If you are the 86% of people who do not get migraines then consider yourself fortunate. For the 14% of you who do suffer it can be a debilitating condition. Many different mechanisms have been discussed as the cause of a migraine. Some of the most common google searches will yield: food allergies, food additives, stress, hormonal changes in women, sensory stimuli, physical and other environmental factors just to name a few.[LINK]
While there isn’t a definite answer as to what could be causing your migraine researchers are focusing on a specific biological process or a result of a biological process: Oxidative Stress. Earlier studies have found that migraine sufferers have higher levels of oxidative stress.[LINK]
Oxidative stress is caused by the presence and poor regulation of free radicals. Free radicals may be formed through natural human physiological processes as well as from the environment. They may be the result of diet, stress, smoking, alcohol, exercise, physical trauma, inflammation, drugs or exposure to sunlight and air pollutants. The body’s immune system actually creates free radicals on purpose in order to kill off invading viruses and bacteria. During cellular metabolism, cells use oxygen to convert food into a form of energy the body can use, called ATP. Free radicals are a natural byproduct of this process. [LINK]
Free radicals are unstable molecules that damage cells and contribute to aging and disease. Normally, the body can handle free radicals, but if antioxidants are unavailable, the free-radical production becomes excessive, the body cannot control levels, damage can occur via oxidative stress. Oxidative stress will then trigger an inflammation response leading to the migraine. [LINK]The inflammatory response is your body’s way of protecting the brain from oxidative stress. In other words, your migraine is the body’s way of protecting itself.
Many people take antioxidant supplements to prevent free radicals from damaging healthy cells. Antioxidants are found to be plentiful in fruit and vegetables. In a previous blog I explained that the difference in organic foods vs. genetically modified foods is the anti-oxidant levels. With organic having higher concentrations. [blog] Antioxidant molecules have been shown to counteract oxidative stress.
Getting an ample amount of antioxidants through your diet may be hard pressed so supplementation may be a great option for you and your family. But just in case your diet is lacking your body has its own built in mechanism for regulating oxidative stress: The Nervous System.
Cranial Nerve eleven, the Vagus nerve has been shown to help reduce oxidative stress when it’s functioning optimally. This nerve belongs to the parasympathetic portion of the nervous system. It is in charge of rest and repair of the body. Researchers found that improving the function of the vagus nerve through external vibrations, massage, yoga and Thai Chi you can help reduce the damaging effects of free radicals in the body. [LINK] [LINK]
Can Structural Chiropractic treatments help?
Migraines are a very common secondary condition caused by a structural shift of one of the vertebra in the neck. When the spine shifts from normal it can obstruct nervous system function. When the neck shifts from normal it can not only obstruct the nerves, but also the blood vessels and cerebral spinal fluid flow. Researchers have found an association between low parasympathetic nervous system function and migraines.[LINK]
By removing the obstruction you will allow the nervous system to function at full capacity. Structural chiropractors are trained in the detection and correction of an abnormal shift of the spine that can cause irregularities in the nervous system. By specifically adjusting the spine to restore proper alignment, the obstruction is removed and optimal function is restored.