In this article you are going to learn what chronic inflammation is, where it comes from and how to reduce it in order to eliminate your migraines.
First, let me tell you this: Migraines and chronic inflammation go hand in hand.
If you don’t take my word for it, here’s a short extract from an in-depth article on Neurology.org
“For most of the twentieth century, the prevailing theory of migraine held that pain results from an abnormal dilatation of intracranial blood vessels, leading to mechanical excitation of sensory fibers that innervate these vessels. This ‘vascular’ theory, however, has never been validated. [...]In recent years, accumulating evidence has shifted the emphasis away from vascular smooth muscle and toward mechanisms related to inflammation. “
Or… if you prefer real life examples instead of medical studies, I can assure you I personally read hundreds of testimonials from people who stopped their migraines by sticking to an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle.
Plus, it could very well be the main reason other treatments like acupuncture, vagal nerve stimulation, stress reduction and even fewerfew get results.
Now, I’m not saying that controlling inflammation is the end-all, be-all solution to your migraine problems. The puzzle can be much larger than this, and in specific cases there may be other health problems that contribute and trigger migraines. But, once you do everything you need to in order to stop inflammation, you automatically take care of most migraine triggers without worrying about them individually.
Basically, if you keep eating inflammatory foods and having the same lifestyle that you are now, you will not only keep banging you head against a wall because there is no migraine cure, but you will set yourself up for all kind of problems, like heart disease, obesity, depression, autoimmune diseases, arthritis and other -itises… not to mention the infamous migraine stroke.
But, on the other hand, if you do what it takes to avoid chronic inflammation your migraines will most likely take care of themselves and you won’t have to worry about finding a cure.
So what is inflammation?
Inflammation is a common, natural, innate response to injury, pain, illness and stress – it is our body’s way of taking care of itself in front of injury or illness.
The first and most easily noticeable type is called acute inflammation.
The initial response to a pathogen or an injury is acutely inflammatory. So whether you get a paper cut, burn your finger or get punched in the face, whether you get an allergic reaction or a viral infection, you body reacts to protect itself.
That’s right. That pain, swelling, redness and sense of warm, that’s the body’s natural healing process and it’s crucial to our existence.
So, whenever something painful and unpleasant happens, special receptors at the injury site initiate the inflammatory process.
Vasodilatation (or widening of blood vessels) is triggered and blood vessels become more permeable allowing the plasma and leukocytes (cells of the immune system involved in defending the body against both infectious disease and foreign materials) to easily access the injured tissue and start mopping up pathogens, and overseeing the inflammatory process.
When this happens, the area automatically gets red and warm and builds up with fluid, which means swelling.
At the same time, the body releases an inflammatory mediator which increases pain sensitivity at the site. And this hurts, but if an injury doesn’t hurt and it’s serious, you’ll keep damaging it because you won’t know not to use it.
So, in essence, the inflammatory process is our friend. But if that’s true, how is that inflammation is linked to all kinds of chronic illnesses from migraines, all the way to heart disease and depression?
Well… that’s the second type, the so called chronic or systemic inflammation.
When inflammation ceases to be an acute response, when it becomes a constant low-level feature of your physiology that’s always on and always engaged, the big problems arise.
The inflammatory response is supposed to be short and to the point. I’m sure you feel down, scraped you knee or got a little hurt at least once in your life… how fast was your body’s response? I bet you could almost instantly see it swell up and get warm.
And that’s exactly how it’s supposed to work. It isn’t meant to be on all the time.
Because a big part of inflammation is breaking the tissue down, targeting damaged tissue and invading pathogens, before building it back up, the inflammatory response has the potential to damage the body. That’s why it’s normally a tightly regulated system, because we don’t want it getting out of hand and targeting healthy tissue. But if it’s on all the time, regulation becomes a lot harder.
Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happens in chronic and systemic inflammation.
There is nothing wrong with the system itself, the inflammatory mediators are short-lived and don’t stick around after you get healed. They need constant propagation to keep going.
For example, a little cut can heal all by itself in a few days. The inflammatory process sets in, does its job and leaves. But if in spite of the pain you keep opening the wound up, over and over again, you keep triggering the inflammatory response and destabilizing the system.
So for chronic and system inflammation to exist there has to be at least one stressor that induces a low-level internal inflammatory response and keeps hanging out as a constant feature.
And I assure you most migraine sufferers have at least one. Let me know if recognize any of these in yourself:
- Toxic modern Western diet
Eating a lot of sugar, processed carbs, grain products, industrial fats, too much omega-6 and not enough omega-3, and not enough nutrients (e.g. magnesium).
- Poor gut health
Closely related to the thing you eat, when, how and in what quantities you eat them. When your gut isn’t healthy nothing works well, not even your inflammatory regulation.
- Bad posture and inadequate movement
Proper movement is extremely important to all aspects of health. Our bodies weren’t made to sit in chairs all day or hunching over a laptop. Tense muscles, nerves always on, uneven pressure on the joints, shallow breathing, inadequate oxygenation… no wonder a sedentary life-style is directly linked to systemic inflammation.
- Poor sleep
Going to bed too late, waking up to early, having a low quality sleep, or a combination of all three.
- Chronic stress
Bills, work, chores – your body doesn’t tell the difference between these types of stress and being in a fight-or-flight type of situation. And when it all adds and it doesn’t seem to let up or go away, your body will have a physiological, inflammatory response to emotional stress.
And this is just an overview.
Can you honestly say you are not guilty of any of these?
If you are still suffering from migraines, I bet you can find a thing or two that you could fix in the list above. Be it your diet, your posture or your emotional well-being, I’m sure there is an adjustment… a big change-over or a minor tweak you can make to eliminate the reasons for having a migraine in the first place.
That’s it for today. I hope this helped you realize that it’s not always obvious if your body is suffering or thriving, and, most importantly, that there is a real chance of getting rid of your migraines… even if most people don’t know about it.
I will get back to you with more specific action steps in future articles.
 “Migraine as an inflammatory disorder” Christian Waeber, PhD and Michael A. Moskowitz, MD – http://www.neurology.org/content/64/10_suppl_2/S9.extract
 “Persistent low-grade inflammation and regular exercise” Astrom MB, Feigh M, Pedersen BK – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20036931