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migraine headaches

  • Food poisoning bacteria E. coli and Salmonella certainly inflict misery and, in weakened persons, can be deadly. Fortunately, after the nausea and diarrhea run their course, they are not heard from again unless we eat something contaminated.

    H. pylori (Helicobacter pylori) also affects the stomach but is more deadly and long-lasting. It can lead to ulcers that claim 9,000 Americans yearly and stomach cancer that kills 11,000. H. pylori is not in the news despite being the world's most common bacterial infection—it stays under the radar because it acts slowly.

    You might suspect an H. pylori infection if you have one or more of these issues: heartburn, stinky breath (without a serious gum problem), bloating, stomach pain, or nausea or vomiting an hour or so after a meal. It also interferes with our stomach acid; so you should be concerned if you also have symptoms of stomach acid deficiency listed in my book. (Osteoporosis is one example.) H. pylori is also believed to be involved in migraine headaches, rosacea, one type of arthritis, anemia, B12 deficiency, glaucoma, heart disease, atrial fibrillation, asthma, and morning sickness.

    In spite of all those potential clues, doctors do not usually test for H. pylori unless the patient has a raging ulcer. It is too typical in our medical system to just treat each symptom individually with a prescription drug. Third-party payers don't reimburse physicians for the time needed to analyze history and test for an underlying cause, and waiting for the system to change probably isn't a viable option. There is much we can do ourselves though, and prevention is always better than the most enlightened treatment.

    H. pylori prevention raises two obvious questions: why don't all people who are exposed become infected? And why do only one in six who harbor H. pylori come down with a diagnosable stomach disease? We know that H. pylori bacteria are transmitted through tainted food or water, so improved sanitation reduces exposure. However, its ability to infect and cause trouble depends largely on the condition of the potential host (that's us).

    For example, two-thirds of stomach cancer cases occur in people over age 65. That is when our bodies begin to exhibit the accumulated insults of smoking, alcohol excess, unsatisfactory diet, stress, toxic buildup, and medication usage. (Note that alcohol excess is an H. pylori risk, but moderate alcohol is actually protective—apparently it sterilizes the stomach.) Those who eat the most smoked and highly salted foods, but few fruits and vegetables, are also at higher risk to stomach cancer.

    A key protector against H. pylori is sufficient stomach acid. Stomach acid is our first line of defense against invaders but typically declines after age 50. That's coincidentally when the risk of H. pylori infection goes up. Acid-blocking drugs like Nexium and Prilosec purposely deplete stomach acid. Not surprisingly, folks who regularly take that type of drug are at much greater risk for dying of pneumonia! A second line of defense is our beneficial bacteria called probiotics. These good guys compete with the bad guys for space and food and they attack pathogens with natural anti-bacterial chemicals.

    Individuals who have healthy gastrointestinal mucous membranes do not become infected with H. pylori, or at least do not develop symptoms. To maintain that important barrier we must not only eat food rich in tissue-repair nutrients, we must also be able to digest and absorb those nutrients. Aiding proper digestion is another key role of friendly bacteria.

    In fact, probiotics benefit almost every function in the body directly or indirectly. Our very life depends on the several pounds of good bugs that should live in our gut. They create vitamins (A, B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, K and Biotin); feed the gut lining; help digest food; detoxify dangerous substances; help remove hormone excess; help maintain healthy cholesterol and triglyceride levels; increase the number of immune cells; help cells reproduce normally; reduce inflammation and stimulate cell repair mechanisms. Knowing those fundamental functions, you can imagine the health trouble and potential for infection that ensues if the probiotics become weakened. There is one beneficial bacterial strain, TH10, which has been shown in the laboratory to be especially effective against H. pylori. TH10 is only contained in the probiotic system, Dr. Ohhira's Probiotics.

    If you are suspicious that you may have an H. pylori infection, your doctor can use a diagnostic breath test. That type is more meaningful than a blood test, which doesn't indicate if the bug is still active. The standard medical treatment for H. pylori involves strong antibiotics. This is ironic since the general overuse of antibiotics has allowed H. pylori to develop into more resistant strains. The antibiotics also kill our probiotics—a side effect that can produce broad and lasting damage.

