Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Migraine and Overgrowth of Bad Bacteria Part 1

Migraine causes patients to take a lot of drugs.  We try many things to control our Migraine attacks and to stop them when they occur.  We change how we eat, sometimes not for the better.  We are stressed because we aren't functioning at capacity.  Our Migraines themselves cause us to crave things that cause digestive trouble. We overdo when Migraines aren't hitting us.  Like a vicious circle, singly and in combination these things can create problems in our digestive system that in turn can influence our Migraine attacks. 

So, let's explore how this happens so we can fix the problem and stop the vicious circle that may be contributing to our attacks.

It's all about cows and deer, grass and weeds.

Okay.  Not really.  But cows and deer, grass and weeds make a pretty good analogy of our digestive system and how bacteria overgrowth happens.  It also helps patients understand how to fix the problem.

Our gut (digestive system) contains more bacteria cells than the number of cells our entire body itself is made of!  Without good bacteria, we would eventually starve and die of malnutrition.  Good bacteria give us vitamins, helps our immune systems and are necessary to our survival as human beings. Bad bacteria makes us sick and stops our digestive systems from working correctly. 

We're going to explain this by dividing the bacteria up into groups:  Good bacteria and bad bacteria.

Good bacteria = cows.
Bad bacteria = deer.

Cows and deer both have a place in the world.  They both serve a purpose.  They are similar because their diets are similar.  They live in a similar environment.  However, in this analogy we like cows much better than deer because cows give us milk, meat, leather and all kinds of wonderful things we use every day.  We need cows.  Deer however are a bit of a pain.  They wreck cars, damage fences, eat crops and gardens.  In this story, the cow are the good guys, and the deer are the bad guys. 

So, our gut contains billions of cows and deer.  Check.

When we eat, our gut also contains the food we have consumed.  This is the food for cows and deer. So...

Gut = pasture

Cows and deer are both hungry.  They must eat to survive.  There is normally a balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut that keeps us healthy.  They share the same pasture equally and everybody is happy and healthy.

Pastures do not just grow however.  They must be maintained.  Farmers seed them, fertilize them, weed them and care for them.  If the farmer doesn't maintain his pasture properly, weeds begin to grow.  The grass is not healthy and it is eventually choked out by the weeds. In our analogy:

Cows eat grass.
Deer eat weeds.

If we don't eat the proper foods and maintain our gut/digestive systems properly, our pastures begin to suffer.  They become riddled with weeds, the grass won't grow properly.

Cows begin to die.
Deer begin to reproduce rapidly, taking over the farm.

When the deer outnumber the cows (the good bacteria are fewer than the bad bacteria) we have something called Bacteria Overgrowth.  Bacteria overgrowth hurts our immune system, contributes to leaky gut syndrome, gluten intolerance, diarrhea and other digestive issues which may contribute to Migraine.  Candidiasis, yeast overgrowth, diarrhea or constipation and frequent infections can signal that there is insufficient good bacteria in the gut.

Many things can contribute to bad pasture management and too many weeds taking over the grass.  The two most common contributors to bacterial overgrowth are:
  1. Bad diet
  2. Antibiotics and medicines
Tomorrow we'll talk about how bad diet and antibiotics and medicines can cause this difficult to diagnose problem, and how easily it can be solved. 

Live your best life,
Ellen Schnakenberg
~patient educator and advocate

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