Because migraine headaches are a manifestation of a serious chronic systemic inflammatory process affecting every major organ of the body, there are infinite angles and lenses through which we can try to understand migraine. Migraine is associated with:
- food sensitivities and digestive problems
- environmental chemical sensitivities
- reduced thyroid function (hypothyroid)
- congested liver and gallbladder
- adrenal/pituitary axis imbalances and kidney problems
- neurotransmitter imbalances with attendant mood “disorders” such as anxiety and depression
- cranial nerve activation and cortical spreading depression
- hormonal imbalances (low progesterone to estrogen ratios)
- low antioxidant status (especially glutathione)
- electrolyte and consequent blood pressure imbalances (caused mostly by compromised kidney function)
- beta-amyloid plaque/lesions
- low blood pressure
- blood sugar imbalances
- blood platelet aggregation (“sticky blood”)
- lymphatic congestion
- compromised mitochondrial function
- peripheral neuropathies
- increased risk of stroke
- hypermobile joints and lax connective tissue around blood vessels (Ehlers Danlos Syndrome)
- Light sensitivities
- neck and muscular tension
- unresolved trauma
- chronic stress
- Chronic viral and fungal infections
- Comorbities like cataracts and arthritis
- And the list goes on and on
What could possibly explain this wide range of problems? Where would we even start to find the root cause of migraine?
If you ask the experts, you’ll see that they are still debating whether migraine starts in the gut as a digestive and enzymatic problem, is caused by circulatory issues (dilated or constricted blood vessels), or originates in the brain itself (cortical spreading depression).
Let’s not lose sight of the fact that it’s all one integrated system. Since the vagus nerve connecting gut and brain is a two-way circuit (with 80% of the nerve transmission going from gut to head), I’m not sure why these differing perspectives on the root cause are seen as mutually exclusive. What if ALL of these perspectives are right? And what if, despite being right, these experts are overlooking something crucial?
No matter what the experts say about migraine starting in the brain, we know that migraine in a large number of people is triggered by foods and improved when these foods are eliminated. We also know that other factors like sleep deprivation and stress can cause migraine without a food trigger. These are not incompatible viewpoints (or even different types of migraine, necessarily) because as we know, migraine is a systemic inflammatory condition. In a constant state of inflammation, triggers can and do come from any number of directions and reinforce each other through infinite nonlinear feedback loops.
There does seem to be quite a bit of agreement that alterations in the microbiome play a big role in not only migraine but most chronic inflammatory diseases. The problem is that so much of the research has been exclusively focused on the gut microbiome, and that is what comes to mind when someone says “microbiome”. As it turns out, every individual part of our body has a microbiome – and that includes our blood and our brain.
Our Microbiome Includes Viruses
Awhile back, I used to think primarily of bacteria when I considered that people who have had antibiotics have an altered microbiome. I focused on the problem that many bacteria produce histamine and glutamate, two molecules that, when present in excess, can overwhelm a person’s body with inflammation and pain. These bacteria can even get infected by viruses, which also make up the microbiome.
New viruses in the human microbiome are being discovered in droves as we speak.
. . . [W]e cannot study human chronic inflammatory disease without understanding that viruses we have not yet identified may play a role in many human disease processes. To do so would be like going to the rainforest, studying only 2% of the animals, and coming to conclusions about how the entire rainforest functions off that information alone.
Despite this fact many doctors have been taught to test for only 10-20 well-known viruses in their human patients. If these viruses are not identified in the patient, it is assumed that a virus (or group of viruses) cannot be driving or contributing to the patient’s disease. We must work hard to change this assumption, because it greatly prevents the medical/research communities from looking at a much broader picture of what might be going on. (Source)
Researchers at Harvard Medical School have found that:
. . . even “non-sick” humans harbor over 200 organisms in the brain. Those numbers don’t even include the virome (viruses). And we know that a bunch of herpes viruses can also survive in the brain . . . the gut microbiome and the brain microbiome communicate a lot via the vagus nerve. There’s lots of traffic, with bacteria in the brain/gut talking to one another via this highway all the time. Some products of gut fermentation like Short Chain Fatty Acids (SCFAs) literally travel the Vagus Nerve (physical translocation). . . . Conversely, certain bacteria in the gut live exclusively off chemicals generated in the brain that are transported to the gut (Source).
If you’re like me, you probably read that statement and thought about what an amazing organism the body is to be able to communicate between different systems so well – and marvel at the fact that bacteria and viruses live in the brain. But if you’re like me (especially if you don’t have active herpes infections or any history of that) you probably didn’t really make much of the fact that herpes viruses live in our brains, or wonder if they could be the cause of your migraine headache.
OR, maybe you are someone like the many chronic migraine sufferers I see who “just happen” to also deal with chronic recurring herpes infections, from blisters on your mouth to your butt. If so, you may have had a little aha moment reading that statement above, and wondered if having herpes in your brain might be related to your migraines.
Like most people (at least, “older” people who grew up prior to the chicken-pox vaccine), I got chicken pox as a kid and mono as a teenager. It wasn’t until I was in my late twenties, having experienced the negative effects of industrial medicine and antibiotics, that my microbiome started to get seriously out of whack. The c-section operation that I had with the birth of my first son tipped me over into migraine hell. Five years later now I believe the sheer stress of that event, coupled with the mineral deficiencies that resulted from it, triggered latent herpes virus to get a stronghold in my brain (and perhaps my gut and sinus).
Two and a half years after that c-section operation (after suffering from about 3 migraines per week and other countless headaches during that time), I found a way to manage my symtoms wih what I now call the SimplyWell Protocol. As elated as I was to have a clear brain again, I was also puzzled by the fact that the migraines would return when I stopped the Protocol. I was also mystified as to why it was that after I was able to eat every other food that had previously triggered me, I could not eat even the slightest amount of spicy chilli food without getting some kind of brain fog or headache.
Even after five years of researching migraine, I didn’t think herpes played a role in migraine pathology – until I set out to answer a simple question that kept bugging me. I realized there was a clue here that could potentially hack the mystery of migraine headaches if I could unravel why capsaicin was such a trigger.
Why is it that capsaicin in chilli remains my only food trigger for headache after years on my Protocol which otherwise works to allow me to eat hard cheese, wine, chocolate, beer, etc without any problems?
Little did I know this question would lead me to believe that herpes virus infection is the underlying root cause of most migraine headaches.
To read part 2 of this series, click here.
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For the past 3 years, Marya has been helping those with chronic migraine to clear their head, heal their digestion, regain their energy, and transform their lives using simple plant and mineral solutions.
The information in this article is for educational purposes only and not meant to replace diagnosis, treatment, or prescription by a qualified medical professional.