Migraine: A Complementary
Meridian Institute Lecture
February 18, 1996
Douglas Richards, Ph.D. and David McMillin,
Note: The following is a transcript from a public
lecture given by Richards and McMillin as an introduction to the Meridian
Institute Migraine Research Project. To make the material more accessible,
here is an outline of the presentation:
1: Douglas Richards: Migraine Headaches and The Traditional Medical Approach
2: David McMillin - The Abdominal Brain and The Cayce Approach To Migraine
1: Douglas Richards: Migraine Headaches and The Traditional Medical Approach
Our presentation is a complementary approach to
migraine headaches. That means that we are not proposing an alternative
to modern medicine, but suggesting that there is a lot of overlap between
some ideas that Edgar Cayce talked about in the 1920s and 1930s, and modern
medicine. You can combine current medical approaches (including some that
aren't too well-known right now, but are hot topics in the medical literature)
with some holistic practices, to generate a better state of mind and body
for people with migraine headaches.
I will start out with the traditional medical
approach to migraine headaches. Then Dave is going to bring in more of
the Edgar Cayce approach.
A lot of people think of migraine headaches as
just "bad headaches." But as people who have migraine know, it is a lot
more than a headache. There are even migraine "equivalents" which don't
involve a headache at all. In the typical migraine attack, other things
go along with the headache. We will look at those other things, because
they may give us some clues as to what is really going on, that lead us
away from the head into other parts of the body.
Happens During A Migraine?
There is usually a headache. Nausea and vomiting
are quite common. Then there are symptoms that are a little less common
but frequently associated with migraines, such as constipation and diarrhea.
So, along with the nausea and vomiting there are major things going on
the digestive system. Lethargy and sleepiness as well as mood changes are
also common. Even more extreme kinds of consciousness changes are seen
in a minority of people with migraines.
It's an attack that really involves a large part
of the nervous system of the body. It's not just a throbbing headache;
that's only one component. It is form of a prolonged kind of "seizure"
of a large amount of the nervous system.
and Classical Migraine
Migraine is divided into common migraine and classical
migraine. Classical migraine is much rarer, and is characterized by an
Common migraine affects 5 to 20% of the general
population. One of the major symptoms is a headache, often throbbing beginning
on one side of the head. (The tension headache, the other type people often
have, appears on both sides of the head and often in the forehead. It's
due to muscle tension.) The migraine headache doesn't necessarily have
muscle tension. Nausea and vomiting often go along with the headache. It
is often rather long duration, typically 8 to 24 hours or more. It can
be shorter or longer, but this is typical.
It's also a general disorder in body systems,
and that's what we will be looking at mostly here. If we want to understand
how migraine works, and what might help people deal with it, focusing just
on the head is not the way to go. There can be abdominal pain, eye and
nasal secretion, tearing and blowing your nose, fluid retention - people
will gain 10 pounds sometimes right before a migraine starts. A great deal
of lethargy and drowsiness.
These symptoms tend to involve the parasympathetic
nervous system. This is a part of the autonomic nervous system; the system
that tends to run the body automatically. For example, as my heart is beating,
I don't have to keep thinking, "Beat, beat, beat" every few seconds to
keep it going. My nervous system is taking care of it. The parasympathetic
and the sympathetic nervous systems have a balance in the body that controls
heart rate, respiration, and all of your digestive system. And that's the
key to what is going on in migraine.
Classical migraine is different, and is quite
interesting from the point of view of psychology and neurology. It only
affects about 1% of the general population, so it's much less common. It
includes all the symptoms of common migraine. What distinguishes classical
migraine from common migraine is the "aura." This isn't the aura that people
talk about when they see colored lights around people. This aura is unusual
experiences that are preceding the major onset of the migraine attack -
it signals the onset of an attack. People with epilepsy will often have
an aura, too.
