Alcohol and any chronic illness do not go together. Alcohol, migraines and headaches are the same. Even though alcohol can be a treat to indulge in once in a while, it carries its own burden that gets added to the body when we ingest it.
A healthy individual can generally compensate as they have extra resources available inside of them, whereas someone who is battling with an ill does not. In this article I want to go through the 15 factors that we need to consider and 10 ways to mitigate damage when drinking alcohol. This applies to how it affects migraines and headaches in a negative way as well as some sure fire tips to give your body more resilience when dealing with the burden of alcohol.
15 Factors to consider:
1. Blood sugar regulation – alcohol in and of itself causes dysregulation in blood sugar but when paired with simple sugar drinks this issue gets compounded. For people with lots of stress, lack of sleep, obesity, insulin resistance or previous blood sugar handling issues, this is a sure fire way to spike their bodies inflammation and set them off.
2. Dehydration – Alcohol takes a lot of water and flushes it out of your body because it is a diuretic. This is not only a problem because intracellular water is crucial to every function in the body since we are molecularly 99% water, but also because this leads to mineral loss. Using some clean structured water full of minerals is essential to retaining this balance. I like to use some lemon, sea salt, cream of tartar, magnesium glycinate, honey and peppermint leaves to rehydrate. Careful not to add vodka and tonic water or you’ll be back in the loop.
3. Sulfites – found mostly in beer and wines but which can also be added as preservatives pose a particular problem, especially for the sulfite sensitive or those with Gastrointestinal issues. The more sulfites there are in a product, the more likely you are to have a reaction to them. The wine wand is a great way to remove sulfites and histamines inside of wines and even some beers.
4. Histamine Release – All alcohol releases histamine which is a neurotransmitter involved in immune reactions. Some individuals have particularly high histamine levels, deficiencies in histamine degrading enzymes or chronic illnesses where histamines become overactive in the body. These will be aggravated by anything releasing more histamine. On top of histamine release by alcohol, there are also histamines present in any fermented drinks or foods which pose their own problems. As we know, migraineurs in general have lower levels of a histamine and tyramine degrading enzyme called DAO. A product like the wand helps to remove sulfites and histamines from wine. See our article on the histamine migraine connection for more info.
5. Mineral loss – Migraine and headaches sufferers know how precious minerals like magnesium and potassium are. Alcohol is a known irritant of balance here partly because of its diuretic effect but also because it requires nutrients to process it and compensate for the damage it does.(Link) An easy way to balance the effect of alcohol on your vitamin and mineral balance is to have a high quality multivitamin/mineral complex ready.
6. Alcohol content and your biochemically individual means by which you detoxify it – Everyone has a different speed and effectiveness at which they detoxify and this will influence individual susceptibility and effect. We are all biochemically different and this means the speed at which every gene, organ and enzyme in our body functions is different from everyone elses, even our family members. As different as we are on the outside, we are on the inside. Helping to support the nutrients we lose from alcohol and the nutrients we need to repair, recover and protect ourselves from it is essential, some products like this one make it easy.
7. Acetaldehyde – Alcohol once absorbed is immediately filtered through the liver and takes priority over many other processes because it is a poison. During the breakdown process alcohol turns into acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde is a known carcinogen and creates a number of issues and strain on the body. A probiotic product like Zbiotics is engineered to help break down alcohol to take the burden off of the liver.
8. Tyramine – The heal your headache diet has made tyramines well known to migraine and headaches sufferers. Many alcohols like beer, sherry, liquors and wine contain levels of tyramine high enough to cause problems in tyramine sensitive individuals. This is not everyone, but for some it makes a big difference if they eat or avoid tyramine containing foods and drinks.
9. Hormones – Alcohol is known to lower testosterone and progesterone but increase estrogen especially beer. This process gets even worse when alcohol is stored as fat which is an estrogen producing gland, creating even more estrogen unabated by progesterone. Hormonal balance is a huge part of maintaining resilience against pain and keeping a healthy brain and gut.
10. Both a vasodilator and vasoconstrictor – at small levels alcohol is generally a vasodilator but at high levels can become a vasoconstrictor. This was once thought to be a major reason why migraine pain came to be but this theory has since fallen by the wayside. That said, there is still a reason for why the brain and our blood vessels expand and contract and they do affect the brain’s health. Some people are more susceptible to one or the other and we generally want to provide as much blood flow as we can to the brain.
11. Promotion of NMDA receptors activation and excitation in the brain(Link)
12. Wiping out of our intestinal microbiota and damage to our gut lining. (Link) One of the things we know alcohol does best is sterilize. It does the same thing inside of us. This is why it is best to drink alcohol with meals, in smaller amounts and with plenty of hydration before, during and after. Our microbiota protect us, form our immune system, signal to our brain and even make nutrients for us. We need them on our team.
13. More prone to mood swings, lower quality food intake and less mindfulness, generally. These speak for themselves, we all know how alcohol lowers our inhibitions. For those that are on a healing protocol, a really bad day or two can set you back weeks if not months of work. If you’re tired of feeling like this, find another way.
14. Amino acid burden is huge for our entire body. We constantly need more amino acids to repair and regenerate all of our tissues. When we are sick and battling something like the 80%+ of us that have fungal or parasitic infections, we need our acute response immune cytokines to be firing on all cylinders. This take a lot of amino acids and when we drink alcohol, we add another amino acid burden.
15. Leaky brain is the process by which the barrier our brain has separating itself from our blood stream so that only certain molecules are allowed access to starts to leak. This can allow bigger and more inflammatory molecules through.
10 considerations to mitigate damage:
There are also a number of factors that will affect how our body and brain react to alcohol as well as how we feel after. The better we can understand what our body needs, the more we can fine tune the support and recovery process when drinking.
We have to understand that each step along the way from our mouth to our brain, our body is trying to protect us and mitigate damage from alcohol. Our microbiota are trying to digest and break down the alcohol, but alcohol is highly antibacterial and wipes them out. Once alcohol gets through the gut it goes straight into the liver where the liver attempts to detoxify it and make it safe but it poisons the liver and slows down all processing here. Once it gets passed the liver and into free circulation the brain tries to protect itself but alcohol puts holes in our blood brain barrier and opens our brains up to even more damage.
Step by step our body has put barriers in place to protect us so the last thing we want to do is overload ourselves with alcohol and knock these systems out for a while. When drinking, drink responsibly and use the above tips to understand why your body is the way that it is and what you can do to support yourself if you must have a drink.
If you need help understanding why your brain is so close to its threshold, why your gut is not resillient or why your hormones keep creating problems, feel free to send me a message.
Since the beginning of civilization the foods we eat have played a role in our headaches and migraines. Recently, some studies have found incredibly powerful dietary modifications for alleviating the chronic pain and inflammation inside our brains with 50% to upwards of 100% of individuals seeing benefits.
One of the most common and biggest buzz diets in the 21st century is going vegan. Partly because of its health promoting effects but also because of the ease it gives some people in terms of their moral lives. In this article I will be covering the health aspect of going vegan and will not be diving into “veganism.” We will cover what you need to watch out for which may be causing the relief of your symptoms as well as what you need to be careful for which may make symptoms worse.
At the end of the day it is the foods we eat and not any specific diet we follow that will determine our health, this is the best way to think of it. Let’s dive in.
What may be helping:
Some of the most common health benefits of switching to a vegan diet, especially from something like the Standard American Diet(SAD) is that you will(hopefully) be switching to many, many more whole foods.
A whole food is the state that a food is in when it is grown. For example, a chicken eaten as chicken and not a nugget, barley eaten as barley and not bread, edamame eaten in a bean instead of in tofu or potatoes eaten as a potato and not a french fry.
The more a food is processed, the less whole it is and the more nutrients and genetic and epigenetic signalling we lose. Many times it may not be that the food is no longer whole, but that the food has (C.R.A.P.) in it. It is high in Carbohydrates, Refined sugars, Additives and Preservatives. These are detrimental compounds and will determine how healthy the food you are eating really is.
The more we can stick to whole foods, the more likely we will do better on a vegan diet and any diet we choose.
