The Paleo Diet and Migraines

Inflammation

Inflammation

Headaches suck. Migraines are even worse; they’re like the worst normal headache, multiplied by 100, with a few thumbtacks thrown in for good measure. I’ve only had one migraine that I can recall, when I was around 13 years old. I honestly didn’t know what hit me. I had the vision problems, and a ridiculous amount of pain in my head. Maybe it was a migraine, and maybe it was an aneurism, who knows. I do know that it was extremely painful, and I was forced to lie down and sleep it off.

I can’t really explain why it only occurred one time, and never again since that time, but I’m glad that it only occurred one time. Some people suffer with frequent bouts of painful, often incapacitating migraines that alter the quality of their life in a negative fashion. Most over the counter medicines hardly touch the pain associated with these migraines, and standard NSAIDs are completely ineffective. Symptoms often include a chronic pounding headache, nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light.

What Causes a Migraine?

Convention wisdom will tell you that the exact cause of migraines is not known, but environmental and genetic triggers may play a part. I’m sorry conventional wisdom, but as Angelo Coppola from the ‘Latest In Paleo’ podcast would say, “Humans are not broken by default”. Migraines don’t just happen. It’s not some random, unlucky event when someone gets a migraine. Migraines, or even regular headaches for that matter, develop thanks to a situation known as chronic inflammation.

“It appears that migraines are based on chronic inflammation of the brain and an associated compromise of the blood brain barrier. The source of the chronic inflammation may be shared with other degenerative and autoimmune diseases that lead to migraine attacks. Underlying infections may be hard to identify. The solution is to reestablish the blood brain barrier by eliminating chronic inflammation. Separate reports indicate that glucosamine, omega-3 fatty acids and anti-oxidants are all effective in reducing migraines. It seems obvious that the first step would be to begin an anti-inflammatory lifestyle (including exercise, dental hygiene, etc.) supported by an appropriate diet.” – Dr. Art Myers – Cooling Inflammation Blog

Chronic Inflammation is a situation where your body, and your immune system become stuck in a cycle of repeatedly repairing cells throughout the body, that have been damaged by ingested toxins such as sugar and gluten.

“Inflammation is an immune response; a response to an infection, an irritation, or an injury. Immune cells are called to the site through the blood stream. The blood vessels near the site become miraculously permeable and the site becomes warm and red due to the increased blood flow (warm, hence inflammation).

Neutrophils and macrophages engulf microorganisms and phagocytes are called in. Some immune cells try to “eat” the invaders; others excrete hydrogen peroxide (and other oxidative chemicals) trying to kill them so they can be cleaned up by the phagocytes and friends.

Inflammation is a part of the body’s natural defense system against injury and disease.

Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, is a disease. The system has gotten hung up, and instead of protecting the organism (our bodies) it starts to kill the organism, slowly but surely.

Today modern medicine is starting to admit that chronic inflammation is the main contributing factor to all chronic degenerative diseases, and the root cause of the two greatest killers in America: Cancer and Heart Disease. In deed, chronic inflammation might just be the root cause of all degenerative disease. – Dr. Andrew Weil

What Can We Do About Chronic Inflammation?

One of the easiest ways to combat and largely eliminate chronic inflammation, and therefore migraines, is to eliminate inflammatory foods. Some inflammatory foods are as follows:

  • High omega-6 polyunsaturated oils – sunflower, safflower, corn, cottonseed, and soybean
  • Sugar
  • Refined, and gluten containing grains
  • Grain fed meats
  • Industrial trans-fats
  • Dairy products
  • Alcohol

So what about the Paleo diet and migraines? The answer is simple. The best way to eliminate all of these inflammatory foods, is to adopt a Paleo lifestyle. When a person simply eats only the foods that humans evolved to eat, as opposed to all of the modern fake foods, everything easily falls into place. Eating whole, real foods, consisting of grass fed/pastured meats, and copious amounts of fresh-caught fish, along with quality organic vegetables, ensures that the natural omega-3 vs. omega-6 balance within our bodies is as nature intended it to be. Modern foods screw it up, but luckily traditional foods can fix it.