In migraine, the aura often starts with what seem
to be little stars in your visual field. You'll see little bright spots
which sometimes start expanding into large blind spots, until you can actually
have a bright or sometimes dark blind spot covering a large part of the
visual field. It may have jagged edges. So it's not just a metaphor when
people draw elaborate pictures of a "blinding" headache.
You also may have tingling in the hands and the
mouth. It often starts at the tips of the fingers, and works its way up
your arms from the periphery of the body in toward the center of the body.
Sometimes there are very strange moods, intense anxiety or fear. Sometimes
even the opposite, hilarity. You can even have difficulty with higher thinking,
speaking, reading, almost any kind of consciousness change you can imagine
can be part of a classical migraine aura.
This then turns into a migraine attack with the
typical headache and digestive symptoms.
Not everybody's migraine has all these symptoms.
Some people may have primarily a headache, some may have a lot of the nausea
and vomiting. But it's not just a bad headache, and treating it involves
a lot more than taking 2 aspirin. It can sometimes put you out for a couple
of days with a real impairment of functioning. And you may have to deal
with it for years.
of a Migraine Attack
Typically it begins with a phase called "excitation,"
which includes the aura in a classical migraine attack. Very often there
is some kind of a trigger - a stressful emotional situation, a bright light,
a loud noise, a smell. People who have migraines are often aware of what
triggers their attacks.
Then you have what is called "engorgement." If
your attack includes constipation or retention of fluids, the parts of
the nervous system regulating that kind of thing "engorges" your body.
"Prostration" is the term that is sometimes used
for the "attack proper." This is the headache, nausea, vomiting, and the
desire to go into a dark room and not come out until it's done.
Then there is the "resolution." The resolution
can sometimes be gradual, or it can sometimes be sudden. You may suddenly
have the urge to vomit, boom, you do it, and everything's fine.
Then at the end there may be a "rebound." Especially
in fairly short attacks, people will report that after this terrible attack,
they suddenly have a rebound with much more energy and enthusiasm than
before. The nervous system now appears to be compensating in the opposite
A migraine attack doesn't always follow this pattern.
It is interesting how diverse the patterns are. A good source of information
is a book by Oliver Sacks called Migraine. Sacks is a neurologist who has
written many books, including Awakenings, which was made into a movie.
Migraine is based on 1200 case studies.
Not only is migraine not just a headache, but
you can even have migraines without the headache. It seems to be a "seizure"
of the parasympathetic nervous system. It is different from an epileptic
seizure, though there is some overlap in symptoms. The parasympathetic
nervous system is not coordinating with the rest of the nervous system.
We'll see that coordination is an important concept in the Cayce approach.
There can be such things as cyclic vomiting, abdominal
migraine, where the entire attack is pain in the abdomen. There are spasms
in the abdomen that don't seem to relate to anything that you ate, that
are very similar to what happens in a migraine, but without the headache.
Another one is premenstrual migraine for some
women. Fluid retention and constipation may also occur prior to menstruation.
This is another tie in to the parasympathetic nervous system and the way
it's governing the insides of the body.
Another form is slow epilepsy-like attacks. A
typical epileptic seizure may occur over a period of seconds to minutes.
A migraine attack is typically a lot longer, but it's not clear that we
are dealing with a completely separate thing. This is interesting because
traditionally, medical science talks about epilepsy being in the brain.
The Edgar Cayce readings say that epilepsy as well as migraines are caused
by things out in the periphery of the nervous system. Oliver Sacks in his
book shows how epilepsy, migraines, and other disruptions of the nervous
system form a continuum that can be arranged on axes of duration of attack
and level of consciousness in the symptoms. Both epilepsy and migraine
can affect consciousness all the way from vegetative functions to higher
functions; the chief difference is in the duration of the attack. In particular,
the auras of both are very similar.
What do you mean by "cause"? There are causes
at different levels. You might have a hereditary predisposition; migraine
runs in your family. There is good evidence that migraine, like many neurological
and psychological conditions, runs in families. Yet there are many people
related to you who may not have migraine, so heredity is not the only cause.