Any new diet will automatically introduce new foods. One of the most important principles of a brain healing diet is variety and the introduction of new foods along with not overusing the same foods. When we don’t digest well and have a condition like leaky gut which is extremely common, we run into a big issue. If the proteins in our food are not broken down properly during digestion and get through the lining of the intestine(leaky gut) then our immune system can become sensitized to them. When our immune system becomes sensitized to the protein in a food, whenever we eat that food we can trigger an inflammatory immune reaction. We can also trigger poor blood sugar handling.
This is a recipe for disaster we have to avoid and a new diet may help support that.
Vegan diets often come with their fair share of fruits and vegetables. This can be great for digestion and can be much easier for some people to digest. Some people, especially those with a chronic illness have compromised digestive systems. This means their digestion is not effectively breaking down and absorbing the foods they are eating.
This can lead to symptoms such as:
Low energy after or between meals
Need for stimulants
Feeling worse after eating
Being overly full from meat or feeling like meat is just sitting in their stomach
When we make the switch away from animal foods this may be alleviated, but it is not fixing the actual problem of WHY your digestion is not working properly in the first place. It can be something as simple as too much stress, poor vagal tone or low stomach acid.
It could also be something more complex like dysbiosis, SIBO or parasitic infection. In our virtual clinic we use stool tests that can be taken in the comfort of your own home and tell us how your digestive organs are functioning, if there is an imbalance of your good and bad gut bacteria and if you have any active infections compromising digestion. You can contact us to learn more about this.
The benefits we see from a diet switch to vegan may be because of the lighter foods we are eating and we want to be able to see this objectively so that we can always address the ROOT cause instead of just symptoms.
One of the most common benefits of switching away from conventionally raised meat and fish is that you discontinue ingesting excess toxins. Endocrine disruptors and toxic compounds have become ubiquitous in our environment and everyone’s health is affected in some way because of it. Conventional agriculture is extremely poisonous to the plants, animals and humans that eat it so this is one of the best places to reduce our exposure.
Animals are bioaccumulators because they are higher up on the food chain. Every level you go up on the food chain increases the amount of toxic accumulation in the tissues. The grains the animals eat are sprayed with pesticides and then fed to the animals, accumulating in their tissues. Then when you eat an animal thats whole life has been sustained by these grains, you are taking that animals toxic burden onto yourself.
Vegetables and fruits will provide many of the antioxidant and fibrous compounds that help our body detoxify chemicals our body is trying to excrete on a daily basis.
Switching to a vegan diet is a great way to go one step down and avoid those bioaccumulators. Another option for the non completely vegan is to go to your local farmer, choose grass-fed, grass-finished, pastured and wild meats. But the same goes for conventionally raised plants. Choose organic and clean sourced foods.
What to be careful for:
As you switch over to a vegan diet you want to be aware that anyone who exercises, has high levels of stress or has a chronic illness will need many many more amino acids(proteins) so that their body can make the compounds it needs to make to heal.
A protein is simply a chain of amino acids. Your body takes the proteins in food and breaks it down with acids and enzymes into amino acids. These amino acids are the building blocks it needs to form every tissue in your body. In the chronically ill, these amino acids are needed to repair our tissues, create hormones, form acute stress response cytokines and all of our enzymes.
Without being aware of it, switching to a vegan diet can take away many of the amino acids necessary to do this. Our body needs A LOT of amino acids on a daily basis because it can only recycle so much. It also needs a proper balance of amino acids which is often not found in a single plant food so food combining may be necessary. On the contrary, animal proteins will contain every amino acid we need in a balanced ratio because it is made of the same proteins our own tissues are made of. As long as you are eating nose-to-tail.
I often see chronic individuals come in with poor amino acid levels and this cannot be overstated enough.
Conversion of nutrients
There is a big difference between a plant cell and an animal cell. Plant cells use plant cell nutrition and animal cells use animal cell nutrition. The problem with a purely vegan approach is that our body is made of animal cells.
When we ingest a plant cell that gets broken down by our digestion(hopefully) and the nutrients are absorbed, our body has to then convert the nutrients into animal cell nutrition which our body recognizes and can use in its own systems.
This requires a conversion and in this process we can lose a huge amount of the intended nutrient. For example, flax seed may be seen as very high in omega 3 which is healthy and necessary for functioning, but it is not the same omega 3 our body uses in the forms of EPA and DHA. Depending on your biochemical individuality when your body converts flax seed omega 3 into EPA and DHA as much as 50-95% can be lost in the process.
Animal nutrition is often superior so when making the switch you have to account for the much higher dietary intake needed to achieve the same body requirements.
The final issue is to beware of negative effects showing up between 1-2 yrs after switching to a vegan diet. During the first few months you may see great improvements and gains in everything from feeling to functioning to pain and fatigue. But remember to listen to your body. Just because something works well for you today does not mean it will work well tomorrow. Be open to what your body is saying and make changes accordingly.
Food choices should be lead by the bodies own mechanisms for telling you what is right and wrong. If we place the burden of the right foods onto our mind we can easily fall into traps like diets, isms, religions and morals above our own health.
Our health should always be the highest priority because it is what cleans the lens that we see the world through.
If you are looking for a great guide to steer food choices for your brain and headaches see the food triggers guide.
If you need personalized help jump on a 20 minute call to see if we can work together by clicking here.
The support and sense of belonging we have been able to foster inside of this group has been incredible.
In this post I’m going to cover some of my favourite parts of this app and the experience in general.
Before I get going I would like to give a shoutout to Eileen who has been the most incredible guide for the entire community, her dedication has been incredible. So let’s get into it.
The groups tab has been an amazing way to be able to dive right into specific topics you are looking for answers on and to be able to ask the questions you want answered in a place where individuals with experience in that area or with similar questions are able to come together.
The groups tab is comprised of:
Prodrome and postdrome
Medication and Treatments
Social Life with Migraines
Migraine and Family Life
Migraines at Work or School
There is an absolute wealth of knowledge in each and every one of these groups which you can jump into any time and become part of the conversation.
My favourite topics so far have been the ones I chose to focus on. Part of our launch and to help see what the community is interested in was to do live chats. I hosted two of these live chats, one on Lifestyle and one on Alternative Therapies.
In our lifestyle live chat I started off by explaining Allostatic load, which every migraine sufferer should know:
Allostatic load is the process by which the body adds up all of the stressors it is exposed to, head to toe, mental, emotional and physical. If this load becomes more than the body can maintain normal functioning, we trigger. The more we can do to reduce this load the more we can give our body a chance to stabilize and build resilience.
I then went on to cover the foundations of lifestyle therapies such as:
These are massively important and we could also add in properly timed and adequate daily sunlight , circadian health, grounding and supportive social structures.
After I opened up the conversation to these areas we dove in with questions, answers and experiences.
The next chat we had was in Alternative therapies where I covered a number of therapies used by practitioners to help individuals heal. These included:
These chats have fostered community, growth, sharing, learning and support in a way that only apps like the Migraine Healthline App can.
One of the great introductions that developers have created since the launch has been night mode which is much easier on the sensitive migraine brain and eyes.
I have loved the continued development and improvement as well as the slowly expanding list of countries that the app is available in so that this community can continue to grow and support itself.
All in all I have loved the experience and opportunity to be a part of this movement and I would encourage you to jump on and browse around for yourself.
You can click this link to download the free app Migraine – Healthline right now and get started exploring the amazing Migraine and Headache community.
I am super excited to announce the partnership between Migraine Professional and Healthlines new Migraine – Healthline App which serves as a way of bringing the community together with high quality information for understanding what migraines are really about.
This app is a great way for us to bring the community closer because we know how important connection is for getting through all of the ups and downs of chronic illness.
The more we can connect and communicate in healthful ways the more we can develop tools and techniques to understand our own bodies as well as help others around us understand them to keep them on our team and not turn them against us.
