MIGRAINES and CHRONIC HEADACHES
Headaches can be devastating. They can ruin your life by ruining any plans you may have had before the headache started. Headaches are one of the biggest causes of missed time at work. They can affect every single aspect of your life. Migraine Headaches can be even worse. We now know through scientific research that the condition is actually a neurological condition that is caused by gradually increasing levels of inflammation in the body and the brain. In headache patients, inflammation specifically affects the perivascular spaces in the brain; this is the area around the blood vessels. This is the only area of the brain where pain nerves live. Without pain nerves, you feel no pain, unfortunately, that is not reality in headache patients. Headache patients, more specifically Migraine Headache patients, have an abnormally high amount of inflammation being produced inside of their bodies. This inflammation causes irritation to the pain nerves in the perivascular spaces, and this is what causes the headache or migraine. This inflammation can also affect other areas of the body as well as the brain. It is this same inflammation that eventually starts to damage other areas of the body, such as nervous system, the digestive tract, and the endocrine system. When these other systems of the body begin to
malfunction as a result of the inflammation, we begin to see the other symptoms. These can be fatigue, brain fog, cold hands and feet, insomnia or sleep problems, digestive problems or IBS, decreased energy or lethargy and many other symptoms
If what the scientific research says is true, that Migraine Headaches are caused by rising levels of inflammation in the body. Then to properly treat the headaches, we as doctors need to figure out what is causing the inflammation in the first place. We know without a doubt that inflammation is the direct result of activity of our immune systems. Modern science has proven this fact, and there are many research papers and studies that show exactly how this happens. Simply put, whenever an immune system cell, called a white blood cell, is activated by a foreign particle, or antigen, such as a bacteria, a virus, a mold or fungus, a parasite, or even yeast or candida spores, the white blood cell will release a chemical called a Cytokine. Cytokines act as a chemical messenger to call on other white blood cells to help kill the foreign particle or antigen. Cytokines also help to control the overall activity of our immune systems. Without the help of the Cytokines, the immune system would act in a chaotic manner and we would die from infections very easily.
In a normal reaction, an antigen would present itself inside of our bodies. A white blood cell would engulf and destroy the antigen. As the white blood cell does this, it releases Cytokines that call other white blood cells to join the fight and kill any other foreign antigens that may be there. As more white blood cells join the fight, they also release Cytokines. As the level of Cytokines increases inside our bodies, so does the level of systemic inflammation. One of the negative aspects of Cytokines is that they allow the production of inflammation to occur. In a typical scenario, white blood cells get called to action by Cytokines from other white blood cells. The newly arrived white blood cells then release more Cytokines. As the level of Cytokines rises, so does the level of inflammation in our bodies. When we have a cold or a flu, we all experience the same relative symptoms. We get achy, tired, and lethargic. We may get a headache, and we may even get nauseous. We generally feel SICK. The reason we feel SICK is not because of the bacteria or virus inside of our body. We feel SICK because of the inflammation that is a result of the Cytokines being released by our white blood cells. Once the infection begins to die off, Cytokine levels slowly start to decrease. As this happens, inflammation levels begin to come down, and we then begin to feel better.
This is what happens when everything goes as planned. But what would happen if our immune systems and
our white blood cells were not able to kill the antigen that found its way into our bodies? That’s right, Cytokine levels would stay elevated or worse yet, they would continue to increase. This would mean that inflammation levels would also continue to rise, and again, it is inflammation that makes us unhealthy and sick. This is exactly what happens in people with chronic health problems like Migraine Headaches. Inflammation is the true underlying cause of all chronic health problems. This is no revelation. It has been documented over and over again. Time magazine did a full article on it, and even 60 Minutes did an episode on this fact. If we could figure out exactly what our immune system’s cells were reacting to and therefore producing Cytokines, we could eliminate THE CAUSE… INFLAMMATION! Our bodies are remarkable, they can heal, but only if we allow healing to occur. Inflammation will not only prevent healing from occurring, but inflammation will also perpetuate tissue destruction and symptoms of disease. Think of a child. If they fall down and scrape their knee, the scrape will heal as long as the child doesn’t keep scratching at it. That scratching causes inflammation, and inflammation will prevent the abrasion from healing. Once the child stops scratching the abrasion, healing will start. We can even do things to accelerate the healing. In this case, we can use antiseptic creams like Neosporin, and even a bandage. These things will help the cut heal quicker, but only if the child doesn’t irritate the cut and cause more inflammation. Our body’s act the exact same way in the case of chronic health problems like Migraine Headaches.