    If a person is not in grave condition, it makes sense to me that he or she would first try the natural remedies listed below. If antibiotics are necessary, the natural remedies can still be added for their own benefits. At the very least, folks should protect themselves from the unwanted effects of the antibiotics by using probiotics. Probiotic supplements should be taken throughout the course of antibiotics (and after), but taken at a different time of day.

    Other natural substances that help fight H. pylori are sulforaphane (found in cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, cabbage, kale, and broccoli), turmeric (the familiar yellow spice), mastic gum (a Mediterranean food ingredient from tree resin), ginger, cranberry, vitamin C, berberine (an herb constituent), DGL (a special form of licorice), and zinc carnosine (which also helps heal the GI membranes). Keep in mind the same items used as remedies can also be used for prevention.

    More details about H. pylori diagnosis and current medical treatment options can be found on the Helicobacter Foundation website (

  • As par for the course my life takes, I’ve often had to be the recipient of a symptom or condition to truly understand its causes, effects and solutions — providing me with a deeper understanding of what my patients’ experience. Unfortunately, this investigative report came about because I recently experienced a very troubling visual disturbance and dull headache over one eye and immediately panicked thinking it was a detached retina again — one of the most debilitating conditions I’ve been through!

    I was consulting with a patient when suddenly I began to see light flashes as if looking through shattered glass. I had a dull headache over my right eye that morning but discounted it as having been on the computer too many hours the day before. As the symptoms worsened, I called my eye doctor and rushed to her office, fearing the worse. Upon examination, she assured me I had all the symptoms of an ocular migraine; to which I responded, “What in the heck is that?” That said, most any other diagnosis was welcome other than the dreaded detached retina with its harrowing recovery.

    The eye doctor did see a clouding of the lens, often forming after cataract surgery; which I had a few years back. The following information is the result of my research to assist you in better understanding, and dealing with, this type of ocular occurrence should you experience it. As always, if you have any unusual eye symptoms do not “doctor yourself” — see an eye care physician immediately

    Historical Perspective
    Ophthalmic (eye) migraines are quite common and often painless, although the solo term “migraine” usually brings to mind a severe type of headache. As a child, I experienced debilitating migraines; years later we discovered these were brought on by a famous brand of soup I consumed several times a week that contained significant amounts of MSG. This ocular migraine is completely different; I was fortunate that the pain in this recent situation was a dull ache, not the typical head-splitting migraine pain.

    With eye-related migraines, visual disturbances with or without headache pain also can accompany migraine processes thought to be related to changes in blood flow in the brain. These visual problems associated with migraines technically are known as ophthalmic migraines, but are much more commonly (though incorrectly) called ocular migraines. Because most laypeople understand the term better, this article refers to the condition as “ocular migraine.”

    Migraines can be produced by the body’s neurological responses to certain triggers such as hormonal changes, flashing lights or chemicals in foods or medications. One result of these triggers may be an intense headache that, if untreated, can last for hours or even days.

    During migraine processes, changes also may take place in blood flow to the area of the brain responsible for vision (visual cortex or occipital lobe). Resulting ophthalmic or ocular migraines commonly produce visual symptoms even without a headache.

    Ocular Migraine Symptoms
    People with ocular migraines can have a variety of visual symptoms. Typically you will see a small, enlarging blind spot (scotoma) in your central vision with bright, flickering lights (scintillations) or a shimmering zigzag line (metamorphopsia) inside the blind spot. The blind spot usually enlarges and may move across your field of vision. This entire migraine phenomenon may end in only a few minutes, but usually lasts as long as about 20–30 minutes; the headache can last for days, even with dull non-debilitating pain.

    Met·a·mor·phop·si·a — a visual disorder in which images appear distorted in various ways; usually a defect in vision in which objects are seen as distorted in shape, which results from disease of the retina or imperfection of the media.

    An anomaly of visual perception in which objects appear distorted in shape or of different size or in a different location than the actual object. It may be due to a displacement of the visual receptors as a result of inflammation, tumor or retinal detachment, it can be of central origin (e.g. migraine, drug intoxication, and neurosis or brain injury).

    It is also caused by the accumulation of subretinal fluid in the macula resulting in metamorphopsia and blurring of vision.