Bringing others who are similar to us together in a 1 on 1 setting to help us feel understood, get support and hear about treatment experiences
Giving us continuous support and affirmation to stay on the healing path and give us simple tools and tricks we can apply whenever we have the energy to do so
Providing access to medically reviewed information, infographics, articles, pictures and videos which can help cut through the clutter of what is real and valuable and what is just fluff inside the health community
Allowing me to add support and answer questions that come up inside of the community to give you the most current answers research has found for migraines, headaches and all of the chronic illnesses that come with them
Group discussions as well as migraine influencer and guide live chats to help you get answers to specific topics
I’m super excited to be a part of this amazing community and be able to lend a personal hand in providing sources for amazing research that is breaking the ground for what future migraine therapies will look like.
“It is the individual that has the disease, not the disease that has the individual, which is most important.” Hippocrates
One of the oldest health quotes by the father of modern medicine himself, describing just how important it is to know all of the individual differences, sensitivities, predispositions and factors that go into the individuals health, as opposed to just giving your symptoms a name and focusing solely on that name.
When you want real healing that doesn’t leave you stuck on the medication merry-go-round, then you want to do everything you can to heal your organs, support your bodies systems, address the underlying causes and heal who you are, not just what you have. You are a fully integrated bio-psycho-social being and so is both your health and disease.
In this article, I will be outlining the process by which I go through with clients to develop a strong understanding, make connections, properly educate around illness and create guides for moving from dysfunction and pain, back into function and health.
Why did I create the system this way?
I have spent years methodically creating and refining this system to:
Give me the information I need to understand root causes from a holistic and functional perspective
Educate you so that you are empowered with your body and the dozens of tools you can use to heal it
Create programs that reduce stress while healing, addressing root causes and managing symptoms
But there are so many needs that I see not properly addressed like:
Avoiding leaving stones unturned with proper full form intakes(This is why the initial consultation takes 2 hours)
Properly staging programs to not overwhelm and heal the body in the order it became ill
Addressing holistically so that not only is the main complaint like pain addressed but that you can heal the body so that accompanying symptoms like anxieties, depressions, fatigues, cravings, PMS brain fog etc. are addressed because you live in a healthier vehicle
Making sure long term health is created and you fix the programs which created the problems and diseases, not just the results of those programs
Avoid the use of substances that cause compounding and escalation of problems like exchanging the health of one system for another(often found in nutrient depleting medications) or forcing the body into states that it then has to bounce back from causing rebounds
The life long medication merry-go-round and using band aid therapies which prevent you from being able to listen to your body
In the end we have a few goals we want to achieve over, weeks, months and years.
Some of these are slow builds and cannot all be done in the initial intake because we are all individuals and we will need customized tools as we come up against problems, this is where effective health coaching is crucial.
1. We have to understand all of our pertinent lifestyle factors and believe me, there are A LOT of them and they are almost NEVER addressed appropriately. Usually the individual is left on their own to educate themselves and this prolongs the process and increases anxieties because of the wealth of information online.
2. Comprehensive mind/body program design that doesn’t leave you without the tools you can use to get rid of stressors on your mental, emotional, physical, dietary, chemical, electromagnetic and environmental areas of life.
3. Create a base of tools which we can use to understand our own health, what is going on in our bodies, how to cope with situations we will inevitably be placed in and how we can measure our health improvements.
4. Find the right health practitioners that can do much more than our standard referrals to build a team.
“It takes a village to raise a child, it takes a team to heal an individual.”
Their dream team, to be exact.
I cover this in the 10 steps program in more depth but essentially your dream team is the support network you need around you, including friends, family, caretakers, healthcare providers, partners etc. All of these individuals that you need to feel supported enough to lower your stress hormone levels so that you can properly heal. Without support systems,you can struggle for years without improving because you’re constantly sent into activating your coping mechanisms and not your healing ones.
5. Do you understand why?
One of the mandatory requirements to understand how to heal is understanding WHY. It may not always be a smoking gun answer like an extremely stressful point in life, mold exposure, a gut infection or development of autoimmunity… But it is always for a reason.
The body has very specific reasons and ways in which it breaks down. If your stress system has been taxed for years, you will need to be tested and corrected in this system to take a load off your trigger levels. If you have had a food or gluten sensitivity for 5-10-20 years then you will need to have your GI tested and specifically corrected to heal your leaky gut and microbiome. If your family has had no notions around toxic environments(both mental and physical) then you will need to be tested for toxicity and have your biotransformation pathways supported and cleared. Or, you will have to have your emotional environment reset. There are WHYs to everyone’s illness and without understanding them, assessing and testing them and then having them properly and completely corrected and supported, you won’t get far in your healing journey. Education is #1
6. One of the fastest growing and beneficial reasons for using this system is having your questions answered. From a functional and holistic perspective in a way that incorporates your individual body and its needs, with a integrated multi-modality perspective combined with the latest research on tools and techniques. Staying up to date with research(the latest not the research from 30-40 years ago) is one of the factors that makes this approach very different from the conventional one.
But what does it take?
Willingness drives progress
We always consider the 5 program design factors(time, energy, willingness, finances and equipment available) to make sure that each individual program is streamlined, getting the pieces we need functioning in place while avoid added stress which is common in programs that overload on “to-dos” or create more stress with excessive financial strain.
Your willingness will determine the outcome of what we do together. The protocols and systems I use work but if I cannot have your trust(this will be built) and there is not a strong enough desire to do what you have to do to heal, then the programs will take much longer or not be effective enough to get over the humps of each individual layer we go through.
Your willingness must be higher than a 7 or your ability to change will not be strong enough to see the results you need.
If your willingness is at least an 8, we can get started and start plugging along.
What is to be expected on both sides?
Everyone is different. Everyone’s brain is different and the issues that are causing compromise all vary. The main system which is suffering varies from person to person, with similar ones for similar conditions. But based on your life, symptoms and possible strategies we can and cannot use, you will have a vastly different approach from everyone else.
The expectation is that you care for yourself and you are willing to put in the work, cook the foods, manage the stressors, shut off when you should and listen to your body when it says what it wants and needs.
As much as I wish I could be there for everyone 24/7, I simply cannot. You are the only one that will be there for you every moment of the day and developing trust and reliability in this relationship with you and your body is THE MOST important aspect of healing.
What I can do is teach you what your body is saying and what healing should look like, guide you to the right resources, tools, techniques and strategies to be properly supported and keep you on track with the right protocols for whatever stage we are currently in.
Some people are very wary of supplementation and so we need to work up trust and dosage. Some have maintaining factors that need to be addressed at the same time like bad relationships, recent deaths in the family, household mold, poor work environments etc. And these will increase time needed to heal.
Because of this, time frames all differ.
For a healthy person who is non toxic, has resilient immunity, eats exercises and sleeps well and has just recently started on a pain cycle they may see relief in a few weeks to a month or 2.
Generally, most people will be in the 6-12 month category…
And some people with years of multiple chronic compounding diseases, maintaining factors and required progressions will take years to get a handle on.
But this is broad and general and as we know, generalizations are wrong.
There are also people with years of chronic issues who can take a few weeks and go into miraculous “remission” for months and years.
It all depends on the individual and as such, the individual will determine everything. If we can get you super motivated we can make big changes and big gains.
Now lets get into the assessment.
If you’re not assessing you’re guessing
A good assessment always begins with the right forms to understand what is happening well before I see you.
I develop a preliminary program based on these forms that is then added to or subtracted from during our consult call as well so that we know what we need to address towards the end of the call when we get down to actionable items we can begin implementing right away.
Our Migraine, Exercise, Sleep, Stress and Diet Log
One of the first areas and most important that health practitioners will often miss is a proper log.
We can get SO many easy wins with just taking a look at a log, checking over for the dietary and lifestyle factors that are so commonly adding to our trigger levels.
Remember that something does not have to trigger us to be a trigger, it could just be adding to our trigger levels. Some days it may trigger us and other days not because of where our trigger levels are resting and this is why we want to develop individualized lifestyle programs. See our video on threshold here for more.
This is also one of the most important places for us to connect the dots. The other forms will show us specific body systems or issues that need help but it’s important to remember that we function on circadian rhythms.