So how can we determine what is causing the activation of our immune cells that cause Cytokine production and elevated levels of inflammation? We use specific laboratory tests. Fortunately there are only so many things our immune system cells will attack. As a doctor it is our main job to figure this out. Chronically sick people need to be tested for immune stimulating items such as hidden or persistent infections. Infections can occur anywhere in the body, and they not only damage tissue, but they activate the immune system and cause the production of Cytokines, which raise levels of inflammation. Environmental toxins are also prone to stimulate our immune cells. And unfortunately, environmental toxins are everywhere. We live in a heavily polluted world these days. Even organically grown food has environmental toxins in them from rain water or even pollutants in the air that settle in the fields and on the plants. These toxins are then taken into the plants that we eat. These toxins should normally be eliminated naturally from our bodies, but this process is hindered in chronically sick patients because of the inflammation. Heavy metals also activate our immune cells. Certain heavy metals are more destructive than others, but they are all toxic at high levels. We ingest heavy metals just like we ingest other environmental toxins. In chronically sick or unhealthy patients, our bodies cannot effectively eliminate
these toxins and they activate our immune system cells which cause more Cytokines and inflammation, in
which case then makes us even sicker. We also need to check Migraine Headache patients for the presence of
immunologic food sensitivities. Our genes tell our immune system cells what is friendly and what is foreign. Things that are friendly are left alone, but things that are genetically perceived as foreign are attacked by our immune system cells. Once the attack begins, Cytokine levels rise, and therefore inflammation levels also rise. If we have genes that tell our immune system cells that a particular food protein is harmful or foreign, our immune system cells will attack it as they would any other bacteria or virus. This will cause inflammation through the elevation of Cytokine levels. The resultant inflammation is what makes us feel sick, and it also causes damage to surrounding tissue. If our immune system is attacking a food protein in our digestive tract, we will have elevated levels of inflammation in our digestive tract. This inflammation will then create damage to our digestive tracts. This is also known as Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome or IBS. There are two main jobs of our digestive tracts. The first one is digestion and absorption of the nutrients from our foods. The other job is to act as a barrier to keep harmful material out of our bodies so they can be eliminated as waste. If our digestive tracts are damaged, we will not be able to absorb all the vital nutrients from our foods. We will then slowly
develop nutrient deficiencies over time. Without certain nutrients, we cannot efficiently run all the vital
functions in our body. We can develop things like anemias, decreased energy production, hormonal imbalances, neurotransmitter imbalances, and even altered detoxification pathways. All of these affects of nutrient deficiencies will cause more dysfunction in the body which will lead to more inflammation, which will in turn create more dysfunction. Not to mention that damage to the digestive tract from inflammation will also cause a breach in our main barrier system. This breach will then allow other harmful toxins to be able to get into our body. Once inside, the toxins will further stimulate the immune system and create more inflammation through Cytokine production. This process will become a vicious cycle that will slowly continue to build over years or decades and gradually steal your health and quality of life.
So remember, you have to first identify the triggers that your immune system cells are reacting to. This is what causes Cytokines to be released. Cytokines cause the production of inflammation, and the inflammation that results is what causes headaches. Specific lab testing needs to be done to properly identify what is stimulating your immune system. Once these triggers are identified, they can be eliminated through nutritional protocols, diet modification, and/or lifestyle modification. Only a healthy body can heal!!! In order to become healthy, you need to identify what is making you unhealthy. It is this basic premise of healthcare that is often overlooked, especially if the treating doctor is just trying to manage your symptoms. True health care is about figuring out what is truly making you sick, and this is what our approach is all about.
If you are truly interested in learning more about this unique program, please either watch the video’s on this page, or call our office directly at 813-933-6481 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Willmitch. The video will provide many answers to why you continue to feel the way you do. It will also explain exactly what you need to do in order to finally gain the quality of life you’ve been searching for.