    Generally, ocular migraines are considered harmless, usually painless, cause no permanent visual or brain damage and do not require treatment. That said, always consult your eye doctor when you have unusual vision symptoms, because it is possible that you have another condition requiring treatment, such as a detached retina, which should be checked out immediately.

    Why we get ocular migraines?

    There are three prevalent causes:

    • Overtiredness — i.e. too much computer work and/or reading, not enough rest;
    • After cataract surgery if a cloudy substance forms behind the lens; putting pressure on the optic nerves as well as clouding the field of vision (this is what occurred in my case);
    • Migraines — more serious and more painful localized headaches often triggered by specific causes such as toxic food ingredients, specifically MSG, nitrates and sulfites.

    The cause of the ocular migraine is thought to begin with arteries in the brain which spasm, precipitated by stress, hormonal fluctuations, certain medications, foods containing tyramine or phenylalanine (e.g., cheese, chocolate), fatigue, post cataract surgery and alcohol. The result is reduction in blood flow in that artery, followed by blood vessel dilation over-filling those vessels, causing the throbbing or “pounding” headache.

    What to do for an Ocular Migraine
    Unfortunately, a visit to the eye doctor may produce few answers in terms of how to treat or prevent ocular migraines. This is because processes that trigger ophthalmic migraines are poorly understood.

    The vision symptoms accompanying painless ocular migraines are not related directly to the eyes. Instead, these visual symptoms occur as a result of the migraine “activity” in the visual cortex of the brain located in the back of the skull. As described above, your vision and visual acuity will be affected significantly during an ophthalmic migraine attack or episode.

    If sharp vision is essential for your safety, then you should stop what you are doing immediately. If you are driving, pull over until the ocular migraine passes and your vision has cleared.

    Stay still until the ocular migraine resolves. If you have concerns about unusual or lingering vision symptoms, visit your eye doctor or physician for a checkup. Normally, ophthalmic migraines do not require treatment.

    The Way I See It…

    Relieving an Ocular Migraine, Naturally

    • Apply cold compresses to reduce swelling and relieve headache.

    • As with typical migraine headaches, it may help to close eyes, remove light sources or retire to a darkened room, reduce or remove other stimuli, and relax in a prone position for a period of time.

    • Hydrate well and drink water at roomtemperature.

    • Use an over-the-counter homeopathic lubricating eye drop without added chemicals such as Similasan for computer eyes, available at health food stores. It is formulated to stimulate the eye’s natural ability to relieve eyestrain due to intense computer work, TV, reading, writing or night driving. The homeopathic complex with its active ingredients provides relief without known side effects or drug interactions and does not cause a rebound effect.

    • I take a supplement that encourages blood flow — a complex that provides a plant-based formula for smoother blood flow, stronger blood vessel walls, and pacifies inflammatory responses. I have taken 2 twice a day since my much written about accident and the subsequent blood clots; it keeps my blood clotting time in the healthy range and provides overall support for blood flow. The formula I use is a plant-based systemic enzyme formula containing nattokinase, the proteolytic enzyme bromelain and papain, known to effectively rebalance the body’s inflammatory response. The complex I use also contains rutin to strengthen capillaries and other connective tissue, and white willow bark, which is often called “nature’s aspirin.”

    • Use an herbal complex known to assist with inflammation as well as blood flow. In my practice I use a proprietary herbal liquid complex of Curcuma (turmeric) and Bupleurum root (Chai Hu). These two ancient herbs work synergistically as potent anti-inflammatory agents and have been proved in experimental models. Even more potent than its volatile oil is the yellow or orange pigment of turmeric, called curcumin — the primary pharmacological agent in turmeric. In numerous studies, curcumin’s anti-inflammatory effects have been shown to be comparable to the potent drugs hydrocortisone and phenylbutazone as well as over-the-counter anti-inflammatory agents such as Motrin. Unlike the drugs, which are associated with significant toxic effects (ulcer formation, decreased white blood cell count, intestinal bleeding), curcumin produces no toxicity. Bupleurum is credited for invigorating the circulatory system and blood vessel strength. Together these two herbs in a tincture make up an extraordinary complex to assist with any circulatory and inflammatory disorders; especially those related to the eyes. I take 20 drops in a little bit of water twice a day, anytime — an easy, healthy, inexpensive way to support overall circulatory health and, of course, the windows to our souls, our eyes.