Heredity is also not the immediate cause of the
attack. You might have environmental triggers like lights, noise and smells,
or psychological triggers like stress.
There is also the question of the biological mechanism.
Is it "caused" by something in the brain, or is it "caused" by something
out in the periphery? Perhaps the nervous system of the gut could be the
cause, rather than the brain.
The different aspects of causation lead to different
approaches to therapy. You could do genetic engineering, but that's not
very practical right now. Immediate cause of attack is much easier to work
with. You can sometimes remove yourself from the situation that triggers
the migraines. But it may be hard to remove yourself from all sources of
With the biological mechanism, if there's an origin
in the brain or the body, there might be a medication or surgery that could
Complementary medicine does not rule out therapy
at any of these levels. Go ahead and try at any level that works. If you
have a form of therapy that works well at one level, adding another that
works at another level is probably a pretty good idea. You don't have to
limit yourself to a single kind of cause or a single level of cause.
Migraine Originate in the Brain or Somewhere Else?
The current theory popular in medical science
is that migraine originates somewhere in the brain stem. Something originating
deep in the brain spreads to the surface of the brain (causing the visual
patterns), to the vessels on the skin surface (causing the headaches),
and then down into the rest of the body.
The other possibility is that it originates in
the periphery. Back in Edgar Cayce's time, this was a very popular idea.
Because so many of the symptoms involve things like nausea, vomiting, constipation,
and diarrhea, perhaps that is the source of the problem. Although there
is a headache, that doesn't mean that it starts there.
Oliver Sacks is absolutely convinced that the
brain is the source of all the problems. He represents the mainstream opinion,
though we will see that there is some current research quite supportive
of Cayce's concepts. Here is a quote from Sacks:
"Theories of a peripheral origin retain a certain
public currency, but have long ceased to be seriously considered."
Another one I liked was:
"Migraine arises in the central nervous system
as clearly as the earth is round."
That's a clever way of saying that anyone who
considers a peripheral origin belongs in the "flat earth" category. But
there are quite a few current medical articles that suggest Sacks is wrong.
But then he admits his evidence is slim:
"Deep in the brainstem is the origin of the migrainous
process, but detection of these changes and the demonstration of their
nature and cause have completely eluded us, and may continue to do so for
a number of years to come."
Perhaps Cayce's approach is worth a look!
Cases From Sacks That Suggest A Peripheral Cause
Case 62: "A 51-year-old woman. She had suffered
for more than 20 years with 3 somatic manifestations: common migraine,
ulcerative colitis, and psoriasis. She would suffer for several months
from one of these symptoms before remitting and passing to another symptom.
She was thus trapped within an endless malignant cycle."
You look at migraine and see there's an abdominal
component. Ulcerative colitis is obviously a very serious problem in the
bowels. Psoriasis you might think is a skin disease. But the Cayce readings
say that it, too, originates in the bowels. Toxins leaking through the
gut are eliminated through the skin, causing the scaly skin of psoriasis.
Dr. John Pagano has achieved many dramatic cures by following the Cayce
therapies for the digestive system. Our Meridian Institute/A.R.E. research
conference last fall has confirmed Pagano's work.
You have someone in Sacks' case who is alternating
from migraines to colitis to psoriasis in an endless cycle; all three of
them probably originate in the gut.
Case 4: "A highly intelligent, not obviously moralistic
or superstitious man [that is, people who come to A.R.E. lectures], a man
of 28 who has suffered from migrainous neuralgia since childhood. He averages
4 to 6 attacks a month. There has never been either clustering or remission
of attacks. This patient is emphatic that each attack is preceded by 2
or 3 days of constipation. For the remainder of the month, his bowels are
regular and he is free from attacks. All the usual therapeutic approaches
to migrainous neuralgia tried and failed. Finally with some embarrassment
I placed the patient on regular laxatives. He went an unprecedented period
of 3 months without either constipation or migraines."