We all function on a 24 hr clock, with a monthly cycle, men and women alike. Increasing and decreasing areas of functioning happen throughout these cycles and if we are in tune with them, we are much more able to deal with stress. The more we fight them, the more we raise our trigger levels.
The Physiological Stress Load Assessment
By far one of my favourite and most useful tools for understanding what body systems are being affected, where to begin and where to look for underlying causes.
This form is incredible because it tells us how all of the different symptoms we are experiencing in our day to day, with their frequency and intensity are caused by our body systems.
Remember, the body is trying to communicate with us that there is something wrong by using symptoms. If we did not have any symptoms, we would go from fine to dead.
As our bodies systems begin to dysfunction, as our underlying cause stresses whatever body system or systems is closest to that cause we will start to see a spreading of problems.
The connection between all of our bodies systems like endocrine, digestive, metabolic, nervous etc is a web.
When you pull on any one part of the web, the others are all pulled as well…
The more the primary systems are affected by the underlying cause, the more accessory systems will begin showing symptoms as well. For example, if your brain neurotransmitters go out of whack, your gut function can also start to suffer because the same neurotransmitters that regulate the brain, regulate the gut.
We can support or palliate an accessory system and it may help lift the primary system temporarily but it will generally not fix the issue and so we will waste, money, time and energy. This is one of the reasons why it’s important to focus on the root cause or underlying cause as much as possible.
Here is an example of the physiological stress load assessment.
How are your doctors doing?
Within you there are forces that are constantly trying to repair, recover, rejuvenate, cleanse, clear, detoxify, eliminate, absorb, utilize and break down the right and wrong tissues.
These are DIRECTLY affected by everything you do, say, think and feel in your day to day life.
These also directly affect how healthy you are, how well your body and brain heal and cope with stress, how much wiggle room you have to enjoy life and even how well you respond to medications.
There is so much power we hold in how well we function just within the small things around us every day.
On the other side of the coin, we also have so much power in the break down, progression and worsening of our health.
We live in biopsychosocial bodies and are completely interconnected.
How are your relationships, especially the ones with your partners, friends, parents and children?
How well do you think and feel?
Have you had a holistic nutritionist assess your diet?
How well do you move and do you use movement to heal?
How well do you sleep and have you optimized your sleep to repair your brain?
How happy are you?
Do you practise a form of stress management or mindfulness daily and do you have a method for releasing all of the tension from your body at least once per day?
These are all important areas to dive into, question and understand more deeply so that we know exactly what is raising your trigger levels, what is maintaining your illness at the level it currently is, what caused breakdown in the body, where might your underlying cause/causes be and what do we need to do to get back to feeling good and vital.
This is simple and straight forward, used for those with suspected immune activation in the brain that can change our protocols.
What part of the brain is being affected by this process of break down and dysfunction in the body.
We all have weak areas, areas that are compromised or injured and these cause almost immediate changes in how we function.
The problem is that it may be subclinical on an MRI and not found, but either way, we want function and understanding how the different regions in your brain are affected is the most functional.
Every individual area in the brain is responsible for something generally but our brain is plastic and we can have crossing over as well.
For example, individuals who use their right side more than their left side will have a stronger left side of the brain, so if we are working on improving brain function or just assessing it, we would want to do more work with the left side of the body to strengthen the right side of the brain.
This is one of the main reasons exercise and mindfulness is so crucial, it makes our brains grow, develop and strengthen.
“Neurons that fire together, wire together.”
If we want to get out of chronic pain cycles, we have to rewire for a different experience.
These forms are used specifically to determine issues like dental root causes, to understand pain in specific areas of the body and head, to take a look at the body from a Traditional Chinese Medicine(TCM) perspective and to understand dietary breakdown and metabolism.
Remember that when we want to address the root or underlying cause/causes we have to make sure that we leave no stones unturned and that we are addressing factors that are raising trigger levels and maintaining things like hormonal dysfunction, burnout, blood sugar imbalance, cachexia, infection etc.
Now lets get into the call.
Everyone’s call will go a different way depending on what’s going on but there are roughly 5 areas we want to go through and understand.
I want to:
Understand what started this, how it progressed, all of the factors around it and help you understand why it happened as well as HOW it happened. I need to know YOU, because you are different from everyone else and it is your individual sensitivities, predispositions, circumstances and goals that will determine what we do first and how we progress. Who is the person behind the symptoms, what do they need to feel supported and take the stress off of their shoulders?
Next is connecting the dots, ruling out extraneous circumstances that can contribute and are rarely properly screened for as well as educating. The body is interconnected, but you need to know how to know what to do. I use a series of visual aides, diagrams, charts and explanations that I have found applicable to most of the people that come to me for guidance. Education is the #1 most important part of this process of healing because we HAVE to be on the same team working towards the same big and little goals. Knowledge and wisdom is what brings us together.
Then we go through any questions I have left from the assessment I do on your forms and we go into what I found we have to do based on everything going on. This is complex and very comprehensive and depending on the individual includes: dietary, nutritional, supplemental, exercise, sleep management, stress management, lab testing, concurrent practitioners and resources for tools in areas that are beyond the consultation.
Then we break the program down into actionable steps. What can we do immediately? What do we need to do over the next few weeks, what stage are we in and how will we progress over the next few months. Step by step, the clearer we are the simpler we can make healing.
The last and final step is covering any functional lab tests needed to assess stress hormones(the right way), mitochondria, bio-transformation pathways, GI health, brain neurotransmitters, month long menstrual hormones and nutritional deficiencies.
After the call, you receive your Health Plan.
Creating a path forward
The Health Plan is the summation of what we talked about and need to cover. It is the step-by-step of what we need to do and how to do it. It comes with guides and instructions for things like lab testing, diet, exercise etc.
We get very complex in our call but at the end of the day just need to take small and simple steps consistently, continually build and we can watch our bodies do amazing things.
The Health Plan is step by step and takes away all the stress of not knowing what to do or how to do it. It gives us a means by which we can focus all of that energy that wants us to fix us in a way that is extremely productive and not detrimental like anxiety can become.
For many clients who need successive functional lab testing, this is just the first part of their program. After the initial consult we know what to run and have the laboratories send test kits to them internationally.
The tests are usually, salivary, urinary or stool sample kits and this gives us an enormous amount of information on the systems tested and what specific protocols are used.
There is a lead time of about a month or so between having the tests sent and receiving the results back so in this time we are working on everything in the Health Plan and developing our foundations.
When the results are back, I create a lab based program for you which can be 3, 6 or even 12 months long depending on the problem, program and solution with whatever the labs found.
Then we follow up and cover it.
Follow up and outlook
The protocols used are very specific to functional medicine, time tested and based on the labs.
It’s very convenient having an outlook 6 or 12 months down the line on your program so that you are properly staged and know what to expect.
In this follow up, we go through the changes we have made and the progress that has resulted from the initial Health Plan. We get rid of what’s not working, give you tools to make things work better, tweak and fine tune as we know more with testing and move into the test based protocols.
Education is key to understanding the tests, what they reveal about the body and its dysfunction and how this is all affecting how you feel.
Then we finish up by planning out the next few months and you are sent a follow up Health Plan after the call.
After this initial phase we enter into the action phase and work through the Health Plan. For small questions I try and make myself available to answer over email and reserve follow ups for those who need them most. As you go through the program it can be 1-3 months before we follow up again depending on your staging, circumstances and progress. Room is made for those who need more support.
Healing, just like becoming sick is not linear and we want to set ourselves up as well as we can to continue the upwards trend and maintain it. There is a large amount of time spent understanding flares and how flares come about so that we can both, prevent them and reduce the anxiety and fear around them.
Because we are one, integrated, bio-psycho-social system, we need to address both health and disease as such.
There is so much we can do that is not covered by the conventional approach and we do not receive the proper referrals to be addressing all of the stressors that are raising our trigger levels. This is why taking a functional and holistic approach to understanding your body and brain is the best way to heal and get the care we deserve.
I’d like to invite you to jump on a free 20 minute call with me so that I can understand more about what is going on, help you make connections and understand more about how you’d benefit from us working together.
