Pro-inflammatory state mediators and the chronic inflammatory process exacerbated by foods triggering hypersensitivity reactions are all to blame.
Jagoda Koniarek, DVM and dietetics and human nutrition specialist, LEAP Program Consultant
Migraine headaches significantly lower the quality of life and affect around 25% of the population. They occur most frequently in people between the ages of 12 and 40. They are difficult to cure because their causes are not known and documented fully, and treatment does not bring about satisfactory results. In addition to strong to very strong, typically one-sided headaches, classic migraine symptoms are: nausea and vomiting, hearing and vision disorders as well as photophobia (intolerance of light) and phonophobia (an aversion to loud sounds). Excessive neurovascular reactions, to which some people are genetically predisposed, are probably the direct cause of symptoms. Apart from susceptibility to innervation of blood vessels, the involvement of triggering factors is necessary for such oppressive symptoms to occur. Scientific studies indicate the following fill that role: stress, hunger, dehydration, fatigue, oxygen deficiency, as well as hormonal imbalance in women. However, more and more attention is being paid to food.
There are different mechanisms by which food triggers headaches. Some include ingredients (natural or artificial) directly irritating the nervous system, whereas others act indirectly by inducement of a defensive reaction of the immune system. Released inflammatory state mediators (e.g. cytokines) cause further reactions which may trigger a headache. The occurrence of migraine attacks might be an effect of biogenic amines present in food: tyramine, phenylethylamine and histamine, which are formed during the decomposition process of amino acids. Tyramine occurs naturally in many foods of plant and animal origin. An increased concentration of biogenic amines occurs during the decomposition of proteins and amino acids, along with the ensuing process of maturing or decaying of food, and the result of some technological processes. Chemical food additives – nitrates (substances preserving meat and cold cuts) and monosodium glutamate (a flavor intensifier, popular in Asian cuisine, spice mixes, and processed food) are implicated in causing migraines. Tannin and phenols present in black tea, bananas, apples and red wine are also suspected. Sulfites present in wine, beer and other low-alcohol liquors, among other things, are also indicated as substances causing migraines.
Detecting food triggering factors
A detailed interview should aid the defining of non-food factors. There is the need to analyze the frequency and severity of attacks, lifestyle, stress exposure, diet habits, known chronic illnesses, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and drugs and supplements taken. Detection of the food source of migraines is facilitated by a record of meals consumed and the state of well-being. Detected dependencies will permit the introduction of an elimination diet, which may confirm the photogenic activity of selected foods.
It is frequently difficult to spot significant data due to the multiplicity of information as well as the fact that symptoms may occur with a delay. It is worth, therefore, reaching out for the MRT test (Mediator Release Test), which helps identify the food causes of chronic inflammatory states. Not tolerated foods force the immune system into a defensive inflammatory reaction. While ‘alien’ food is being constantly delivered, the system does not suppress and switches to a chronic state. The result is a sustained high concentration of inflammatory state mediators, which irritate pain receptors and distort homeostasis and the functions of the nervous and hormonal systems. This leads to water retention and dysfunctions at the cell level.
The dysregulation of physiological processes and the chronic inflammatory state lead to multiple ailments – migraine, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, skin disorders, and psychic disorders – and exacerbate syndromes in autoimmune diseases. Many of the above-mentioned ailments may occur jointly. Performing an MRT test enables the detection of foods that trigger excessive reactions in the immune system, as well as those that do not induce a pro-inflammatory or a low-level response. The examination comprises 150 foods, food additives, chemical substances, and popular nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. The test results enable the development of the LEAP (Lifestyle, Eating and Performance) nutrition program, an individually-generated two-stage diet plan whose goal is quieting the immune system.
Quieting the immune system
The first stage comprises elements of an elimination diet; however, its task is not to detect the culprits of the ailment. Its objective is quieting the immune system as quickly as possible and reducing the chronic inflammatory state by introducing a diet based on the least reactive foods, then a gradual broadening of the menu to other low-reactive foods and the total exclusion of all high-reactive ones.
Fewer mediators are released into the bloodstream, inflammations subside, and homeostasis reverts to the norm, followed by a decrease or disappearance of symptoms – including migraines. How is it possible that chronic inflammatory states give rise to symptoms in the form of a headache? Inflammatory state mediators and chronic inflammatory state are all to ‘be blamed’.
In the case of food hypersensitivities, each consumption of reactive food triggers a defensive reaction of leukocytes, unnecessarily causing a pathologically intense chronic inflammatory state. The second stage of the LEAP Program is a three-day rotation diet – a new nutrition style. Its task is to protect the patient against new hypersensitivities. The MRT test is necessary in order to determine safe products which are non-reactive or low-reactive.
A nutrition plan should not consist of bans alone but must give the patient a clear answer as to what he can safely eat. Performance of the test eliminates the necessity of an extended trial and error examination of foods with respect to undesirable reactions. Skipping the stage of burdensome and generally not very effective diagnostic elimination diets and replacing it with conducting the MRT test and the LEAP program quickly brings about the anticipated improvement.
Stifling of inflammatory states
The examination of one hundred fifty foods and chemical substances in an MRT test enables the selection of an optimal nutrition plan adjusted to the patient’s needs. LEAP is a ‘tailor-made’ nutrition plan based on safe foods. As it is followed, the concentration of circulating inflammatory mediators is decreased and, consequently, a reduction of undesirable symptoms ensues. The biggest advantage of the LEAP program remains the fact that it is a reversal of the traditional elimination diet, whose primary task is detection of triggers. Symptoms may occur even up to 3 days after consumption of the food, because most food hypersensitivities are of a delayed nature. The reaction of the organism depends on the dose of the food; furthermore, when consuming small quantities, ailments may not occur at all. Additionally, one may have hypersensitivity to a few or dozens of foods and substances, whose negative impact will be accumulative. For example, someone eats olives for three days and doesn’t feel any disorder. On the fourth day a migraine appears after strawberries are included in the diet. Is the disorder the result of strawberries or rather an accumulation of salicylates with the olives? It might be an interaction of these two food factors. Performance of the MRT test may help solve such puzzles?
People suffering from migraine headaches frequently do not see the possibility of freeing themselves from the ailment, and being so resigned, they think that only symptomatic treatment brings relief. However, a change in diet to one which quiets the immune system and limits the chronic inflammatory state brings about relief in the majority, without the necessity of taking large doses of drugs.
The process of identifying foods that trigger an inflammatory reaction and the fight against migraine symptoms might be greatly accelerated by the performance of the MRT test and the help of LEAPprogram consultants.