Migraine Headache Disease and Natural Medicine

Its Time to Think Outside the Box.

By James Sensenig, ND.

Conventional medicine has made great strides in recent years in its attempts to assist migraine sufferers. The popular pharmaceutical abortion drugs are truly remarkable in their ability to stop a migraine in its tracks. Sadly, the area of greatest concern to migraineurs, how to prevent the onset of a migraine, remains an unsolved mystery.

Many significant scientific discoveries are the result of challenging existing thinking rather than accepting it. Let's think "outside the box" in a search for theories that might lead us to a successful approach to the prevention of migraine.

Disease States Complicated by Digestion

Within my field of alternative medicine, naturopathy, it is believed that most disease states begin with or are complicated by some level of digestive dysfunction. If the body is not efficient in digesting and absorbing the nutrients it needs, and subsequently does not have all the essential building blocks at its disposal than some level of dysfunction will occur. This dysfunction may effect circulation, tissue repair, respiration, liver function, potentially any system or organ within the body.

Let's look at migraine for example. The most common explanation of the cause of migraine in the conventional medical community is that it is the result of changes in the blood vessels in the area of the brain. Therefore, researchers concentrate on ways to interfere with the process of vascular constriction and dilation and thereby reduce or eliminate the pain. Unfortunately this theory and process does not explain why the changes in the blood vessels occurs in the first place. Therefore while this approach may help in addressing the pain it does nothing to prevent the next headache.

One of the prevailing thoughts in alternative circles is that the vascular changes may be the result of a food allergy. This is not the sort of allergy that results in rashes or typical allergic reactions, but rather a reaction to poorly regulated intestinal absorption. A breakdown in the process of intestinal absorption can occur for any number of reasons. Because this function is absolutely critical within the body even minimal digestive dysfunction may cause problems. The intestinal lining is designed to absorb into the blood stream those nutrients which the body needs and just as importantly keep out those things the body cannot use.

We believe that when the intestinal wall allows improperly digested proteins, fats, or other nutrients to enter the blood stream that the body views the undigested nutrients as foreign substances and reacts to eliminate them. It is further believed that in some people this allergic reaction can cause vascular changes. The result of this thinking is that in the treatment of most migraine sufferers we focus initially on improving digestive function. In recent years there have been some wonderful advances in nutritional medicine as it relates to products to improve digestive function. These predigested food products appear to allow the gut wall to correct and thus return to its role of keeping the allergenic products out.

A critical step in metabolism

Now for the next piece to the puzzle. There is another critical function in the body that effects the body's ability to recover from chronic disease. The body must be able to detoxify, that is, get rid of the normal waste products and other toxins. In the process of metabolism the body generates the energy it needs to survive and function. A critical step in metabolism is the removal of the waste products generated by the body. In addition to the waste products generated within the body, we are constantly subjected to a wide variety of foreign substances in the food we eat, the air we breathe, and the water we drink. The body must also be successful in removing these environmental toxins.

The critical organ in the detoxification process is the liver. It is an amazing organ with a wide range of functions. Within alternative medicine circles liver function is almost as critical as digestive function when we attempt to address the root cause of disease.

A simple philosophy

If I were to summarize the philosophy that is the basis of this article in one simple sentence it would be: give the body what it needs (digestion), enhance its ability to eliminate what it does not need (detoxification) and the body will invariably move toward better health. As a practitioner it is my job to assist you in returning the body to proper, that is normal, function.

In over twenty years of clinical practice I have seen this approach work time and time again with migraines. I am dedicated to bringing this successful approach to the attention of as many migraine sufferers as I can.


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James Sensenig

Author James Sensenig is a licensed Naturopathic Physician with a full time practice in Hamden, Connecticut. Jim received his Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine from the National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, Oregon in 1978. He is a passionate advocate for natural medicine and is a nationally recognized leader in his field.

Say hello and connect with James at Website


Protein Digestion Research

Published by The Journal of Nutrition 136:1759-1762, July 2006

There are approximately 100,000 proteins in humans with various physiological functions. The complement of proteins in the organism as well as their interactions is defined as the proteome. Its analysis (proteomics), using highly specific, sensitive, and accurate mass spectrometers, is made possible with matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization or electrospray ionization of proteins and large peptides.there is increasing interest in the roles of nutrients and other dietary factors in cell physiology and health.

Results of a recent analysis indicated that the glutamine, an amino acid, alters the proteome of human intestinal cells, including the proteins that regulate amino acid, lipid, and vitamin A metabolism (16). Proteomics analysis also showed that the levels of hepatic lipid-metabolic enzymes and prooxidative proteins are increased in mice fed a high-fat diet (17), and hepatic protein profiles are altered in rainbow trout in response to dietary intake of proteins (18). Using a comprehensive proteomic approach, Li et al. (19) reported that energy restriction promotes proper protein folding and function, thereby maintaining a sufficient rate of glucose metabolism and retarding age-related retinal degeneration. Interestingly, dietary deficiency of copper (9), iron (10), folate (20), or zinc (21) markedly influences expression of intestinal and hepatic proteins related to cellular redox regulation, lipid metabolism, protein phosphorylation, DNA synthesis, and nutrient transporters. Notably, proteomic studies determined that dietary supplementation with genistein (the major isoflavone of soy) increases the expression of GTP cyclohydrolase-I [a key protein related to nitric oxide synthesis (22)] in the rat mammary gland in association with a reduction in cell proliferation and susceptibility to cancer (23). These studies help establish molecular mechanisms for the roles of nutrients and other dietary factors in growth, reproduction, and health.