Have you ever experienced vision changes like flashes of light and blind spots right before an intense headache?
Wait, that’s more than just a headache.
That’s probably a migraine.
Migraines cause severe throbbing pain, usually at the side of the head and symptoms may include nausea and vomiting, numbness or tingling, and sensitivity to light and sound.
There are a few types of migraines, but we can take note of two major ones. In this article I will be covering the two main types of migraines as well as how to apply mindfulness in a simple and actionable sense to reduce stress an improve our brains ability to cope with stressors.
Migraine Without Aura
Migraine with aura was formerly called Common Migraine. Justifying its former name, this is the most common type of migraine. It is characterized by a severe pulsating headache that is aggravated by movement. This likely causes nausea and vomiting, sensitivity to light (Photophobia), or sound (Phonophobia).
Migraine With Aura
Migraine with aura was formerly called Class or Complicated Migraine. Visual disturbances typically appear when you have this type of migraine. You may see flashes of light or temporarily lose your vision. Numbness, muscle weakness, or trouble speaking are also less frequent symptoms of this type of migraine. Usually, these symptoms occur 10 to 60 minutes before the pain kicks In, but in other cases, they may occur one or two days before the pain occurs. See our article on how to stop a migraine aura here.
Migraines usually take hours or days to go away. There are over-the-counter medications available to treat migraines, but prescription drugs might also be necessary for the severe ones.
What causes migraines that we can alleviate with gardening?
A number of factors could contribute to the onset of this consuming pain. Different types of stress because they cause oxidative damage, are linked to migraines. Some of the stressful situations that migraines could manifest from include:
Anxiety, nervousness, and tension(either physiological or situational)
Lack of sleep, sleep disturbances or not being ready for sleep
Stress at work and no good outlet or support system
Financial problems and living above means
Drastic changes in life (marriage, divorce, having a child, or moving into a new home(mold), contracting parasites abroad or locally, death in the family)
Having too much on your plate or burning the wick at both ends
We want to make sure we have strong programs and protocols including lifestyle medicine to deal with the root causes of pain. When finding specifics in lifestyle medicine that work for us, we need to do some exploration work. Not everyone will always be willing to sit down to meditate and empty their mind that way. Instead, they can use gardening because of its strong grounding and mindfulness based benefits. Just the scents of the herbs, the connection with the earth and the immediate presence needed to garden take a LOT of stress off of your brain and body. They disconnect you from that monkey mind and reconnect you to your body.
Just going outside to your garden is already therapeutic because you are telling yourself this is self care time, this is time for me and this is where I can relax. Feeling the breeze and seeing your baby plants growing, is part of the joy that goes into watching your hard work pay off. On top of the mindfulness based benefits with pain and stress reduction, the harvest from your little garden may be beneficial to you too. Planting some herbs that are therapeutic could be a remedy to your head pain issues.
Lavender, Lemon Balm, Rosemary, and Peppermint
These herbs, if planted in your garden, could be aroma-therapeutic. They could also be used in steam baths or blended massage oils. Using them in humidifiers could also bring out their scents.
Aside from aromatherapy, rosemary can be taken internally infused in hot teas or as flavors in your food. They offer a lot of benefits, like regulating blood pressure and intracranial pressure. They are also known to treat migraines.
This is the standard herb for migraines and headaches. It also serves as an analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antipyretic, as its name suggests.
Gingers have been used traditionally as a remedy for headaches, stomachaches, nausea, and inflammation. A study conducted in 2014 by Maghbooli, et al., found that the efficacy of ginger powder was similar to sumatriptan, a prescription drug for migraines.
Studies show that when you do something you love, it relaxes you and pulls you into the stress-free zone. Nobody is ever so busy that they do not have time for themselves. No matter how busy you are with work, you will always have even a little time to relax. It’s just a matter of prioritization and finding the right tools for YOU.
If you have pests in your garden click here to read a guide on an easy alternative
Tips To Improve Gardening as a Mindfulness Practice
Gardening isn’t so difficult to do when you have everything ready, most notably your time and commitment. Here are some ways you can improve gardening’s effect on stress levels:
Schedule a time
We can all find excuses to not give ourselves enough time for self care, but that is exactly what the burnt out individual does, and we do not want to be them. So schedule it in like you would any high priority task. Make the room for it and hold to your schedule. If you have 30 minutes great, if you only have 15 then awesome, just make sure you take advantage of the full 15.
Cut the social ties
Unless you’re a blogger, your smart-phone should be left inside the house. You’ll want to be completely immersed in the activity and disengaged from the social networks that give you little benefit and feed anxiety, stress and superficial desires that do nothing for your soul. This will also help reset your eyes strain and musculature so that any office sitting and excessive screen time can be balanced out.
When we can bring our focus into singular points of relaxation(the basis of meditation) we can experience a great relieving of the stresses and tensions in our body and brain. Gardening can help you clear your mind so that you are more able to focus on the things you really need to do. Diving into the beauty of nature by noticing color, taste, structure, patterns and scents allows your brain to wrap itself around the present experience.
Mindfulness is a large part of recovering from any chronic pain conditions because we have to reprogram the sensitization which begins happening inside our nervous systems. But, not everyone can do every technique and so just like the right diet, the right mindfulness practise and methods of stress reduction need to be explored and we need to find our own individual fit. There is a form of meditation for everyone. What works for you? Let me know in the comments below.
If you are looking for quick and easy stress reduction techniques with breath-work see our video here.
“Fourteen of the migraine patients and none of the controls displayed either consistently high plasma cortisol or an occasional aberrant peak.”
It’s very common for us to have things like fatigue with a dependence on caffeine, restless sleep that is often far shorter than the 8-9 hours needed, cravings for sugary or salty treats, PMS and even mood swings.
But these are not normal.
These are our bodies way of communicating to us that there is a problem, and that the problem is escalating.
Our body is like a web, any one system being pulled on, stressed and strained, is translated into the other systems.
You see, as the process of degeneration goes on in the body, more and more systems are pulled in and affected. This causes more and more symptoms.
Depending on the individual, the area where their brains are affected may be:
Close to the beginning in the first few years
Somewhere down the middle 5 or 10 years later
Or even towards the end 20+ years after the first symptoms of compromise began like is common in menopause
There is so much more to our health and we are nothing like a car. The body doesn’t simply have a part switched out and have chronic disease go away.
Chronic disease like recurrent headaches and migraines are systemic.
When we experience a symptom, it is our bodies way of trying to bring balance back into the equation.
Too many aggressive thoughts and emotions, coupled with exacerbating workouts that go on too long or too hard, coupled with foods that only heat the body and do nothing to cool down the heat already created on all of our other fronts ends with a severely imbalanced equation.
It has to equal out somewhere.
Our body is always running between the 2 polarities that are present in everything, from the heating or cooling foods we eat, to the heating or cooling drinks we drink, to the exhaustive or recuperative exercises we practice, to the restless or rejuvenative nights of sleep, to the quick and hot or slow and soothing breaths we take. Even the aggressive shame based anxiety or calm, cool and connected emotions we feel all go into the equation of our bodies balance. (Excerpt from the 10 steps program)
There are three areas we want to look to and 3 systems we assess in anyone looking for information on connecting what is going on below the surface and what is causing the pain in their head.
1. The stress hormone that kills your bodies ability to repair
When we are looking at our bodies overall functioning and we want to understand one of the most reliable indicators of how much, how little or how well our body is responding to the stressors in our lives then this well known glucocorticosteroid is a no brainer.
When we wake up it should shoot up within minutes of us opening our eyes, before we go to sleep it should be at an all time low and allow our more feminine regenerative hormones to shoot up and give us the restful recuperative sleep we need.
The test I use is called an HPA stress profile and this shows me how my cortisol is fluctuating throughout the day, is it shooting up in the morning, are we getting a steady drop throughout the day and are we at an all time low and ready for bed in the evening?
This test tells it all to us and gives me an idea of how well your body is adapting to stress, if your blood sugar is staying balanced, how well your hormones are doing, if your immune system is getting the reset it needs every day, if your moods have the resources they need to remain level and if you are able to take advantage of your sleeping time.
