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Discovering the cause of a migraine can be tricky. Triggers are not only difficult to find but often lead nowhere. A new study finds that certain heavy metals are linked to migraines, along with deficiences in certain minerals.
For millions of people, migraines can not only be severe, but also mysterious.
When a person tries to connect their migraine with something they might eat or do, they are looking for something typically called a trigger. This is not necessarily the cause of the migraine, but it might be related to the migraine – especially if it repeats itself prior to every migraine.
Better than a trigger is a metabolic diagnostic indicator. This could be, for example, a fasting blood sugar level, a high CRP level during a time with repeated migraines or some other diagnostic measurement.
The reason why diagnostic indicators can be more important than triggers is because diagnostic indicators can also allow us to understand the metabolic cause – and a possible solution for the migraine. This contrasts with a trigger, where a potential solution may only relate to removing that particular trigger, but doesn't get to the root of the problem.
Removing one trigger may lead to continued migraines following other triggers. This can be a never-ending process. This leaves some people dealing with migraines for decades without a solution.
But discovering a diagnostic indicator will help us determine a larger-scale strategy to remove the migraine.
Testing migraineurs for heavy metals and minerals
New research from Turkey's Yuzuncu Yil University has utilized a diagnostic indicator to discover the potential link between heavy metals, minerals and migraines.
The diagnostic tool is quite simple: A blood analysis using atomic absorption spectrophotometry.
The researchers tested 50 people – 25 of whom had been diagnosed with migraines. The other 25 people were healthy control subjects. None of those tested were taking any antioxidant or multivitamin supplements. Also, none smoked, or had an alcoholic addiction, abused drugs, had liver or kidney disease, a heart condition or inflammatory condition.
Those who suffered from migraines were admitted to the hospital and received a diagnosis and treatment program consistent with the recommendations of the International Headache Society.
Certain heavy metals linked to migraines
The researchers found that the migraine patients had significantly higher levels of certain heavy metals compared with the healthy control group. The heavy metals found in higher levels among the migraine patients were:
Cadmium: The migraine group had an average of .36 micrograms per deciliter (ug/dl) compared to an average of .09 ug/dl among the healthy controls. That means the migraineurs had on average of four times the cadmium in their blood compared with the control group.
Iron: The migraineurs had an average of .97 ug/dl of this mineral – sometimes considered a heavy metal – in their bloodstream. Meanwhile, the healthy controls averaged less than half that amount, with .48 ug/dl.
Lead: The migraineurs had an average of 1.48 ug/dl of this heavy metal in their bloodstream. The healthy controls had an average of .70 ug/dl – again less than half the levels of the migraineurs.
Manganese: This is considered both a mineral and heavy metal – as are all of the above - depending upon the levels found. This and the others above are normally found in miniscule amounts in healthy persons. The migraine sufferers had an average of 2.30 ug/dl of manganese. The healthy controls had levels of .62 in their bloodstream. This means the migraineurs had nearly four times the manganese levels found in the healthy group.
Certain mineral deficiencies also linked to migraines
The research also found that the migraine sufferers had notable deficiencies in certain minerals. Here are the heavy hitters:
Copper: The migraine sufferers had an average of 4.63 ug/dl of copper in their blood. Meanwhile, the healthy group had an average of 8.90 ug/dl of copper. This means the healthy group had nearly double the levels of this important mineral.
Magnesium: The migraineurs had an average of 10.58 ug/dl of this important mineral in their bloodstream. Meanwhile the healthy controls had an average of 34.51 ug/dl in their blood. This means the healthy controls had about 350% - or three and a half times – the levels of magnesium in their blood compared the migraine sufferers.
Zinc: The migraine sufferers had an average of .24 ug/dl of this important mineral. This contrasted greatly with the healthy group, which had an average of 5.77 ug/dl of zinc in their bloodstreams. This means the healthy group had over 24 times the levels of zinc in their blood compared to the migraine sufferers!
The importance of mineral balancing
Mineral balance is critical to health. Many studies have linked numerous conditions with either heavy metal toxicity or a deficiency in certain minerals. As mentioned above, those elements considered heavy metals are present in most natural foods and healthy people, but in very small amounts. They are thus to be considered microminerals within the context of our body.
Other minerals – such as calcium, magnesium, zinc and others – are considered macrominerals within the body because our body requires greater amounts of these minerals. These - and even the microminerals – are used in the body for numerous functions. These include enzyme functions and the production of hormones, neurotransmitters and many others. Some minerals – such as calcium and magnesium – are also used by nerve cells to facilitate the transmission of electrical impulses.
Interestingly, when the body is deficient of a particular type of mineral, our metabolism will typically substitute another type of mineral for that function – one with a similar atomic configuration. This substitution often leads to suppressed metabolism – which can result in greater amounts of inflammation and greater fatigue, stress - and now we can say - a greater risk of migraines.
Other studies have confirmed that many conditions are linked with heavy metal toxicity and mineral deficiencies. These include dementias, cancers, autistic spectrum disorders, brain disorders and so many others. Research has linked heavy metals to increased oxidative damage – which are linked to these and many other disorders.
This also includes artery diseases, as high cadmium levels have been linked to thickened arteries and atherosclerosis. This of course can relate directly to migraines, as migraines often relate to poor microcirculation, especially around the brain and neck region.
With regards to brain disorders in particular, lead has been linked with brain cancer and brain issues because it readily crosses the blood-brain barrier.
As for therapeutic use of minerals for migraines, both magnesium and zinc have been used for migraines.
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