Two of the major causes of inflammation, gluten containing grains, and sugar, are naturally excluded from the Paleo lifestyle. People who go Paleo begin reporting relief from serious inflammatory conditions, often only weeks after jumping on-board the Paleo bandwagon.

Some of the inflammatory conditions that can be either significantly relieved, or completely reversed by the Paleo diet are:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Asthma
  • Cancer
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Gum disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Joint pain
  • IBD (inflammatory bowel disease)
  • IBS (irritable bowel syndrome)
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Hashimoto’s thyroiditis

A more comprehensive list of inflammatory conditions can be found here.

The inflammatory cascade is a knock-on effect that often leads from one condition to another, once the slide into ill health begins. There is no pill or drug on the market that can save you from becoming extremely ill and possibly dying from one or more of the numerous inflammatory conditions, like a simple change of eating habits can. Steroids and NSAIDs can mask the symptoms, but never address the cause. If you have such a condition, take the necessary steps today. Don’t wait until your health falters, because by then it may already be too late. Do what is right for your future health today. Go Paleo, say goodbye to migraines (And a bunch of other stuff!), and thank me later!

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Barry Cripps is a Paleo-based Nutrition and Wellness Consultant, who operates out of Bowling Green, Kentucky.

For more information please visit: www.undergroundnutritionist.com

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5 Responses to The Paleo Diet and Migraines

  1. jennifer peas October 12, 2011 at 10:04 pm

    I have been Paleo for 3+ months and used to suffer from chronic migraines, take medicine daily, etc.. Since going Paleo, I haven’t had a single migraine and have never felt better. Lifesaver indeed.

    • Barry Cripps October 12, 2011 at 10:34 pm

      That’s great to hear Jennifer! GROK-ON! :-)

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  3. Nicole December 16, 2011 at 12:18 pm

    I have a question…my husband suffers from daily 24/7 headaches. For 10 years. He has seen neurologists, headache specialists, naturopaths, chiropractors, acupuncturists, Cranial -Saccral therapists, had cat scans and MRI’s, been tested for mercury and environmental toxin poisoning, been allergy tested (no “allergy” to wheat, but yes, to beef), is lactose intolerant…….. his headaches are NOT classified as migraines. They are present every single moment of every single hour of every single day. He copes taking Tylenol 3′s. Lately he’s been getting a “burning” sensation across his forehead/temples area. His forehead is not hot to touch, but there is a burning feeling sensation nonetheless. He’s been receiving IV vitmain/mineral treatments which seem to help to reduce the burning, but not the headaches. The ND he’s seeing believes it’s a nervous system issue – aka, nerves in the head misfiring. My question is – if he didn’t react to wheat on an allergy test – would the paleo diet make a difference? How long would he have to try this to see if it would make a difference? Beef came up as an allergen, and he went 5 weeks without eating beef and it didn’t make a stitch of difference. Not one little bit of difference. So he’s VERY reluctant to try such a diet change ….. any advice? suggestions??

    • Barry Cripps December 16, 2011 at 1:17 pm

      Hi Nicole,

      This sounds like a very disturbing and debilitating condition. Wheat allergy, and gluten intolerance/sensitivity are completely different animals. A person might test negative for a wheat/gluten allergy, and yet still be intolerant to it. in the same vein, a person might even test negative for Celiac disease, and yet still experience many horrible effects from being sensitive to Gluten.

      The bottom line is that the only way to truly know for sure whether a person is Gluten intolerant is to completely eliminate it from their diet, for a minimum of 4 weeks. It’s an easy test, and if the symptoms go away or at least get better, you know what the problem is.

      Doing the Paleo Challenge for 30 days, and cutting out ALL Grains, Legumes, and Dairy would be a true test, and could serve to change his life for the better!

      Best of luck….let me know if he tries it, and how it goes.