You see, cortisol is a very stimulating hormone, known as a stress hormone but it is responsible for almost everything in our body because it is a controlling hormone. It will dictate how all of the other systems in our body function.
If we have an imbalance here, it can cripple our bodies ability to heal. Whether that be from:
Poor circadian rhythms
Blood sugar imbalances
This is a great way for us to know how stressed we really are, to get an objective view and understand how long this stress has really been going on. But it also gives us an idea of how long it will take to start feeling better.
When your cortisol is balanced, your inflammation is too and this provides a massive relief to the pain and symptoms that we experience.
See the graph below from a study. The white dots are controls and black dots are chronic migraine sufferers. The chronic migraine sufferers have significantly increased cortisol levels.
2. The blood sugar balancer
There is always a balance in the body. Where there is a hot and aggressive hormone, there is another hormone on the opposite side of the spectrum that helps us build and cool and calm.
In terms of cortisol, which in the body brings blood sugar UP
We have insulin, which brings blood sugar DOWN
Where cortisol is well known to release sugar into the blood in the case of situations where we are in danger, threatened or enter into “fight or flight mode” also known as fight/flight/flee/freeze and befriend mode. When our body senses danger, it makes resources available to us through cortisols raising of our energy levels and release of blood sugar.
But if this is happening all of the time, if we are constantly missing sleep, caffeine dependant and living in stress mode, then this puts a massive strain on our bodies.
With high cortisol comes high insulin.
Insulin can be thought of as the key to a door on our cells. The insulin unlocks these doors and allows the sugar in the blood to flood into the cell to be used for fuel so that the blood sugar doesn’t cause us any damage in the blood.
Remember that a diabetic who has no insulin can be put into a coma with enough of a blood sugar imbalance.
When insulin is balanced, blood sugar is balanced. But when insulin has to be raised because of chronic overexposure to calories or chronic stresses like the ones listed above, then insulin becomes too common place in the blood.
Eventually, if our cells are not processing the sugars into energy and have no reason to use up their energy stores, they will begin taking away the doors on the cell. These doors are known as receptor sites.
As insulin goes UP, receptor sites go DOWN.
This is known as insulin resistance.
And, this poses a large problem because we will need more and more insulin, to maintain the same balance.
More and more insulin, leading to more and more resistance by the cells.
So what do we do?
We cannot simply add more insulin like is often done in diabetic management because this does not address the ROOT of the cause.
There are two sides to this equation if we do not include the complex energetics inside of the cell.
There is the increased blood sugar on one side of the cell and the decreased need for utilization of energy on the other side.
So we want to resolve all of the above issues to bring our cortisol and blood sugar back into balance.
We want to Increase our bodies ability to utilize blood sugar and give it something it needs to use it for, like exercise!
But this is just the beginning of the vicious cycle because everything we do to our aggressive or “yang” hormones, we are also doing to our regenerative or “yin” hormones.
3. Hormones – The depletion that gives us symptoms which will not go away
In the HPA stress profile there is half of the equation which is cortisol and its rhythm but then there is another half which is DHEA-S.
DHEA is one of our “mother” hormones and it helps produce a number of other hormones. When in balance, it also helps balance out the effects of cortisol.
But we are not balanced. If we already have symptoms and systems breaking down, we have lost homeostasis here.
As cortisol rises to meet the demands of whatever stress whether acute or chronic is going on, so will DHEA to balance it out.
The cool part about DHEA is that it forms hormones like our estrogens and testosterone.
But the rise of these hormones to help balance out cortisol is problematic.
It drains our bodies resources very quickly.
Our acute response inflammatory hormones are extremely resource intensive and demand a lot from us.
The way we can think of it is a plane taking off.
When a plane is building up speed on the run way to take off, you will have to give the power full throttle to give it enough juice to get there. If you don’t, the plane wont be able to lift off before the runway runs out.
But full throttle is not sustainable and it will burn out the engine if it continues indefinitely. It should only be used acutely for short periods of time to help resolve the situation, help us fight the tiger, deal with the infection, get over a relationship or get us into the air.
Our hormones are very costly molecules and after a few days/weeks/months even years, they will not be able to maintain a high degree of stress without rest and recuperation.
This cripples our hormonal system.
Soon enough we are not able to:
Reap the benefits of exercise
Regulate female hormones involved in the menstrual cycle to avoid PMS
Our blood sugar is hanging on by a thread and any sweets that we now have cravings for send us into aggravations and drive up our trigger levels
Maintain steady levels of hormones to give us energy as our body starts yelling at us and forcing us to “slow down” with fatigue and all manner of irritable moods
And here begins the cycle.
At the beginning it may have just been simple symptoms like some PMS which everyone tells you is “normal,” or some fatigue which is almost always medicated with caffeine.
But over time as system after system becomes affected by these imbalances we develop more symptoms.
The headaches may have come with the loss of hormonal balance, the loss of immune integrity because of imbalanced cortisol or maybe it took all the way to the point where an infection took up housing in our gut because of the loss of immunity and lack of digestive capacity from the stress.
There are so many areas we break down when this system is compromised and without knowing how compromised we are, we just wait until another system starts showing symptoms.
Have you ever had your cortisol rhythm tested? I invite you to join me on this teaching journey by sending me a message here.
I love dealing with clients who have hormonal issues like hormonal headaches and migraines because they are one of the straightforward types to correct. At the end of the day we need to think of hormones as just messengers because that is what they are. If our body is having a problem sending the message or receiving it, we are going to run into hormonal symptoms. One of the most important areas here is contraception and I’m often asked if using contraception is the right thing to do for migraines. In this article, I will be discussing hormonal migraines in conjunction with the BEST IUD for migraine sufferers.
Before I get started I just want to cover that the most important aspect of IUDs and any hormones is to track what your body is doing. You want to track any symptoms throughout your body that you have before you start and then track if you develop new symptoms, symptoms go away or get worse. Hormones affect your body in many different ways we still do not understand and you may be reacting adversely over a long period of time leading you to believe it is something else when really it is the IUD.
What is an IUD?
An IUD which stands for intra uterine device is a type of birth control used by inserting a device into your uterus by your healthcare provider.
There are generally two types in the US:
Hormonal IUD(Mirena, Skyla, Liletta, Kyleena)
These are different from a vaginal ring like the Nuvaring which is manually placed on your own into your vagina during your cycle and then removed to allow you to have your period.
The copper form of the IUDs use a small release of copper into the uterus to create an inhospitable environment for sperm and creates uterine inflammation to prevent pregnancy.
But if you’ve read my other articles you know my opinion on inflammation and by far and large we have more than enough inflammation to keep our systems running properly and fine tuned.
I don’t think its a good idea to be releasing copper into your body but if for some reason you have to use the copper IUD then it would be important to have your tissue copper and mineral levels checked. If you are already on the high end and have other mineral imbalances then this would likely add to the stress already present.
The hormonal IUDs contain a form of synthetic progestin called levonorgestrel which is often passed off as progesterone but it is not.
I want to be really clear on this; the hormones in hormonal IUDs are NOT natural progesterone.
They do not have the health benefits that natural progesterone does but they come with many side effects.
If you do not have hormonal migraines then it may be better to use the copper type in case you trigger hormonal issues.
If you are only looking at birth control as a way to control your migraines then you are way off and have been mislead.
It’s a common misnomer that if you have hormonal migraines or headaches that you should be correcting them with birth control.
Birth controls use synthetic hormones that are NOT like our natural hormones and can actually create a whole host of more pressing issues which I will talk about in the side effects section.
You may experience relief from using birth control for your migraines if the other nutrients that birth control depletes are currently at optimal levels and you have “resources to spare.” If your only migraine trigger is because of your hormonal fluctuations then using this synthetic birth control may actually provide some relief.
And this is a big but…
This does not fix the hormonal issues, will eventually deplete nutrient levels and can have extreme consequences like breast cancer and stroke.
If you have hormonal issues, you want to first find out what the exact issue is, where in the cycle the problem lies, if you just are not making enough hormones or if your ovulation time is just misplaced leading to upset in the cycle. In our clinic we correct all of these without the need for synthetic hormones.
