Life Extension Magazine December 2006
The Migraine Cure
By Sergey A. Dzugan, MD, PhD
II. Resetting the Pineal Gland
It may only be the size of a pea, but the pineal gland, located deep in the brain, plays a major role in both the development and elimination of migraine. That is because this tiny gland is the body's primary source of melatonin, a hormone that orchestrates the body's circadian (daily) rhythm, including and especially sleep patterns.
Research findings support the idea that pineal gland irregularity, and thus melatonin imbalance, is involved in the development of migraine.
Melatonin is an important piece in the migraine and sleep disturbance puzzle. Restoration of balanced pineal gland function and healthy sleep patterns are critical components in The Migraine Cure treatment program.
Melatonin supplements are widely available, in grocery stores, pharmacies, health food stores, department stores, and by mail order. As part of the pineal restoration segment of The Migraine Cure, I recommend a combination product that contains melatonin (3 mg), vitamin B6, and kava kava, with one or two capsules taken at bedtime, depending on individual needs.
In most cases, patients need to take melatonin for only a few months, until the pineal circadian cycle is restored. Then they may take it periodically for a few days per month or every few months if their sleep becomes disturbed.
In addition to melatonin, we recommend kava kava as part of the restoration program for pineal function. Kava root extract, which is derived from the root of Piper methysticum, has a calming effect, promotes sleep, and relaxes deep muscles, abilities attributed to components called kavalactones.
Patients who follow The Migraine Cure plan as recommended typically take melatonin and kava at the beginning of the program, but once they are migraine-free—which usually happens within two to four weeks—they can reduce their use of melatonin and kava to a minimal dose and discontinue them later, depending on how well their sleep problems have resolved.
The most common side effect from kava use is mild gastrointestinal disturbances in some people. Kava has also been associated with skin rashes and enlargement of the pupils. Kava should not be combined with drugs or substances that act on the central nervous system, such as alcohol or benzodiazepines. Individuals with liver problems should not use kava. Use of kava should generally be limited to three months.
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) is an important part of the migraine treatment program for several reasons. When it comes to restoring pineal function, vitamin B6 is necessary for the production of serotonin, the brain neurotransmitter that has a major role in the sleep-wake cycle, chronic pain, mood, and appetite. I also recommend it because, like kava kava, it has a calming effect. The typical dose is 10-20 mg taken 30 minutes before bedtime.
III. Achieving Metabolic Balance
The link between migraine and gastrointestinal (GI) disorders, and especially between GI disorders and the gut (intestinal tract), has been confirmed by numerous studies and clinical observations.
Successful elimination of migraine depends on a healthy gut, and fortunately, you have a great deal of control over that environment. One of the most important things you can do to ensure a healthy intestinal tract is to maintain a balance between friendly and unfriendly bacteria—the intestinal flora—in the gut. Friendly bacteria are those that provide health-promoting or health-maintaining properties, while the unfriendly varieties can significantly harm your health. When the balance tips in favor of the bad bacteria, the gut becomes damaged and inflamed. This condition, often called dysbiosis, is characterized by symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation, gas, abdominal pain, cramping, and bloating.
As a person with migraine, when your gut feels like it is in knots—when you have symptoms of diarrhea, constipation, irritable bowel, or abdominal pain—you need to restore balance to your intestinal flora if you want to rid yourself not only of your gut pain but of your migraine as well. I have found an excellent way to accomplish this goal is through supplementation with probiotics.
Probiotics are supplements of live, friendly bacteria that you can take to enhance or restore the balance of bacterial flora in your intestinal tract. The most common and essential of the friendly bacteria are the bifidobacteria, streptococcus, and lactobacilli species, which perform many functions essential for health and well-being. For example, they can:
After much research and experimentation, the probiotic supplement I recommend is a powdered formula that contains 3.5 billion of lactobacillus group, 1 billion of bifidobacterium group, and 0.5 billion of streptococcus thermophilus per dose. It is well tolerated, easy to use, and has helped a great many people. After several months of taking this supplement on a daily basis, most people find that occasional use, perhaps once a month, is sufficient to maintain a healthy gut and overall health and well-being.
IV. Ion Balancing Act
Critical for the success of The Migraine Cure is restoration of the balance between two minerals, ionized magnesium and ionized calcium. The precarious balance between these two elements is intimately connected with the activity of the steroid hormones, the function of the pineal gland, proper functioning of the digestive system, and, by extension, balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.
The Calcium-to-Magnesium Ratio
The relationship between the calcium-to-magnesium ratio and migraine has been known for some time. In 1993, for example, researchers noted that low levels of ionized magnesium and a high ionized-calcium-to-ionized magnesium ratio are both associated with migraine, as these two conditions cause cerebral vasospasm and reduced blood flow to the brain.
A balanced ratio of calcium to magnesium also is necessary to help prevent fatigue and regulate the sleep cycle, two factors common among migraineurs. Again, this balance also reflects a balance between the sympathetic nervous system (which calcium has an impact on) and the parasympathetic nervous system (which magnesium influences).
If a magnesium deficiency is part of the recipe for migraine, then it follows that supplementation should be beneficial. Research and experience indicate that this is true. Several studies have shown that supplementation with magnesium relieves migraine in people who have low serum ionized magnesium levels. We also know that supplementation with magnesium relieves symptoms of PMS, including migraine, bloating, and edema, and that magnesium supplementation can be an effective prophylactic (preventive agent) and treatment for migraine.
Although magnesium supplements are available in a variety of types and forms (e.g., magnesium sulfate, oxide, gluconate, carbonate, and chloride), the form I recommend to everyone who participates in The Migraine Cure is magnesium citrate. This is the type the body is best able to absorb. I especially recommend a powdered, water-soluble magnesium supplement, 400-800 mg taken at bedtime, or 200-400 mg taken in the morning followed by 400 mg at bedtime, depending on individual needs. If you have any type of heart or kidney disease, talk to your doctor before taking magnesium.
Additional Benefits of The Migraine Cure
One of the most gratifying experiences in writing The Migraine Cure book, besides the fact that it eliminates migraine, is that it will also help people alleviate many other symptoms and conditions. This is good news, because most people who live with migraine also struggle with one or more other health problems, including depression, insomnia, high cholesterol, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, mood swings, menstrual difficulties, or sleep disturbances. So while we were busy recommending hormone restoration, pineal resetting, calcium-magnesium rebalancing, and digestive realignment, and getting excellent results when it came to eliminating migraine, patients were reporting—and we were noting—that other health concerns were disappearing as well.
My research and experience have shown me that the basics of The Migraine Cure are the recipe for successful treatment and often complete elimination of many other physical and psychological conditions, including high cholesterol, heart disease, and fibromyalgia.