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A migraine can cause severe, often throbbing pain usually on just one side of the head. It is often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, and worsening of symptoms with activity. Although a single episode of migraine lasts 4 to 72 hours those with Chronic Migraine experience a minimum of 8 migraine days per month and at least 15 days per month of headache of any kind.

Warning symptoms known as “aura” may occur before or with the headache. These can include flashes of light, blind spots, or tingling on one side of the face or in your arm or leg.


A combination of genetics and environmental factors appear to play a role in migraine. Migraine may be caused by changes in the brainstem and its interactions with the trigeminal nerve, a major pain pathway. Imbalances in brain chemicals – including serotonin, which helps regulate pain in your nervous system – also may be involved. Serotonin levels drop during migraine attacks. This may cause your trigeminal nerve to release substances called neuropeptides, which travel to your brain’s outer covering (meninges). The result is migraine pain. Other neurotransmitters play a role in the pain of migraine, including calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP).



  • Food sensitivities – food can act like more of a toxin and create inflammation, leading to headaches. This is THE most common cause of headaches in our experience.
  • Hormonal imbalance – very common in women who notice a link between their cycle and the onset of headaches. Rebalancing hormones is not difficult and completely natural.
  • Nerve irritation, particularly of the neck or jaw – our chiropractic and physical therapy departments evaluate for this problem. It is one of the top three underlying causes of headaches in our experience.
  • Dehydration, a common problem affecting 75% of Americans. Many people are unaware dehydration is a trigger for headaches so make sure you get your 8 glasses of filtered water every day. Being dehydrated puts you at risk of headaches and many other health problems, so if you are someone who rarely drinks water it would be worthwhile to develop a taste for it. If you need ideas how to do that, let me know.
  • Drug use – opioid and over-the-counter medication. What’s great about resolving headaches at the root is patients no longer require medication.
  • Malabsorption/maldigestion – the gut may seem a long way from your head, but it’s known as the second brain for a reason. If your food isn’t turning into proper fuel your cells won’t get properly fed and your brain requires fuel just as much as the rest of your body. Such digestive issues can create not only headaches but a multitude of other problems.
  • Unstable blood sugar – as we mentioned above, unstable blood sugar can be a digestive problem, but it can also occur secondarily to food sensitivities and hormonal imbalance.
  • Insomnia – we all need adequate rest to recharge the “battery”. Insufficient rest can be a choice (simply not allowing enough time to sleep), but it can also be the result of adrenal, thyroid, diet and food choices, infections and/or food sensitivities.
  • Fatigue – this can sometimes be a “chicken or the egg” question. Does the pain of the headache create fatigue or does the root cause that is creating the fatigue create the headache? In my experience we see both.
  • Constipation – when the bowels slow, toxic waste products are re-circulated throughout the body. Headache can be a result.
  • Infections, Toxicity – undiagnosed infections or toxins, typically in the gut, put a burden on the body’s immune system, digestive tract and can cause headaches.
  • Sinusitis and Allergies – if you’ve ever had a bad head cold and gotten congested, you’ve likely experienced how the pressure in your head can cause it to ache. This is true for allergies and sinus problems.
  • Inflammation – chronic inflammation is the root cause of all degenerative disease. Inflammation can become widespread affecting many parts of the body and headaches can result.

Environmental factors that have been associated with migraine include imbalances in hormones, food sensitivities, chemicals, alcohol, stress, changes in the wake-sleep pattern, physical factors, and changes of weather or barometric pressure. When using a functional medicine approach, it is important to recognize the role of the gut. This includes a role for the microbiome (including nitrate-reducing bacteria in the mouth) because migraine sufferers have a different mix of gut bacteria that can make them more sensitive to certain foods, for example. This, in turn, activates the gut-associated immune system and alters gut permeability (“leaky gut”). Interestingly, low levels of serotonin in the gut, where most serotonin in the body is produced (by gut bacteria), appear to be linked to migraine.




Don’t let it overwhelm you. Whatever is at the root cause of your headaches can be identified and treated.Since functional medicine evaluates the causes of chronic illness the functional medicine approach is ideal for addressing migraine at its roots.. By understanding imbalances, the person with migraine is empowered to make changes to correct them. In addition to the above, an intravenous magnesium drip can be very helpful.