Then you want to find out WHY this issue is happening.
Your hormones and cycle do not go out of whack for no reason and you’d know this if you’ve received our free E-book on hormonal migraines here.
Ideally we would use other methods of controlling for accidental pregnancies that do not cause inflammation and add copper or change our hormones like these IUD devices.
But that isn’t always possible and so if you do not have hormonal migraines and your hormones are fine then it would likely be better to use a copper device over a hormonal one.
Now lets talk about the side effects of something as dangerous as putting a foreign device inside of your body.
The first two and some of the most serious side effects of IUDs are perforation and expulsion:
Perforation is when the IUD gets imbedded into your uterine wall or breaks through it. This can be dangerous and is why you want a professional placing it like a gynaecologist.
Severe pelvic or abdominal pain that does not go away
Pain with intercourse
Absent strings or shorter menses
Expulsion is when your IUD gets kicked out of the uterus. You may want to have an ultrasound to find out where it went and what you will have to do to get it out. Always make sure you are screened for risk factors for these.
Hormonal IUDs have a 3-6% explusion rate and copper IUDs have a 3-10% expulsion rate in the first year.
Women with a history of heavy menorrhagic or incredibly painful dysmenorrheic periods are at a higher risk of expulsion. Same with post partum.
Side effects of progestin found in hormonal IUDs:
Altered structure of human brain
Increased risk of stroke, heart attack, cardiovascular issues
Increased breast cancer risk
Depression, anxiety and suicide risk increase
Do not protect brain health like natural progesterone
Headaches and migraines!
Increased risk of autoimmunity and digestive disorders like dysbiosis and SIBO
Lowered levels of B vitamins, Vitamin C and Zinc
Best ways for contraception versus best ways for hormonal migraines and headaches
In terms of IUDs as long as your copper levels are not in the high end of the range and your other minerals are balanced then copper may be the better option if you absolutely must have an IUD.
For hormonal migraines and headaches, birth control simply is not a safe nor effective answer.(But it is often the one given) Hormonal IUDs don’t actually address the cause of the hormonal migraines or headaches but instead just throws more hormones into the mix, with unpredictable and non specific results.
In reality, using birth control for headaches is using one of the few prescription hormone tools available to doctors but using it for something completely different and using it “off label.”
In our clinic we find out what the problem in the cycle is, what is contributing to the problem and then how to go about correcting it. Not using synthetics that can further deplete already low nutrient levels and lead to more serious complications in the long run.
Best IUD for migraine sufferers
I generally believe that IUDs are a better system for contraception than birth control pills as you are using much less hormone. As long as your detox pathways are functioning properly and you do not already have a hormonal imbalance then this may not break the camels back so to speak.
But it’s not the best way to fix hormonal issues and you need to be aware that the progesterone in IUDs is not natural progesterone.
At the end of the day I’ve found that nature often does it best and we need to first correct any functional problems before we go beyond and add more to the mix.
Our health is dynamic so if we can approach it with all of our dynamic factors like nutrition, hydration, sleep and stress management and have those honed in then our body responds incredibly well.
Diet, stress management, sleep and exercise are at the core of hormonal management and if hormones aren’t functioning properly, it’s more than likely these are not optimized.
The way we think, move and breathe is what gives us health and we need to honor that. We honor that by honoring our bodies.
Our bodies are honored by us listening to them and learning from the signals they give us on if we are performing better or worse.
When we can authentically listen to what the body says yes this helps it function better to and no this does not help it function better then we can enter into a space of transformative health.
This is what actually healing is and a necessary step for all of us to get our health back and become empowered with our own vitality.
There are so many directly effective and clinically studied techniques, therapies, nutraceuticals and diets we can use to relieve our pains and heal our brains. But some like ear stapling are far more on the fringe side, often sought out by those who have gone the medication route and not found relief. In this article I will explain what ear stapling is, how it connects to regular migraine ear piercings like the tragus and daith and what you need to know.
What is ear stapling?
Ear stapling is a process by why you insert a small staple into acupuncture points of the ear for continued relief and stimulation of the reflex point.
Often with tragus and daith piercings the healing process may deter some people from use and they may only work while the ear is healing.
When you ear staple you are not actually going all the way through the cartilage and this may help maintain stimulation to the reflex point the auriculotherapy is working on.
Auriculotherapy – also known as ear acupuncture is a subset of acupuncture that uses treatments on the ear to affect the reflex points that connect the body together. In acupuncture, the ear is seen as a micro system that represents the macro system of our entire body and reflex points from our organs, glands and system run through the entire body including the ear. By applying techniques to the ear they are supporting the affected organ, gland or system.
See the picture below to get an idea of the ears microcosm.
Is ear stapling for migraines different from a daith or tragus piercing for migraines?
With traditional daith and tragus piercings, the area that is pierced through is complete and forms a hold whereas in ear stapling it is not a complete whole.
This may be less painful, may heal easier and may provide more stimulation to the reflex points than simply a daith or tragus piercing.
Just like the tragus and daith piercings, ear stapling for migraines is a long shot. We do not have any clinical studies to show that it is or is not any more than placebo. See my post above on tragus and daith ear piercings for migraines with reviews to get a better idea of the successes and failures of others who’ve tried them.
But, even if it is only placebo, the placebo that gets activated during intensive therapies like surgery, injection or piercings is much stronger than the placebo from taking a supplement. Even if it only relieves your pain for a few months or few years, it may be worth it for those who are still looking for the education to heal their brains.
We always want to make sure we are correcting the function of our bodies before we are adding extras on top, but we also have to make sure we can have the clarity and energy to do so and this may require some searching and guidance.
When in doubt, its a fairly simple and mild pain compared to some migraines so it may be worth a try.
See the ear stapling review video below:
The more we can educate ourselves about migraines the more likely we will find the linchpin(or linchpins) holding our brains back from fully healing and maintaining a pain free life.
If you need guidance then reach out to me for consulting so that I can show you what your brain is missing from your diet and lifestyle that can make it function optimally.
You wake up and feel like you’re on a boat in the middle of the ocean… You can’t seem to make it stop no matter what you do and would give anything to be back on land and have some stability. This is an incredibly common occurrence and our clients can experience it for years until they come to us and have their health addressed. In this article, I will be covering 9 red flags that your dizziness may actually be MAV migraines or migraine associated vertigo.
Before we get started its important to understand that these red flags are only for informational and education purposes and not for diagnosing illness, only your doctor can do that.
Lets get into it.
1. Your dizziness comes with headaches
The most common presentation that will point towards your dizziness possibly being linked with migraines is that they come together.
But, just like vertigo and dizziness do not always come with straightforward symptoms, so too do migraines and headaches not always come in a neat and clean fashion we can put into a box.
Even though you may not be experiencing a classic migraine at the same time or around the time of these dizziness symptoms, it may come as neck pain, a sinus headache, temple pressure, pain behind the eyes or even in an ice pick like fashion.
But because of migraine, it’s also not necessarily put down to only pain symptoms.
Be wary that symptoms may come hours and even days apart, but that they are still coming together in one way or another.
2. Your dizziness may come with other phases of migraine/migraine symptoms
It may also be that you will experience an aura, predrome or postdrome with your dizziness symptoms but not the pain or attack phase. These are more likened to acephalgic headaches or migraines but still point to the brain being a main driver of the problem.
Some non head pain symptoms that your dizziness may come with include:
Visual aura or visual changes
Light, sound or smell sensitivity
Nausea or vomiting
Numbness or tingling
Weakness or faintness
Puffy eye lids
Cognitive issues like difficulty concentrating
Thirst or thirstlessness
Diarrhoea or constipation
Neck or muscular tension and tightness
Migraines can be very elusive and mysterious. They do not always show up with an aura or with head pain and because of this they can often be one of the last diagnoses after a large number of tests have been run.
Migraine diagnosis is often used as a way to tell the patient there is something wrong with there brain and they do not know what to do. Instead, they can start slowly ticking off the boxes of medications “to try” until they find one that gives them some semblance of a regular life back.
