Heavy Metal Toxicity and Mineral Deficiencies May Contribute to Migraine
Most migraine sufferers hunt for the trigger of their migraines by attempting to identify the common event that precedes their migraine episodes. This search is often unsuccessful, precisely because it seems as if many different events can bring on the episodes. In response, some researchers have performed blood, hair, and urine tests on migraine sufferers to find the physical characteristics they all seem to have in common.
The Difference Between Minerals and Metals
Before analysing the possible role of metals and minerals in migraine, it is important to understand the difference between metals and minerals. After all, copper and iron are essential minerals, but they are also metals. This is what you need to know:
- Essential minerals include calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, sodium, sulphur, boron, bromine, chromium, copper, cobalt, germanium, iron, iodine, lithium, manganese, molybdenum, silicon, selenium, vanadium, zinc, and about 50 others.
- When taken in appropriate amounts, these are healthy, nutritious minerals. When taken in excessive amounts, most of them are toxic metals.
- Most essential minerals can occur in both organic and inorganic forms.
- Inorganic minerals are those that occur naturally in rocks and soil, or those that have been modified through industrial processes. These are not toxic in appropriate amounts, but they are artificial forms that one should consume only if one cannot obtain minerals from plant sources.
- Organic minerals are created when plants absorb inorganic minerals from the soil and convert them into organic form. These are the essential minerals that are best to consume.
- Accordingly, most mineral excesses are called heavy metals.
The Turkish Study
In 2015, Turkish researchers published a comparison between the blood analysis of 25 migraine sufferers and 25 healthy individuals. They compared their blood on the amount of serum copper, zinc, lead, iron, cadmium, cobalt, manganese, and magnesium they contained. They found that migraine sufferers had considerably elevated levels of cadmium, iron, manganese, and lead, diminished levels of copper, magnesium, and zinc, and unchanged levels of cobalt. From this discovery, they concluded that trace element level disturbances might predispose people to migraine attacks.
No other study of this size and specificity has been published, but most other studies on related questions seem to support the findings.
A 2003 study also found that migraine sufferers had seriously high levels of manganese, and another study that gave its subjects large manganese supplements discovered that they developed terrible headaches that promptly ceased when the study ended. The exact mechanism is not yet understood, but it is assumed to be related to the role it has in facilitating the function of many enzymes.
Lead is toxic in almost any amount. Workers exposed to lead at their workplace have been found to be at serious risk of developing brain cancer, but the details of its relationship with migraine is still unknown.
Cadmium is one of the most toxic metals. It has been proved to be carcinogenic, to have destructive effects on the central nervous system, and to bring about serious personality changes like aggression. Nothing is, however, known about its link to migraine.
Other studies have confirmed that low levels of magnesium seem to increase the risk of migraine episodes. In addition, after examining some possible treatments for migraine, a group of researchers concluded that patients experienced a large reduction in migraine episodes following the administration of oral magnesium. Magnesium plays an important role in cellular energy production which, when impaired, inhibits the metabolism of oxygen.
This is one mechanism believed to be partly responsible for migraine. Low magnesium levels also increase the release of serotonin and substance p which, in turn, narrow the cerebral vessels. This is thought to cause a lot of the pain.
This changes the way in which migraine sufferers should think about their affliction. It is probably not brought about by a specific environmental event or a meal that contains certain types of food. Events and food may trigger it, but the predisposition to develop it in response to the event or food is related to a mineral imbalance that is already in place. Rather than simply identifying the trigger and avoiding it, the better strategy is to also address the metal toxicity and mineral deficiency.
- Identify lead and cadmium sources that might contaminate your water or food supply and try to avoid them. A good under-sink alkaline water filter can remove heavy metals from your tap water. Experiment and buy your fresh food from a different retailer. Buy organic as far as possible. If you currently eat a lot of seafood, reduce this for a few months as most fish are badly contaminated by the metals with which humans pollute the land.
- While working to avoid the metals, take a good detox supplement that contains substances like iodine, selenium, fulvic acid, zeolite, and trace minerals. These substances bind to metals, pull them from your body tissue, and help your body excrete them more effectively.
- If you are currently obtaining most of your minerals from supplements, try to eat more fresh food instead. This does not mean that you should abandon the supplements, but it is possible that your body processes organic minerals more easily than inorganic ones. If this is the case, a supplement could be useful to ensure that you do not suffer from deficiencies, while fresh fruit, vegetables, grains, and nuts could still supply you with most of your minerals.
- Those who are taking no supplements at all may want to try a good multi-mineral that includes copper, magnesium, and zinc. A multi-mineral may push up your manganese levels, however, so record your progress carefully as you make the changes.