What is a Migraine
A migraine is a common disorder characterized by recurrent, throbbing headaches that can last up to three days. Several symptoms distinguish migraines from normal headaches. They typically involve only one side of the head and are accompanied by other signs. These include nausea and hypersensitivity to light, sounds and smells. Some people also experience visual disturbances, known as auras, before getting a migraine.
In 2001, an estimated 28 million Americans experienced migraines. Research has shown greater frequency in women than men.
The underlying cause of migraines is unknown, but hormones, stress and dietary factors may play a role. About 27–30% of those with migraines believe that certain foods trigger their migraines. Given that evidence is usually based on personal accounts, the role of most dietary triggers is controversial. However, studies suggest some people with migraines may be susceptible to certain foods.
Below are 11 of the most frequently reported dietary migraine triggers.
Coffee; Coffee is one of the world’s most popular beverages. It is high in caffeine, a stimulant also found in tea, soda and energy drinks. Caffeine’s connection to headaches is complex. It may affect headaches or migraines in the following ways:
Aged Cheese; About 9–18% of people with migraines report sensitivity to aged cheese. Scientists believe this may be because of its high tyramine content. Tyramine is a compound that forms when bacteria break down the amino acid tyrosine during the aging process. Tyramine is also found in wine, yeast extract, chocolate and processed meat products, but aged cheese is one of its richest sources. Levels of tyramine appear higher in people with chronic migraines, compared to healthy people or those with other headache disorders. However, the role of tyramine and other biogenic amines in migraines is debated, as studies have provided mixed results. Aged cheese may also contain histamine, another potential culprit.
Alcohol; Most people are familiar with hangover headaches after drinking excessive amounts of alcohol. In certain people, alcoholic beverages may trigger a migraine within three hours of consumption. In fact, roughly 29–36% of those with migraines believe that alcohol may trigger a migraine attack. However, not all alcoholic beverages act in the same way. Studies in people with migraines found that red wine was much more likely to trigger a migraine than other alcoholic beverages, especially among women.
Some evidence indicates that the histamine content of red wine may play a role. Histamine is also found in processed meat, some fish, cheese and fermented foods. Histamine is produced in the body, too. It is involved in immune responses and functions as a neurotransmitter. Dietary histamine intolerance is a recognized health disorder. Apart from headaches, other symptoms include flushing, wheezing, sneezing, skin itching, skin rashes and fatigue. It is caused by a reduced activity of diamine oxidase (DAO), an enzyme responsible for breaking down histamine in the digestive system. Interestingly, reduced activity of DAO appears to be common in people with migraines. One study found that 87% of those with migraines had reduced DAO activity. The same applied to only 44% of those without migraines. another study showed that taking an antihistamine before drinking red wine significantly reduced the frequency of headaches among people who experience headaches after drinking
Processed Meats; Around 5% of people with migraines may develop a headache hours or even minutes after consuming processed meat products. This type of headache has been dubbed a “hot dog headache”. Researchers believe that nitrites, a group of preservatives that includes potassium nitrite and sodium nitrite, may be the reason why. These preservatives are often found in processed meat. They prevent the growth of harmful microbes like Clostridium botulinum. They also help preserve the color of processed meats and contribute to their flavor.
Processed meats that contain nitrites include sausages, ham, bacon and lunch meats like salami and bologna. Hard-cured sausages may also contain relatively high amounts of histamine, which could trigger migraines in people with histamine intolerance. If you get migraines after eating processed meat, consider eliminating them from your diet. In any case, eating less processed meat is a step toward a healthier lifestyle.
5-11. Other Possible Migraine Triggers People have reported.
5. Monosodium glutamate (MSG): This common flavor enhancer has been implicated as a headache trigger, but little evidence supports this idea.
6. Aspartame: A few studies have associated the artificial sweetener aspartame with an increased frequency of migraine headaches, but the evidence is mixed.
7. Sucralose: Several case reports suggest that the artificial sweetener sucralose may cause migraines in some groups.
8. Citrus fruits: In one study, about 11% of those with migraines reported citrus fruits to be a migraine trigger.
9. Chocolate: Anywhere from 2–22% of people with migraines report being sensitive to chocolate. However, studies on the effect of chocolate remain inconclusive.
10. Gluten: Wheat, barley and rye contain gluten. These cereals, as well as products made from them, may trigger migraines in gluten-intolerant people.
11. Fasting or skipping meals: While fasting and skipping meals may have benefits, some may experience migraines as a side effect. Between 39–66% of those with migraines associate their symptoms with fasting. Studies also suggest that migraines may be an allergic response or hypersensitivity to certain compounds in foods, but scientists haven’t reached a consensus on this yet.
