Do you frequently experience any of the following in addition to migraines?
- Underlying uneasiness
- Feeling worried often
- Ruminating thoughts
- Overanalyzing situations
- Feeling stuck in fight or flight mode
- Getting stressed over things that other people think aren’t a big deal
If you said yes, you are not alone. As much as 60% of the migraine population has been found to also suffer from anxiety – about three times the rate in the general population. But that doesn’t mean you have to blame your moods or stress levels for your migraine headaches!
I recently interviewed functional neurologist Dr. Titus Chiu about the connection between different parts of your brain being inflamed or not properly activated and different neurological symptoms.
Are emotions neurological symptoms?
“Any feeling or emotion that we experience is a product of what is happening in the brain,” Dr. Chiu explained in our interview.
For example, let’s look at the frontal lobe, which plays a role in balancing out the body’s stress response and focus:
- If the left frontal lobe isn’t activated as much as the right frontal lobe, we see correlations to higher rates of depression.
- If the right frontal lobe is too active, then someone will suffer from anxiety.
These emotions can come and go, lasting moments or sticking around for a while if a pattern gets stuck.
So what is the connection between migraines and anxiety in the brain?
In people with migraines, one area that is known to be overactive is the top of the brainstem, known as the “midbrain” (or “mesencephalon” if you want to get fancy).
This area controls our sensitivity to light and sound – so guess what happens if it is inflamed or overactive? That sensitivity increases, explaining why so many of us who suffer from migraines are especially sensitive or even triggered by light and sound.
The midbrain also sets the tone for the autonomic nervous system (the fight or flight system) – if it is generally overactive, then the fight or flight sense response is set a little higher too and that is one of the tie-ins to stress and anxiety.
So what can we do? Instead of blaming stress for our migraines – we want to lower the baseline of stress in the body and calm the midbrain so that you can break through the “high-stress mode” and get to a point where you can practice things like meditation to strengthen and balance the frontal lobe.
Do you ever feel like you are way too stressed to even sit down and meditate? We want to overall lower inflammation and oxidative stress in the body first!
Watch the whole video below where Dr. Titus takes me through a neurologic test called the Romberg’s Test and we talk about something you can start doing right away to heal and rewire the brain!
Want more tips like this?
Dr. Titus Chiu is speaking at an event in November called Healing Hashimoto’s where he’ll share even more practical strategies.