Many migraineurs have strong reactions to intense smell, alcohol, food preservatives (especially sulfites, nitrates, MSG), and other chemicals, these are even known migraine triggers for most. Have you ever wondered why that is?
Let me introduce you to your liver: your largest internal gland and main detoxification organ that performs over 500 vital functions in your body like for instance:
Filters your blood
Detoxifies chemicals, hormones, histamine, drugs, pesticides
Converts vitamins to their active form and stores them for later use
Controls blood sugar levels
Converts fructose to glucose and stores in fat cells
Stimulates bile production in your gallbladder which is necessary to break down fats and neutralize toxins
Supports your immune system
Your liver literally has to process ALL the toxins that come into your body: anything that touches and is absorbed via your skin (cleaners, detergents, beauty products…), pesticides and other toxins (like preservatives, hydrogenated oils, heavy metals or sugar you ingest from food & drinks), alcohol, caffeine, medication, scented candles and air fresheners, used up hormones and hormone-like substances from food, plastics, drinking water, receipts….phew sounds like an never ending list right?! But your liver also has to process mental and physical stress.
Our bodies are constantly exposed to toxins, both from the environment and from within our own tissues. Your body’s toxic burden is the accumulation of all toxins and unwanted substances combined.
So you can see that your liver must be pretty busy!
These can be signs for increased toxic burden:
Brain fog or difficulty concentrating
Trouble losing weight
Skin issues (acne, breakouts, eczema, redness)
Digestive problems (diarrhea, indigestion, acid reflux, etc.)
What are the most common environmental toxins?
Pesticides, herbicides & fungicides: are widely used in agriculture today and are therefore found in our food and soil. They are known to disrupt our microbiome and hormone balance.
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) Perfluorooctanoic acid :They are cancerogenic and used in products like Teflon and Scotch Guard. Since they are resistant to breakdown, we can find them in our soil and groundwater.
Heavy metals: Mercury, cadmium, lead, and other harmful heavy metals are found in our soil, water, and food. To be fair, certain soils are naturally high in cadmium for instance, typically in countries where coffee and cocoa are grown. And these are supposed to be healthy foods, especially raw cocoa having high magnesium and antioxidant properties. So it also comes back to the quantities we are consuming.
Bisphenol A (BPA) – BPA is used in cookware coatings and food packaging. BPA has been associated with female and male infertility, early puberty, breast cancer, prostate cancer, polycystic ovary syndrome, and other endocrine disorders.
Phthalates – Also found in cookware coatings, phthalates have been linked to asthma, ADHD, autism, fertility issues, breast cancer, obesity, low IQ, type 2 diabetes, behavioral issues, and neurodevelopmental issues.
Mold - Certain strains of mold release mycotoxins which are also incredibly damaging to our bodies.
Halogens can be harmful to humans and animals when being exposed to at high levels. The main ones being:
Fluorine is a highly toxic gas and is sourced from the mineral fluorite. Other toxic derivatives from this element include fluoride, which is used as a decay preventing supplement and topical application on teeth, Teflon cookware, refrigerants, and electrical insulation.
Chlorine is the most common compound derivative is table salt. The high oxidizing potential of chlorine led to commercial use for bleaching and disinfectant use.
Bromide is present in seawater and sea foods. It is still currently used in veterinary medicine as an anti-seizure medication for dogs. In concentrated levels, it is quite toxic and can cause multiple neurological symptoms and skin eruptions. Bromide is also considered a goitrogen. Goitrogen refers to any substance that suppresses the function of the thyroid gland by interfering with iodine uptake. As a result, this can cause enlargement of the thyroid, as with a goiter.
EMF - recent studies show that electromagnetic frequencies from cell phone, tablets, Wi-Fi, and other devices can impact systems in the body regulated by voltage-gated calcium channels (VGCC) which cause oxidative damage (Source) and possibly cancer (Source).
Our food system has changed dramatically in the past years. We have interbred food, genetically modified organisms, induced growth with chemicals, animals fed with antibiotics, genetically modified food and food waste.
We have created fragile plants that rely on chemicals to protect themselves from insects, viruses, and mold.
Here are the most common internal toxins:
Candida overgrowth: also known as yeast - these bacteria are always present in your digestive tract, skin, and vaginal canal. When they overgrow (high sugar or carb diet, mold exposure, poor beneficial bacteria in your gut to keep them in check…) it becomes problematic and causes inflammation, hormonal imbalance, and even mental health symptoms.
Overgrowth of other gut bacteria: Anyone who has experienced chronic digestive issues most likely has bacterial imbalance in their gut, also called dysbiosis. A healthy digestive system depends on a balance between the “good” and “bad” bacteria and when that balance is off, it allows the bad ones to take overhand. They then produce lipopolysaccharides (LPS), which are toxins released from pathogenic bacteria living in our gut which will impact your brain and trigger your immune system to release antibodies. They also reduce the production and conversion of thyroid hormones by impacting the brain-thyroid communication chain.
Leaky gut - when your intestinal walls become “leaky”, letting bacteria, toxins and partially undigested food particles “leak” into your bloodstream, triggering your immune system to react and creating overall inflammation. Leaky gut often goes hand in hand with food sensitivities: they make it worse but also worsen the food sensitivities and people often end up getting reactions to more and more foods they are consuming.
Excess hormones: If you detox pathways are overburdened, your body will have issues keeping up with clearing out toxins and hormones. Read more in this article to understand how this works. If these hormones remain in the body, they can build up and cause hormone imbalance, and even some types of cancer (linked to estrogen dominance).
The fact that most migraineurs are taking medication daily which affects the liver, but also the amount of physical stress that comes with the pain and considering that most migraineurs have issues with their gut, blood sugar, food sensitivities and decomposing histamine, we can agree that the threshold of toxicity of a migraineur is set quite high.
The chronic toxic load caused by medications alone is a likely high reason for rebound headaches and why these drugs often stop working. Supporting your liver's ability to detoxify is one of the key steps to preventing migraines (and as you’ve seen in my previous article about histamine, it’s also key to support optimal histamine excretion).
I hope that most of you agree with me that PREVENTION is the best treatment for migraines! It’s much easier to take daily steps to prevent a migraine than making it go away once it’s there….
Consider how much your mind and body are suffering with chronic migraines: it’s a chronic burden on your body. Most of you have been suffering for decades, are toxic from medications and emotionally and physically exhausted. So it takes some time to help your body get out of that situation. Living a more natural, active, and clean lifestyle daily is key to helping your body get back on track.
Now your homework is to look at the list of toxins and start cleaning up your pantry (don’t worry, this is a long term process, but start replacing toxic items one by one).
Next week I’ll provide you with extra steps to take....