All of us know that a night of bad sleep can impair our ability to think the following day. However, research also suggests that chronically getting too few hours of sleep (<6 hours per night) may also increase your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Alzheimer's disease is characterized by the presence of amyloid plaques and tau tangles in the brain. Previous studies suggested that poor sleep quality was associated with the presence of amyloid plaques in cognitively healthy individuals, and that even one night of sleep deprivation can increase the levels of amyloid in the cerebral spinal fluid (CSF), the fluid that bathes the brain. Two recent studies in Science Translational Medicine and Science also suggest that poor sleep may also be associated with increased brain levels of tau.
Sleep is divided into different stages and alternates between non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. A full night of sleep is important because the stages are not divided equally throughout the night. NREM sleep is predominant in the first part of the night while REM increases later in the night. NREM sleep is important for forming long-term memories while REM sleep is when most of our dreams occur.
In one study, researchers monitored sleep in 119 participants, most of them cognitively healthy, for six nights with an EEG (a device that measures brain activity) worn on the forehead and a sleep actigraph (a device that measures sleep/wake activity) on the wrist. Some of the participants underwent tau imaging in their brain while others had tau measured in the CSF. Participants with the highest levels of tau had the lowest levels of NREM sleep, the part of sleep important for forming long-term memories. Interestingly, participants with highest tau levels had the greatest amount of total sleep time, but they also napped more, suggesting that their quality of sleep was poor.
While the previous study showed that poor sleep is associated with tau pathology, it did not indicate whether poor sleep can increase tau. In another small study, individuals (age 30-60) who were cognitively healthy had one night of good sleep and one night of sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation increased CSF levels of tau by over 50%. This increase was correlated with an increase in amyloid after sleep deprivation.
These studies provide a clearer picture of the relationship between sleep and Alzheimer's disease. Not all individuals with amyloid plaques will go on to develop dementia. In fact, studies show that tau accumulation is a better predictor of cognitive decline than amyloid. However, many questions remain. It is still unknown whether poor sleep directly causes Alzheimer's. Amyloid plaques begin to emerge about 10-15 years before any cognitive symptoms are present, and there is likely a bidirectional relationship between sleep duration and Alzheimer's disease and dementia. Poor sleep may increase your risk of Alzheimer's disease, and patients with Alzheimer's disease have difficulty sleeping and a disrupted circadian rhythm. Also, it is not known whether an increase in tau in the CSF after sleep deprivation is an indication of tau accumulation in the brain. Finally, too little sleep can also lead to other diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and depression, themselves risk factors for Alzheimer's.
There are many things you can do to improve your sleep, the most important of which is to allow yourself enough time for 7-8 hours of sleep. Maintaining a regular bedtime routine and sleep schedule, and abstaining from caffeine and alcohol near bedtime, are also important. Many individuals turn to sleep medications, but these may present their own risks. Those with more severe sleep problems should talk to a healthcare provider for additional treatment options. Beyond feeling refreshed in the morning, there are many reasons to aim for 7-8 hours of sleep for brain health.
How to Minimize Your Exposure to Chronic Inflammatory Disease
In my thirty years as a clinical nutritionist I have come to realize that maintaining health and avoiding disease have three main components. I'm not saying that these are the only things that keep you from getting sick but they are crucial in keeping healthy and overcoming illness. The three work synergistically with each other and should be the foundation of living well. What are these cornerstones of health?
Eating healthy can be very confusing. There are many competing theories concerning what is a healthy diet. Are carbohydrates good for you, Should you be consuming meat, Is dairy as bad as they say, What about lignans, Should you be taking supplements? These are just a few of the questions people have about diet. Dr. Mark Hymen wrote a book titled "Food" which I highly recommend. In my book, "Our Modern Mortal Trinity" I also discuss how to eat healthy based on current scientific literature. A healthy diet should balance hormones, clean your microbiome, lessen inflammation, increase immunity, help detox, increase energy, maintain healthy weight among many other health benefits.
Smoking, Stress, Physical Activity, Balance, Flexibility, Anxiety/Depression, Alcohol/ Drug Abuse, Sleep, Weight are all aspects of your lifestyle that need to addressed to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Your environment is literally killing you. Everyday, thousands of toxic chemicals enter your body via the breath you take, the food you eat, and through your skin. These toxins affect every organ, tissue, and biological process that occurs in your body. Today there is no place on earth in which environmental toxins have not seeped. Chemical Exposures, Dry Cleaning Agents, Skin and Hair Products, Heavy Metals, Water Toxins, Pesticides/Herbicides, Dental Work all contribute to Chronic Disease.
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