usually on one side of the head. It can involve symptoms like nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, and having an aura or visual disturbance.
What’s worse with migraines? They are not usually relieved by pain medications.
AND migraines last for hours or even days! If you get them 15 days a month, you are considered to have chronic migraines.
If you get migraines or know someone who suffers from them, you know how how extensively they can affect a person’s quality of life. It’s frustrating to deal with such a complex condition that brings so much physical pain. Fortunately, studies have been conducted to know some probable causes as to why migraines occur.
Though the real cause of migraines is unknown, it can be a hereditary condition. Those who have migraines have overactive nerve cells that trigger the release of substances that send pain signals to the brain. This occurs when there are external and internal triggers, such as bright lights (external) and dehydration and blood sugar fluctuation (internal).
Studies have shown that the abnormal activity of nerve cells starts in the hypothalamus, the almond-shaped structure in the brain that keeps the balance of your internal environment (what we call homeostasis). Basically, it regulates your body temperature, controls your appetite, and much more. Migraineurs seem to have a sensitive hypothalamus. Any external or internal disturbance can cause it to not function properly and cause a migraine attack.
Migraines occur twice as frequently in women than men, and this may be because women have monthly hormonal fluctuations (and for some women, they get migraines before or during their menstrual period).
A review of 56 articles shows that poor metabolic health and insulin resistance are associated with migraines–which relate to blood sugar balance. In a study, men and women migraineurs have higher insulin levels compared to the healthy control group. The brain contains many insulin receptors, and insulin has behavioral and metabolic effects on the brain. Furthermore, insulin may stimulate gonadotropins, a reproductive hormone that is known to trigger migraines.
Another way insulin resistance causes migraine attacks is that an increased insulin level in the blood is correlated with increased nitric oxide stress, which is another migraine trigger.
Given that insulin-resistance plays a role in migraines, it is reasonable that lifestyle changes will help reduce or prevent migraine attacks.
The primary causes of insulin resistance are obesity, inactive lifestyle, insufficient sleep (fewer than 6-7 hrs/night), and a diet high in carbohydrates. Making the diet and lifestyle adjustments to support insulin balance is worthwhile–achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, committing to yourself to be more active every day, hydrate, get sufficient sleep, manage stress through HeartMath and/or meditation, and eating plenty of protein, food quality fats, and nutrient-dense carbs from vegetables and low sugar fruits.
A ketogenic diet has also been found to be effective in preventing migraine attacks. However, more research is needed on how the keto diet helps migraineurs.
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