I want to ask you something personal.
Do you feel bloated after eating? Do you get acid reflux, indigestion, flatulence? Are you constipated? Do you have IBS or diarrhea?
OK, you don’t have to tell me, but it is important to get this out in the open.
Digestive issues are a whole set of symptoms that are rarely considered relevant to migraines, yet all these issues are important to understanding what is going on inside your body. Bloating, acid reflux, indigestion, constipation, and diarrhea aren’t normal. They are indicators that your digestive process isn’t working properly.
So you may be wondering, what on earth would that have to do with migraines?
Well, if you already avoid certain foods that trigger migraines for you, it isn’t such a huge leap to realize that digestive issues are intimately related to migraines.
Depending who you ask, between 70-90% of your immune system is in your gut. This means that if your digestion isn’t working properly, your immune system is going to be compromised. Since chronic inflammation results from a compromised immune system, digestive issues can be a huge factor in migraines.
Leaky Gut and Migraines
One of the major digestive issues that plagues modern society is commonly called Leaky Gut Syndrome. Although this is somewhat of a misnomer (the gut isn’t actually leaking), it is a serious condition that contributes to all kinds of health problems, including allergies, eczema, acne, asthma, chronic fatigue, headaches, hormone imbalances, and digestive issues such as gas, bloating, and diarrhea.
Normally, vitamins, minerals, and amino acids are absorbed into the blood through the walls of the small intestine. In Leaky Gut Syndrome, the small intestine exhibits increased permeability, allowing larger particles to pass into the bloodstream. The larger particles that make it through the intestine walls may include undigested food particles, bacteria, and other toxins. These larger, foreign particles are then circulated all over the body and create inflammation.
The main causes of Leaky Gut Syndrome include chronic stress, chemical toxins, yeast, bacteria, anti-nutrients in grains, and especially gluten. It turns out that whether you have Celiac disease or not, gluten is damaging to your intestine. One study even found that 100% of non-celiac participants exhibited Leaky Gut Syndrome for up to 8 hours after consuming gluten.
Healing a Leaky Gut
If you aren’t ready to go gluten-free yet, one way to get around the negative effects of gluten and grains in general is to ensure that any grains you eat are sprouted before preparation. Sprouting grains destroys the anti-nutrient factors and makes them easier to digest. There are a number of sprouted whole grain breads on the market that can be used instead of regular whole grain bread (these are usually found in the freezer section of your grocery store).
If you are concerned that Leaky Gut Syndrome may be an issue for you, certain foods, along with nutritional and herbal supplements, can help repair the damage to your small intestine. Bone broth will help rebuild the cell walls. Fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi help restore the chemical balance (as long as they aren’t among your food triggers). Cherries contain a chemical called quercetin that reduces intestine permeability.
Nutritionally, zinc absorption is reduced in Leaky Gut Syndrome, so a zinc supplement may be needed. Probiotics and digestive enzymes help restore normal gut function and improve your digestion.
The best herbal remedy for Leaky Gut Syndrome is Slippery Elm bark, the dried and powdered inner bark of the Slippery Elm tree, ulmus fulva. When the powder is dissolved in cold water it forms a thick, gel-like substance that can be used as a thickener in soups and smoothies, or diluted and drunk as a tea. Slippery Elm is cooling and soothing to the intestines, stimulating mucus production to protect the intestine walls.
Other important herbal remedies for Leaky Gut Syndrome include Licorice root, Marshmallow root, and Echinacea. Licorice root maintains the mucosal lining of the stomach, while Marshmallow root protects the intestine similar to Slippery Elm. Echinacea stimulates the immune system, supports tissue repair, and reduces inflammation.
Keep in mind that herbal remedies can have interactions with medication and should always be taken in moderation. You need to use your own judgement and consult with your doctor or pharmacist before trying any supplements.
Even if repairing your gut doesn’t get your migraines under control, you’re sure going to feel much better without these digestive issues!