But this is a very reductionistic approach and there is much more we can do nutritionally, biochemically, neurologically and mentally/emotionally to restore the brains normal functioning, if only we can find out what is causing sufficient strain on our bodies systems to break down the brains processing.
3. Your symptoms revolve around triggers
One of the first places we go when we find out it’s migraine is to remove “our triggers.”
This is great because it will give us a way to pursue health/healing and find relief but it is often not sufficient enough to actually find out why these triggers have started and what the root cause of the matter is.
For example, if we find our triggers are histamine based then it begs the question, “why is our body having problems with too much histamine or breaking down histamine now.” See our article on the migraine histamine connection here.
Or if we have digestive issues like gas, bloating and diarrhea that are relieved when we stop eating certain foods then it begs the question, “what is causing our digestive system so much trouble now.” See our video on the gut / hormones and headaches here.
Or if we find our vertigo or migrainous symptoms are aggravated at every menstrual cycle then our doctors first response would be to put us on birth control but it begs the question, “why are our hormones not properly regulating themselves now.” See our free e-guide on hormonal headaches here.
We want to understand our triggers and be able to take the immediate load off of our body so that we can ease off the dizziness, pain and give ourselves clarity.
But we also want to understand why this is happening now.
As an example, if we find a fire in our house and we want to put it out, we need to stop throwing gas on it first(our triggers) but we also want to find out what started the fire in the first place(root cause) so that it doesn’t start up again at another time.
For many people it may be mental/emotional stress that pushes our body over the edge in the first place but then something keeps it going even when the stress is gone.
An area that needs to be investigated is the gastrointestinal system because of how mental and emotional stress destroys our guts immunity and opens it up for pathogens and infections to take hold which can continue creating problems for months, years and even decades.
4. History whether it be personal or familial or migraine
The next tell tale pointing us in the direction of migraine is history. If we have a prior history of migraines then this is a given area to explore.
But it may also be that our siblings, parents, aunts, uncles or grandparents have or had migraines or vestibular issues as well. It may also be distantly related to migraines like autoimmunity, hypothyroid, fibromyalgia, obesity etc.
We want to investigate this and especially look at the female side of our family.
Often times the connection to migraines is caused by weak mitochondria caused by poor exposure to the environment, poor food quality and other mitochondrial toxins.
Mitochondrial DNA is directly passed down through the mother’s egg and this can either set us up for resilience or weaknesses that need to be addressed through lifestyle and nutritional factors that change how our mitochondria function.
5. The severity of your dizziness and vertigo like symptoms change in intensity
Another great sign that it is not a structural problem and is instead being mediated by how your brain and body are interacting with each other, functioning and modulating inflammation is by changes in the intensity of symptoms.
A steady 6 or 7 of symptoms may point to something that just needs to be put back into place like our hyoid bone but if the symptoms are fluctuating then we need to investigate.
I always ask clients to use my logging system to keep track of symptoms, foods, sleep quality, possible triggers, severity of pain etc.
This helps us understand triggers that may unfold over multiple days.
Something like a light or smell trigger may be easy to spot, but food triggers are not the same.
Food particles can stay circulating in our body from 24-72 hours and if we have leaky gut and food particles are getting into our body then it is likely we have sensitivities to foods.
Whenever you eat a food you are sensitive to OR you eat a food that creates inflammation like many processed and packaged foods do, then you drive up your bodies immune response.
Your immune system will aggravate and inflammation levels will rise.
This is an easy way for you to push your trigger levels passed your threshold.
But it can happen at any point in the 72 hour cycle of the food and that depends on your immune system.
A little dizziness here or there can just be part of our bodies fluctuations and how it adjusts its systems based on what is happening in the environment.
When it has become so severe that your quality of life is compromised and you cannot function enough to work, enjoy time with your family or maintain hobbies, then the signs of chronic illness are here.
The good part is that chronic illnesses are often addressable and correctable because our body is always trying to maintain homeostasis but the bad news is that our medical system is not prepared for chronic illness and does not deal with it properly.
It uses an acute care model for chronic illnesses and this leaves many sufferers searching for the “right diagnosis” and the “right medication” their entire lives.
It’s not your fault. The educational part of the system just isn’t there but if you can take responsibility and educate yourself then your chances of overcoming the break down of your body systems skyrockets.
Hopefully this message finds you sooner than later as the sooner you can catch it and learn what you need to know to heal, the faster your recovery may be.
7. Association with thyroid type symptoms
These last three are from clinical tidbits and common causes of why it is that our body systems break down enough that our brain gets dragged down with them.
Our brain is a semi closed and well protected system. Unless we sustain a head injury then it is something in our bodies malfunctioning that is acting as the “linchpin” in the deterioration of our brains.
We have to understand that 80%+ of our brain is glial cells. These are immune cells and this means that our brain is largely an immune body.
If inflammation and oxidation are causing our immune system to go haywire, our brain can create neuroinflammation and suffer.
One of the common areas this happens is through our thyroid. Our thyroid is called a master gland because thyroid hormone is present on literally every cell in our bodies and the thyroid regulates the speed at which our cells function.
More thyroid hormone = faster metabolic function (inside and outside the cell)
Less thyroid hormone = slower metabolic function (inside and outside the cell)
We have to heal our thyroid if we want to heal our bodies and this often involves correcting the reason behind its dysfunction which are many. Hypothyroid is much more common among migraine sufferers and the two often go together.
Some common symptoms we can use to understand if our thyroid is having problems are:
Low menstrual blood flow
Racing heartbeat or palps
Intolerance to heat
Bowel movement changes
Enlargement of thyroid gland
Increased appetite and hunger
Mental fog or sluggishness
Weight gain or fluid retention
Joint aches and pains
Excessive or prolonged menstrual bleeding
Feeling cold, or increased sensitivity to cold
Hoarseness or dry skin
Slow heart rate
Thinning hair, hair loss or thin eye brows
Get your thyroid addressed and not simply with medications, healing thyroid is a full body process and taking a synthetic hormone supplement like synthroid is unlikely to completely correct the causes and symptoms.
8. Break down in immunity
Immunity is a complex topic but at the end of the day the way we address it can be quite simple.
There is a reason why your immune system is either upregulated and overactive or down regulated and being suppressed.(Or a combination of both)
It may be as simple as blood sugar handling problems or as complex as a viral infection that is being kept circulating because of a GI problem.
The place where we interact with the world the closest and where we hold the majority of our immune system is in our GUT.
Everything we ingest interacts with us through the filter of 100 trillion bacteria and the thin wall that goes from our mouth to anus. If we are having problems here like food intolerances, dysbiosis, infections or toxicities then this is where we need to address our problem.
One of the first and foremost tests we will teach in clinic for our clients is gut testing.
If you have an infection, even without any digestive symptoms it can be crippling your immune system and any chance you will have to heal properly.
9. Compromised Neuro-endocrine system
The last red flag and this is often one of the first areas that will break down as your body begins the process of migraining years before you may actually get a migraine is compromise in your nervous and hormonal systems.
This feels like:
Food cravings or loss of appetite
Weight gain or loss
Sleep issues and trouble waking
Anxiety or depression(or both)
Low blood pressure
Blood sugar issues and an inability to miss meals
Reliance on stimulants and headaches without your morning coffee
This can often cause menstrual or meal related headaches.
Part of this is caused because of our lack of exposure to sufficient day light which causes dysregulation in the communication between our hypothalamus, pituitary and adrenal glands but it can also be caused by:
Excessive periods of stress
Over or undereating
Irregular sleep patterns
We need to address our body as a whole because that is what it is. Only looking at the ear or the brain can often get us into a host of unneeded treatments and years if not decades of continued pain and symptoms when really the problem was elsewhere.
It’s always important to have someone spend the time to educate you on your condition and bring together all of the different assessments and treatments that other healthcare providers have gone through with you.
By doing this you will have the most integrated and holistic program that will give you the best chance of getting through this phase of wobbliness.
If you need help and don’t know where to turn then send me a message using the form below and make sure to see our articles on: