Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Random Thoughts on Migraine Headaches, Oxytocin, and Mind-Reading

Migraine Headache Syndrome

Definition: 'A migraine is a throbbing, unilateral headache that is 
often associated with nausea, vomiting, photophobia, or an aura
~i.e., a transient disturbance of vision or of various aspects
of neurological function. More than 10% of Americans
suffer from migraines, with the prevalence in women
being about 3 times that in men. The cause of migraine is
not well understood, although it is thought to be due in
part to vasoconstriction followed by reactive vasodilatation.'
Nutritional Medicine textbook, Ch 136, Dr. Alan Gaby MD

Disclosure -- I'm not afflicted by headaches often (unless my child flunks a math quiz) and, never, migraines, yet I've met a ton of people with migraines. Many of my friends experience migraines or used to (half of my favorite gal pals and guy friends). Certain phenotypic characteristics and 'gifts' are inescapable IMHO that I have observed in these individuals: extreme intuition, sometimes clairvoyance, approachability, and super-powered senses (smell, sound, sight, sensory stimuli, barometric pressure, mind-reading).  Additionally, migraineur patients, acquaintances and friends have told me that random people just enjoy blindly going up to them and spilling their entire life stories.  (No one does that to me) I think that is notable.  What do you think of your migraineur family or friends?  I'd like to hear other perspectives on this...

These pals who suffer headaches are special to me. They read my mind and I don't need to talk or articulate...wish I could marry them (...just kidding).  Some I speak to rarely like Patrik V. who runs Paleohacks.com, yet before he has said things and I'll think 'wtf exit my head.'  When some paleo friends first convened, he reported that he had once suffered incapacitating migraine headaches since age six (hiding under tables whilst his mother couldn't find him for hours) until he serendipitously discovered the headache-banishing benefits of the grain-free and dairy-free paleo diet. That's a common story in paleo-land.

Migraine headaches are a P-A-I-N and that is a distinct understatement if you talk to any patient who suffers from migraines which are described as debilitating to the point of impairing function leading to lost quality of life and days of work, family, and leisure time. 

Takano and Nedergaard (see above photo) describe a migraine headache as a sweeping change in electrical depolarization across the brain which is followed by an extended period of neural torpor or suppression. They call it cortical spreading depression (CSD), stating 'Written accounts of migraine are nearly as old as writing itself. Descriptions of headaches, dating to roughly 3000 BCE, have been found in the ruins of the ancient Sumerian civilization.' Perhaps like narrow jaws, occclusions, and tight dental arches (per Weston A. Price), mass migraines and brain pain initiated with the advent of agriculture and the ubiquitous introduction of refined grain carbohydrates into the prehistoric human hunter-gatherer diet?  Perhaps migraineurs have indeed a set of gifts that were naturally selected for despite the outstanding pain and discomfort? 

Evolutionary Advantage of Migraine Headaches?

Harvard neurology professor Loder wrote a Cephalalgia review and presentation 'Migraineur in the Interictus' suggesting evolutionary benefits of the development of the characteristics seen in migraineurs.  Highly responsive nervous systems that detect sensory stimuli at low inputs definitely would be traits worthy of evolutionary selection and retention in the progress of human civilization.  'Hearing the approach of enemies, being eaten by a saber-tooth tiger or detecting or avoiding spoiled or adulterated food' might have been compelling pressures that were affected by the communication of low or nearly negligible levels of sensory information in the environment, plants, people, animals and other living creatures. 

Ancient Treatment for Migraine Headaches: Hole(s) in the Head, Trepanation

In ancient times, it is hypothesized that headaches and migraines were treated with trepanation (boring a hole or holes into skull to release the pressure and pulsation). If I had severe head pain I'd seriously consider but, yeah, I need a hole in my head like a new Jimmy Choo fake purse!  Several lines of evidence relating to archaeological remains report that clinical outcomes and survival were astonishingly decent:  HERE.

Photo credit: Asylum Science

Our Brains are Still Evolving

I'd wildly speculate that the ancestors of individuals with migraines had unique abilities which allowed them to thrive in certain conditions requiring sensitivity to environmental changes and influence in group cooperation, gaining trust, tight social networks and perhaps weather/storm predictions.  In is not a coincidence that the individuals with migraines (if not completely unfunctional) are frequently leaders in their little (or big) so-called tribal units, in my shallow awareness.  NY Times science writer Nicholas Wade wrote in The Twists and the Turns of History, Our DNA, 'The political scientist Francis Fukuyama has distinguished between high-trust and low-trust societies, arguing that trust is a basis for prosperity. Since his 1995 book on the subject, researchers have found that oxytocin, a chemical active in the brain, increases the level of trust, at least in psychological experiments. Oxytocin levels are known to be under genetic control in other mammals like voles.' He has written quite a bit more extensively that our sapien brains grew in size for the machinery necessary to handle intricate, complicated and peaceful social complexity.

Super Perception, e.g. Mind Reading

Many new studies highlight the salient features of oxytocin for perception, feedback, empathetic accuracy and affiliation reward reinforcement. Two recent human controlled trials showed a demonstrated increased gaze focus and the ability to visually read and interpret facial emotional cues after oxytocin administration (some authors called it mind reading). From  sciencedaily.com one of the researchers Lerknes explained "We found that oxytocin intensified test subjects' awareness of the emotions present in the photos. Faces expressing anger stood out as angrier and less happy, and correspondingly, faces expressing happiness were happier."  Graded results occurred -- "It turns out that those with the lowest aptitude for judging emotional expression properly -- that is, those with the poorest scores during the saltwater round -- were the ones who showed the greatest improvement using oxytocin."

Author Nancy Casey hypothesizes in a post 'Oxytocin Gaze' that human hunters emulated carnivorous predators in their meticulous gaze and visual assimilation of the terrain. She posits that the same gaze that is possibly related to oxytocin which maybe employed by mothers in surveying and tracking their newborn babies, meeting their needs, and ensuring their survival in the face of vast helplessness and under-maturity.

Modern Conventionally-Schooled Medical Treatment of Migraines:  Overwhelmingly Uneffective

One out of every six women experiences migraine headaches of some form in America. The population prevalence is 11.7% and comparatively higher than the insane diabetes epidemic in adult Americans (11.3%, 2011 data). Migraine headaches are no small statistic.  With a wide gender divide, women have triple (17.1%) the incidence as men (5.6%).  It's also no coincidence women have more oxytocin than men as well; for us it can regulate love, lust, labor, lactation, and maternal caregiving.  

Funny thing is that if migraineurs have mega mindfulness and their oxytocin is messed up by being either super fluctuating high/low or inappropriately inconsistent or unstable levels  (like blood glucoses in the reactive hypoglycemia model), then it may explain why oxytocin given as a I.V. drug it was 100% successful in halting immediately two cases of refractory migraines seen in an ER unit and in a prospective human study where oxytocin was provided (intranasally, ya know, like cocaine) by Yeomans and Jacobs, Stanford pain researchers, to refractory patients was associated with halting 50% of migraines and reducing 27% (total, 77% better) compared with 11% of placebo. 

My observations are that migraine prevalence and occurrence are unchanged despite great 'advances' in pharmacology (abortive triptans and preventive pharmaceuticals), diagnostic science and understanding of the physiology of this condition.  Like essential hypertension and the great majority of textbook medical conditions, the underlying pathophysiology are still elusive and undetermined, despite wonderful and fantastic fMRI and genetic sequencing techniques. A recent review confirms these considerations, the prevalence of migraines is still the same as 15 years; absolutely no improvements despite the triptan class of medications (which can abort a migraine in 20-60 min 50-70s%, versus placebo 17-40%), preventive therapy (modification of neurotransmitters and vasculature; BP drugs, antidepressants, anti-epileptic drugs), and the standard 'migraine trigger avoidance diet' of avoiding the 5 C's (cheese chocolate coffee coke citrus).  Pharmaceuticals and ridiculous wheat-based diets fail long-term.

What Does Work Long-Term for Migraines: Paleo/Oligo-Antigenic Diet (OAD)

Some of oxytocin's target organ sites include the brain, the gut and thymus. All are organs responsible for the enormous function of homeostasis, immunity and controlling inflammation. It is no wonder that the brain cannot function optimally in isolation from the gut, and no wonder at all that all things that promote healing of the gut can improve migraine headache prevention and amelioration.  

The medical literature from the last 30-80 years in fact identifies wheat (78% Grant, Lancet 1979), cow milk (37%), other cereals, cane sugar, yeast, corn, citrus, and eggs as top migraine-inducing factors.  Identification and elimination of food antigens is key to healing the gut. Sealing of the damage and microperforations by altering intestinal permeability is secondary and vital.  The paleo/ancestral diet and oligo-antigenic diets maybe best with focus on individual susceptibilities and immuno-endocrine optimization. Similar to the results obtained by Frasetto et al in their 10-day paleo experiment for reversal of pre-clinical hypertension in overweight patients, the researcher Grant (Lancet, 1979) in a seminal study looked 60 migraineurs with food antigen immunoreactivity. After only 5-days of an elimination diet (pseudo paleo) she reported 'When an average of ten common foods were avoided there was a dramatic fall in the number of headaches per month, 85% of patients becoming headache-free. The 25% of patients with hypertension became normotensive.'

Dealing with circulating antigen-antibody and immune complexes that are formed in the body when food antigens and microbial peptides (cell walls, DNA, cellular contents, junk) interact with immune system may help permanently to achieve and to maintain disease resolution, I believe. Two recently published human RCTs (Aplay et al and Mitchell et al) showed that by eliminating foods linked to high food-antigen related immune globulin IgG titers, an association for statistically significant reductions in migraine headaches occurred at 6 weeks and 4 weeks, respectively.  Heal...Seal...Deal...


Takahiro Takano, Maiken Nedergaard
J Clin Invest. 2009 January 5; 119(1): 16–19. 

What is the evolutionary advantage of migraine?  [Free PDF CLICK]
Loder E.
Cephalalgia. 2002 Oct;22(8):624-32. Review.

http://www.hcop.com/PDF/Migraineur%20in%20the%20Interictus%20-%20Loder.pdf [Elizabeth Loder MD]

Marcelo C. A. Rodrigues et al.
Front Hum Neurosci. 2012; 6: 207. 

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/12/weekinreview/12wade.html?_r=1&pagewanted=print [Nicholas Wade]

Leknes S, Wessberg J, Ellingsen DM, Chelnokova O, Olausson H, Laeng B.
Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2012 Jun 29.

Oxytocin improves "mind-reading" in humans.  [Free PDF CLICK]
Domes G, Heinrichs M, Michel A, Berger C, Herpertz SC.
Biol Psychiatry. 2007 Mar 15;61(6):731-3. 

Associations between the oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) and "mind-reading" in humans-An exploratory study.
Lucht MJ, Barnow S, Sonnenfeld C, Ulrich I, Grabe HJ, Schroeder W, Völzke H, Freyberger HJ, John U, Herrmann FH, Kroemer H, Rosskopf D.
Nord J Psychiatry. 2012 Jul 19. 

Lipton RB, Bigal ME, Diamond M, Freitag F, Reed ML, Stewart WF; AMPP Advisory Group.
Neurology. 2007 Jan 30;68(5):343-9.

Phillips WJ, Ostrovsky O, Galli RL, Dickey S.
J Pain Palliat Care Pharmacother. 2006;20(3):25-8.

Yeomans DC, Manering N, Pascual C, Angst MS, Jacobs D, Mechanic J, Jacobs A, 
Qiao Y, Winkle C, Frey W. Nasal Oxytocin for Head Pain. 13th World Congress on 
Pain, 2010.

Yeomans DC, Pascual CR, Jacobs A, Angst MS, Jacobs D, Winkle CC, Frey WH. 
Intranasal Oxytocin for Craniofacial Pain. Annual Meeting of the Society for 
Neuroscience, 2009.

An Integrative Model of Migraine Based on Intestinal Etiology
David McMillin, MA

http://www.drcordas.com/education/Headaches/1doc.pdf  [Oligo-Antigenic Diet abstracts]

http://www.nutramed.com/kidney/nephritis_foodallergy.htm  [Benefits of binding immune complexes or OAD abstracts]

Food allergies and migraine.
Grant EC.
Lancet. 1979 May 5;1(8123):966-9.

Pascual J, Oterino A.
Cephalalgia. 2010 Jul;30(7):777-9.  

Levinsky RJ.
J Clin Pathol. 1981 Nov;34(11):1214-22.

Alpay K, Ertas M, Orhan EK, Ustay DK, Lieners C, Baykan B.
Cephalalgia. 2010 Jul;30(7):829-37. 

Randomised controlled trial of food elimination diet based on IgG antibodies for the prevention ofmigraine like headaches.
Mitchell N, Hewitt CE, Jayakody S, Islam M, Adamson J, Watt I, Torgerson DJ.
Nutr J. 2011 Aug 11;10:85.


Michael Foer said...

I noticed beef was associated with 35% of people experiencing migraines in one of the links you provided. That kinda makes you doubt the intrinsic 'pathological' nature of the food and instead makes you question the milieu of the individual.


Dr. B G said...


I think you make an excellent point. Thank you for your comment. Also as we know anything can have a lethal dose, even water!

Some of the internal milieu actually includes predisposition that is literally set by our maternal lineage epigenetically. If one's grandmother or mother experienced great stress (cortisol), environmental toxins/ endocrine disruptors, or protein deprivation (or high carb diet), then studies now link higher chronic disease and cortisol in several generations afterwards. Higher cortisol and other factors will absolutely predispose an individual to higher intestinal permeability (which I believe is a precursor to all chronic disease).

Here's an example of all the foods reacting from the 2010 RCT. Anything that crosses a microperforated one-cell intestinal lining will eventually react, but as you can see some foods (lectins) are more immunogenic. Lectins are part of the immunity of both animals and plants, thus they are evolutionarily designed to be 'sticky' to neutralize non-self pathogens (virus, pathogenic fungi bacteria and other microbes).

Gluten is a glue. Lamb is one of the least reactive meat and I think this is because most lamb consume non- or at least lower grain/soy type of diet (at this time). Feedlot herds eat not only grains but pesticide coated GMO corn and GMO soy.

Alkay et al Cephalagia 2010

Table 1.
The food categories from most frequent IgG positivity to least

Number of patients with positive test result (n=30)
Spices 27
Seeds and nuts 24
Seafood 24
Starch 22
Food additives 21
Vegetables 21
Cheese 20
Fruits 20
Sugar products 20
Other additives 14
Eggs 14
Milk and milk products 14
Infusions 13
Salads 10
Mushrooms 9
Yeast 5
Meat 5

(meat is actually the least in this food IgG study)

Dr. B G said...

To clarify (sorry for deluge), GMO corn includes Bt corn which has been genetic altered to secrete high copy expression of a delta endotoxin from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) a natural soil bacterium. This endotoxin is a potent lectin which rips the gut open of insects, worms and other crop 'pests'.

Many of our diseases growing in odd and epidemic proportions (obesity, autism, cancer, diabetes) can without a doubt be attributed to the wide spread consumption of Bt corn now that we understand how intestinal permeability determines health, that DNA is (intergenerational) information passed in crosskingdom signals, and that many modern factors threaten to make our gut microbiome extinct (metals, amalgams, vaccines, n-6 pufa, antibiotic-like growth hormones used in cow, dairy, poultry feedlots):


[from my R-hand sidebar] Utero-placental toxicity? Herbicide lectin-gut-protoxins Bt in blood of 93% healthy pregnant women, 80% fetuses

1. W. Doerfler, R. Schubbert, H. Heller, C. Kämmer, K. Hilger-Eversheim, M. Knoblauch, and R. Remus. Integration of foreign DNA in mammalian systems and its consequences.
Review. Trends in Biotechnology. 15, 297-301, 1997.

2. R. Schubbert, D. Renz, B. Schmitz, and W.
Doerfler.Foreign (M13) DNA ingested by mice reaches peripheral leukocytes,
spleen and liver via the intestinal wall mucosa and can be covalently
linked to mouse DNA.
Proc. Natl. Acad.Sci. USA 94, 961-966, 1997.

3. Uptake of foreign DNA from the environment: The gastrointestinal tract and the placenta as portals of entry
Doerfler, W., Schubbert, R.
Wiener klinische Wochenschrift, Nr. 110, 2, 1998

4. Rainer Schubbert, Clarissa Lettmann and Walter Doerfler. Ingested foreign (phage M13) DNA survives transiently in the gastrointestinal tract and enters the bloodstream of mice. Molecular and General Genetics MGG, Volume 242, Number 5 / March, 1994

5. Walter Doerfler. Fremde DNA aus der Nahrung gelangt über den Darm in den Organismus von Mäusen und über die Plazenta in Foeten und Neugeborene. Forschung in Köln, nr 2 1998, http://www-f.rrz.uni-koeln.de/organe/presse/fik.html.

6. Foreign DNA in Mammalian Systems. Walter Doerfler (Institut f. Genetik, Univ. zu Koln, Weyertal 121, 50931 Koln, Germany), Publisher: Wiley. ISBN: 3527300899 Publication Date: 1999

Michael Foer said...

Very cool stuff!

I guess this explains why grass-fed and grain fed beef have such different effects(like changing 03 composition of our cell membranes) on our bodies even though their nutritional profile is VERY similar.

Dr. B G said...

Right on!!

praguestepchild said...

So is this blog coming back from the dead?

Totally righteous, dude!

Dr. B G said...

haaa ahaha LOL... I guess like a phoenix... YESSSSSSSS!!!!!

Thanks for you being such a generous and kind shoulder to cry on, Sean

Dr. B G said...

ChrisG has left a new comment on your post "Random Thoughts on Migraine Headaches, Oxytocin, a...":

A long wait, but worth it. Always some serious high-density info here... thanks.

Sorry the comment seemed to disappear!

ChrisG --
Really? I hope so...! Thanks and much cheer...

Mike K. said...

Dr BG,

My sis = big time migraine sufferer. Hx of Hasimoto's, now on synthroid. Boatload of wheat/sugar in diet, tx of migraines w/ NSAIDs (chronic trigger of gut permeability = Hashimoto onset? I think so.) Personality wise, highly driven, intelligent, runs her own marketing company.

Sent her your link to this post, pure money!

Dr. B G said...

One guy friend calls MY GRAINS = migraines. *ha ahaha*

I appreciate the FYI. That's so keen... Despite all the pain and debilitation, to rise above and be incredibly successful, she's sounds VERY COOL.

Anonymous said...

I had migraines as a small child, up to about age 5, then outgrew them, strangely enough. No headaches ever, as an adult; but all my life people, even complete strangers, have opened up to me. I never do anything to encourage it that I"m aware of, but it happens all the time. Even when I go to the doctor, I often hear more about their problems!

My husband always notices it, but this is the first time I've read any discussion of it.

Anonymous said...

I have suffered from migraines for many years, one to two of them a month. Have been eating Paleo for two months and I haven't had a migraine or really any headaches in that time. Plus my chronic neck pain from a car accident is also pretty much gone. I am much more clear headed now. I also consider myself a highly sensitive person. Sensitive to my surroundings and to what people are feeling. I believe that this is only being enhanced now that I do not have so much pain to deal with! Great article! Found this through Mark's Daily Apple!

Dr. B G said...



(like all my dear and lovely friends)

Can you tell when the pressure domes change prior to rain or weather shifts?


Thank you for your insights! Isn't Mark THE SMARTEST hunk...evah??! I love love love the Daily Apple and science updates!

That is heartening to hear your chronic neck pain AND migraine headaches all resolved by a change in diet. And only a few months!!

I've had people wonder, will I lose my 'bionic senses' if I go paleo? Well. I don't think so. Like you may be experiencing, without pain and debilitation as an intermittent or constant distraction, I can only imagine that there would heightened capacity and extra reserves instead of stimulus overload... Would love to hear more as you continue your journey!


Jeffrey of Troy said...

Magnesium reduced my headaches' frequency, severity, and duration.

Dr. B G said...

Thanks Jeffrey. I like Mag a lot.

Grain-based, unprocessed grain/oat diets and chronic inflammation can really deplete this vital mineral and we just never catch up to repletion (especially those who sweat a ton). In migraine clinical trials, it trumps the placebo effect by double for reducing migraine frequency.

zanjabil said...

I have had migraines since I was 8 yrs old( I am 35). I've eliminated grains, still get them. I've recently eliminated chocolate :(, still getting them. I am weaning myself off coffee( which is hard!) I've eliminated dairy in the past and still got them. I guess I need to eliminated all of these things at once. It's so hard because I have issues with fructose and in high fiber veggies. I feel like there is nothing left for me to eat. I guess I need to eat meat, eggs, low fiber veggies, and almonds( which are the only nuts I eat). I feel like I need to be hospitalized to do it. Help!!! Also what you said about us being Intuitive and clairvoyant is so true. People love to come up to me and tell me their life stories. This is an excellent post!

Dr. B G said...


I like your story, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Migraines, like hot flushes, are associated with perturbation of the HPA stress cortisol axis and the lack of metabolic flexibility at the hypothalamus level. Scientists have measured insulin resistance in the brain and it is significantly higher in women with either migraines and hot flushes.

Have you read the Brain Trust by pediatric neurosurgeon Larry McCleary? Have you heard of the value of the below for brain and migraine optimization?
--MCT oil/coconut oil
--magnesium, zinc and other minerals
--adequate hydration to prevent dehydration
--eating small frequent meals with protein, fat and adequate complex carbohydrates (white rice, yams, red potatoes, low GI fruit, etc) to keep blood sugars even and stable?
--evaluation for low thyroid
--evaluation for dysfunctional adrenals (read Dr. Lam's protocol)

Hope you feel better soon and would love to hear of your progress or what doesn't work later.


zanjabil said...

I take taurine, Mg,B vits, and use coconut oil and drink coconut milk. I will now be using more coconut milk now that I am giving up dairy. I've switched to green tea( no more coffee!) as of today. I do think that taurine helps, but not as well if I am not eating right. Ive been on a 7 day migraine stretch, so today I bit the bullet, and am going straight paleo. I need to work on the small regular meals, and Read up on adrenals. My thyroid test came back normal, but when I did the temperature test ( per Dr. Barnes) it showed I had the low body temp of hypo thyroid. I will definitely read the books you suggested. Thanks so much! I will let you know how every thing goes. Oh yeah, my adrenals are probably fried from years of coffee, and chocolate consuming.

Dr. B G said...


I think you have adrenal exhaustion... everyone does but especially those in chronic pain/migraineurs since pain can rob one of their reserves (mental, physical, emo).

Read and Dr. Lam:

You are getting there! Just hang in there. You'll be in my thoughts and prayers ;)