And yet Sacks has said no way does this have anything
to do with the bowels! He's got a couple of cases here that suggest otherwise.
They are a small minority of his cases, but he probably didn't even give
the bowels a thought in most of his cases.
We are looking at complementary medicine, which
means don't throw out all the wisdom of everything you're already doing.
Here are some of the current approaches that Sacks discusses.
One is promotion of general good health. Eat well,
exercise, do the sorts of things that make you a generally healthy person.
Another one is avoidance of circumstances that
trigger attacks. If there are some circumstances you can't avoid, that
can be a problem.
Social and psychotherapeutic measures. Migraines
are not just a headache, but affect every aspect of your life. Because
there is the psychological/biological connection, working with the person's
stresses and conflicts in psychotherapy can often help quite a bit in migraines.
They're not all mental; there's a physical component, but there's a substantial
mental component, too.
Then there's medication. There are 4 different
sorts of things you might want to do with medication. One is to relieve
the symptoms of pain and nausea. An example of a medication for that is
aspirin. Another is relaxation and sleep. You might take a tranquilizer
that would calm you down. There are more specific medicines for migraines.
One is called ergotamine, which can affect the dilation of the head arteries
when they swell up with blood. You also have some medicine that help prevent
attacks. One is methysergide, which is a fairly specific migraine medicine.
They have also used antidepressants. It turns out that antidepressants
affect the gut every bit as much as they affect the brain, so they might
be working in either place. Virtually all psychoactive medicines affect
the gut as well as the brain, because the gut has the same neurotransmitter
chemicals. Often there is a problem of undesirable side effects.
And, finally, there's biofeedback. You can teach
yourself to warm your hands to redirect the blood from the surface of your
head to out to your hands
All of these therapeutic approaches are worthwhile.
We are making no suggestion at all that you stop doing these. We're going
to be suggesting some additional things that might help even more, and
might even get at the root cause and get rid of them completely.
Sacks, representing conventional medicine, doesn't
entirely ignore the psychological and spiritual side. He says:
"A migraine is a physical event, which may also
be from the start or later become, an emotional or symbolic event. A migraine
expresses both physiological and emotional needs. It is the prototype of
a psychophysiological reaction."
"Migraine shows itself both eloquent and effective
at providing an oblique expression of feelings which are denied direct
or adequate expression in other ways. In this, it is analogous to many
other psychosomatic reactions and no less analogous to the languages of
gesture and dreaming."
So working not only with the physical, but also
things like suppressed feelings that might be part of the trigger for migraine
would be part of the approach that Cayce suggests.
2: David McMillin - The Abdominal Brain and The Cayce Approach To Migraine
I'm going to spend a little time talking about
Edgar Cayce and the information that came through him. Then I'm going to
discuss Meridian Institute and some of the projects we're doing, to relate
migraine to the bigger picture of our research program. Then I'm going
to focus in on Edgar Cayce's perspective of migraine. We're going to follow
through on some of the leads from Doug's talk on the anatomy and physiology,
and how the nervous systems work. We're going to look into the body and
examine this hypothesis that Cayce developed, where he said that migraine
and several other very serious illnesses have their origin in the abdomen.
We will look at some of the nerves in the "abdominal brain" or "gut brain"
or "enteric nervous system." Then I'll look at a comparative study of the
medical literature to show that the ideas in the Cayce readings are well
established in the medical literature. Finally, I'll discuss Cayce's therapeutic
approach. If it is primarily a problem of the abdomen and the digestive
system, what kind of natural, non-invasive remedies can be used? The last
part of my talk will be on the research project Meridian Institute is conducting
to test some of these principles.
About Edgar Cayce
Edgar Cayce has been described as the father of
modern holistic medicine. Holistic medicine means that we are more than
just a physical being; there are other aspects to our selves, whether we
call it the soul or spirit. Cayce liked to use the model that we are body,
mind and spirit. All of that comes into play in conditions such as migraine.
Cayce had this ability to alter his consciousness
in a way that he could provide information to people suffering from almost
any type of physical or mental disorder. He was able to see inside the
body and describe the nervous conditions, the glands, what was going on
with digestion, assimilation, elimination. All these systems of the body
as they interact. He was able to describe them in precise anatomical and
physiological detail. It was the state of the art for his time in terms
of medical terminology and understanding. He was also able to stand back
and see how it all worked together. You can have all this information about
the symptoms and these interesting connections; Edgar Cayce was able to
see the whole picture.
We are going to look at the systems approach,
how all this works together to produce the symptoms, and also how you can
possibly get everything working together to help reach the cause of the
Cayce went into an altered state of consciousness,
and didn't know what he was saying. He would provide the information, and
then typically the osteopathic physicians of his era would provide the
treatments for the people. About 9600 out of his more than 14,000 readings
were medical readings.
Some of the information was right in the midst
of medical knowledge of his time. When we go back and look at these old
osteopathic manuals and the old medical texts of around 1920, 30 and 40,
he's speaking their terminology and he's picking up on some of the good
ideas they had about what causes illness and how to treat illness. For
example, in migraine headache, if you go back and look from about 1900
to 1940, you'll find they were saying that there is an abdominal connection
in migraine, and it is perhaps the cause. They were treating it with diet,
hydrotherapies, and with laxatives. They claimed they were curing 30-40%
of the people with migraine headaches. And I mean cure, so that it doesn't
come back, you don't have to keep taking the palliative treatments to relieve
At the same time, he was saying that there is
even more going on here than they realized. That's the part that we're
just beginning to understand with the latest medical research. That's where
the Meridian Institute comes in. We are using a scientific approach to
investigate this information that Edgar Cayce provided to us. We want to
do it in a plausible way, and want to be safe about it. We want to be doing
it in a responsible way. That's why we're using the complementary medicine
approach. In the research protocol, we're combining the best of medicine
with Edgar Cayce's perspective.
Cayce's "Gut" Approach
Our three projects this year have a very similar
theme; the digestive system is involved in migraine, epilepsy, and psoriasis.
In psoriasis, there is a "leaky gut." The toxins seep through the thinned
walls of the intestine. They get into the lymphatics and circulation of
the system. The body tries to eliminate the toxicity, and one of the ways
is out through the sweat in the skin. Also through the bladder, the urine,
and the breath. He described these elimination systems also in migraine.
If the toxins can't get out the way they normally do, they can cause problems
with the nervous system and the circulation. For psoriasis, there is a
substantial amount of recent medical research where they're starting to
recognize that connection.
Similarly, in migraine, there is a recent medical
study looking at abdominal migraine in children which found that there
is a leaky gut. When I talk later about autointoxication and how the toxicity
in the body may be causing pressures on the nervous system, one aspect
is that the gut may actually be leaking toxins out into the system. Cayce
said that, for most cases of migraine, there is a disturbance in the abdomen,
often in the colon, and that's what's producing the symptoms that end up
in the head. But you would also expect to find quite a few symptoms in
the abdomen. Hence, the nausea, constipation, diarrhea, and pains in the
In our epilepsy research project, Cayce traces
the symptoms in most cases to a problem in the abdomen. He talked about
the reflexes from the abdomen ending up in the brain as a seizure.
Cayce said that there are at least 2 brains in
the body. The brain in the head - the cerebral brain - and a brain in the
abdomen, the solar plexus brain or the central brain of the body. If you
go back and look at the medical literature at around the turn of the century
leading up into the 20s, you'll see the same information. Modern medicine
is also describing that same brain in the gut. That's the connection that
we want to look at. These two brains can get out of coordination with each
other. When they do, that's when you get problems like migraine and epilepsy.
Cayce On Migraine
Let me give you some quotes from the Cayce readings
Here's an example from reading 3630-1. 3630 was
the number given to the person requesting the reading to protect their
privacy and confidentiality, and 1 just means that it's the first reading
in the series.
"As in most conditions of the nature of migraine
or so-called headaches, the cause is in the colon, where there are patches
of adhesions of fecal forces to the walls of the intestines, causing activities
that come in general cycles. These may come at times regularly, almost
so that you could set this by your clock at times. For it is the regularity
of the system itself."
So he's referring to actual fecal cakes in the
large bowel. The system is just not eliminating the fecal material from
the body, and that is putting pressure on the nervous system, on the brain
in the gut, and that's the reflex that throws the whole system out of coordination.
In reading 3043-1, the question was, "What causes
the migraine headaches?" He said, "This is from the stomach."
So in one case he says it is from the intestines,
and in this case he says it's coming from the stomach. He says that this
is all part of the same process of digestion, assimilation and elimination,
as it moves through this enteric brain in the abdomen.
In reading 3051-1, the question was asked, "What's
causing migraine?" He says:
"This is from the incoordination between the superficial
and deeper circulation."
In migraine there is overaccumulation of the blood
in certain parts of the head, and the blood vessels swell up, are engorged
with the blood, and throb. Some of the medications help to constrict those
blood vessels, so that there is not an oversupply of blood there. The idea
of biofeedback in the treatment of migraine is to consciously control that
blood flow to get it into the warming of the hands, and away from the headache.
Here's what Edgar Cayce means by incoordination
between the superficial and deeper circulation. There's the expression
that a person turns "as white as a ghost when they're frightened." That
is referring to the fight or flight syndrome, where the autonomic nervous
system is coordinating the blood flow. The nerves innervate the smooth
muscle tissue surrounding the blood vessels, so that system can clamp down
and limit the blood flow in certain parts of the body, and that forces
more blood flow to another part of the body. In fight or flight, the sympathetic
nervous system is closing off some of the blood flow to the superficial
circulation next to the skin, so that they blood can be concentrated in
the body cavities where your vital organs are and major muscle groups.
You don't want the blood out in the extremities where you can get injured
and bleed to death. Automatically, this autonomic nervous system redistributes
the blood from one part of the body to another. When more blood is needed
to digest food, this same system knows, all on its own, to get more of
the blood into the body cavity to digest the food, and less in the superficial
circulation where you don't need it. That's why they say don't go swimming
right after you've eaten, because it can't supply the blood to the muscles
for swimming and digest the food at the same time.
Cayce said that during the daytime there's more
circulation to the upper part of body, and then at night it's more to the
lower part of the body. It's coordinating, inward, outward, up, down -
this constant coordination that we don't even think about. At Meridian
Institute we have instrumentation to measure the effects on circulation
from altering your breathing and other exercises as the autonomic nervous
system regulates the blood flow to different parts of the body.
In migraine headaches, he actually refers to this
"vasomotor" effect, where the blood vessels are controlled by the autonomic
system. If that gets thrown out of coordination, you can get a rush of
blood, engorging the blood vessels in the head, hence the throbbing headache.
Migraine is also known as vascular headaches because of this component
of the circulation. In several readings he describes how the system can't
control and balance the blood flow.
He traces it right back to the solar plexus brain
in the abdomen. This is the brain of the autonomic nervous system that
is controlling blood flow in a vascular headache.
Here's a fascinating reading which gets to the
universality of migraine. He's not just looking at the individual. He's
saying this would be true in many instances of migraine. This is in reading
3326-1. This was a 13 year old female. Migraine in children is quite common,
particularly abdominal migraine.
"As we find, while the body is in the developing
stages, the sources of the conditions to which the body becomes allergic
in the digestive system should be looked for, that deal with all migraine
headaches. So, this information might be used universally as to the sources
of such, if it were to be accepted. For, here we find such in its beginnings,
and it is the digestive system causing, through a state of circulation,
an inflammation in the connections of the intestinal tract through which
blood and nerve supply bring nutriment and activity to these portions of
So he's saying, head this off in this young developing
body before it becomes a set pattern. More universally, what's going on
here is some kind of allergic reaction in the digestive system, and this
is causing inflammation in the connections in the intestinal tract.
Does The Current Medical Literature Say?
Cayce's making this very broad statement about
migraine headache. Is there anything in the medical literature that would
support such a stand? Actually there is quite a bit of substantiation.
When I got on Medline on the computer, I came up with many, many articles
on migraine and the digestive system, and particularly on allergic reactivity,
food hypersensitivity, and so forth. There have been many studies done
to show that there is a connection, some kind of allergic process going
on in the digestive system in migraine.
Not only do you get this allergic reaction, but
it produces inflammation in the digestive system. Although Oliver Sacks
was saying this stuff is all "old medicine," what I'm finding is that a
lot of this is very current. Within the last few years, there have been
many studies done on this abdominal connection in migraine. This study
comes from the European Journal of Pediatrics, May, 1995. They took 31
children with migraine, both with and without aura. They did endoscopic
esophageal, gastric, and duodenal biopsies to determine whether the complaints
were of gastrointestinal origin. Or is it merely something in the brain
that's being transferred down to that system? They found that "29 out of
the 31 children studied had an underlying inflammatory lesion explaining
their complaints." So, they're recognizing some kind of inflammatory process
in migraine. The conclusion they reached was, "Our findings provide further
evidence that recurrent abdominal pain is an early expression of migraine,
and strongly support a causal link between recurrent abdominal pain and
migraine." So these researchers would say that the abdominal factors are
causing the migraine.
Going back to the Edgar Cayce material, to give
you a couple more samples of what he was talking about. He says, from reading
"Here we find some complications, the effects
of or the beginnings of migraine headaches. Most of these, as in this case,
begin from congestions in the colon. These cause toxic conditions to make
pressures on the sympathetic nerve centers and the cerebrospinal system,
and these pressures cause the violent headaches and almost irrational activities
at times. These, as we find, should respond to colonic irrigations, but
first we would X-ray the colon and we will find areas in the ascending
colon and a portion of the transverse colon, where there are fecal forces
that are as cakes."
Again, another reading with fecal cakes in the
large intestine. Then they followed up with questions and answers. They
asked this question, "What mental factor is responsible for the disturbance
in the subject's head?" Edgar Cayce's answer:
"Those pressures as indicated between the sympathetic
and cerebrospinal system. These arise from the condition in the colon.
X-ray it (the colon) and you'll find it."
In the colon you'll see these fecal cakes. He
says that's the source, not the head. The people requesting the reading
say, "Yes, but it's a migraine headache. It must be in the head." But he
said it's in the colon.
What's causing the fecal cakes and congestion
of material that should normally be eliminated through the bowel? It's
hard to say, but maybe it's this allergic reaction, this inflammation that's
causing this internal pollution. We don't know. The bowel is very richly
innervated with nerves. If there are fecal cakes, that would produce the
pressures he's talking about on the sympathetic system or on this enteric
He's saying use colonic irrigations, and that's
going to be one of the treatments we're going to recommend as an adjunct
therapy to cleanse the colon with water.
All those quotes focus on the digestive system
aspect of migraine. But Cayce recognized that there is something going
on in the head as well as in the peripheral nervous system. If you look
at the medical literature, one group says this is a vascular problem, the
blood vessels are causing it. The other group says it's not so much vascular,
it's a neurological problem. The problem's in the nervous system, and that's
what causing the other things, including the vascular symptoms.
Edgar Cayce is recognizing both of them. He talks
about the circulatory problems, the increased blood flow to the head. But
he also said that there is a nerve reflex, from the abdomen, up to the
head. In the head is the 5th cranial nerve, or the trigeminal nerve. Cayce
said there is a reflex through the parasympathetic nervous system, which
in Cayce's time was called the pneumogastric and hypogastric; it was also
called the vagus or vagal nerve - the 10th cranial nerve. A reflex from
that up to the medulla oblongata at the base of the brain; then affecting
the 5th cranial nerve, which goes to the face. In 4 of the readings on
migraine, he explicitly pointed out that reflex to the trigeminal nerve.
If you go into the medical literature, and look
under the most recent findings, you'll find perhaps 200 articles that deal
with different aspects of this trigeminal nerve that's so affected in migraine.
They're pointing out some of the same things that he did in terms of what's
going on with that trigeminal nerve.
Here are a couple examples to show how adept he
was at tuning into the nervous systems of the body. He said in reading
1651-1. This is for a female 48 years of age. After describing the digestive
problems and all that's going on the abdomen, he says:
"Thus, there has been caused what has been termed
migraine or the effect of the 5th nerve center and the vagus center [he's
getting both major nerves here] as to the headaches on the top of head
at times. At other times at the base of the brain and then through the
temple and the eyes."
He's describing the classical pains that go along
with the migraine in the head. He's relating it back to the abdomen through
this vagus nerve, the parasympathetic, affecting the 5th cranial, and that's
producing the classic symptoms in the head.
In another case, 3169-1, he said:
"To be sure, there are pathological conditions,
and, of course, there can oft be made a great deal of excuse for anyone
suffering from intense headaches, especially those, as here, that involve
the 5th nerve, or as they become what are called migraine headaches."
The next example I'll give you of the 5th nerve
connection with migraine is from reading 4023-1, a female 66 years old:
"We find that these began some time back, when
there was poor eliminations manifested in the body [the colon wasn't getting
rid of the toxins]. While some conditions have been bettered at times,
these have left, in portions of the colon, the disturbing conditions that
constantly, when there is an activity of the body on the feet, on moving
about to any extent [this is the particular triggers for this person that
produced the headaches], cause what has been termed migraine headache,
or pressures upon the 5th nerve, so as to cause, as it were, all characters
of nerve tension through the head, the face, the teeth or in the gums,
the sinus, the soft tissue of face and head."
The final one is one of my favorites. Sacks says
it's got to be in the head, but we really don't know what's producing it.
Cayce had a lovely quote, bringing in a little bit of humor. This is reading
3329-1. He says:
"For, when there are any types of headaches, and
they may arise from many sources [he recognizes different things that can
cause headaches], there is distress somewhere in the physical being of
the body that is the source or the cause of same. One may have a type of
headache from a stomach ailment, another may come from poor digestion or
poor eliminations. And these apparently cause pressure in various portions
of the head, or the reflex nerve of the brain center itself. Here we have
a type that is sometimes called migraine, or that really means, 'We really
don't know the source of same.'"
So, he sums it up as Oliver Sacks has done, we
really don't know the source of same, and that's what we mean by migraine
This has been a sample from Edgar Cayce of the
sort of information we're using as a hypothesis. If what he says is true,
is there some way we can test this, some type of research that we can do?
Is there something we can do in a clinical way to help people with the
problem and then measure the effect?
[Slide of abdominal and pelvic brain by Byron
Byron Robinson was one of the premier medical
researchers, practitioners, theorists of his day. He has been cited by
other doctors as one of the ultimate authorities on the abdominal brain.
Notice all the nerve fibers connecting from the abdominal brain to all
the organs. The pelvic brain is a smaller one down lower. So not all of
your nerves are in the brain and spinal cord. There are a lot of nerves
out here in the body cavity as well.
[Side view from the back of Gray's anatomy, showing
parasympathetic and vagus.] Cayce referred to Gray's anatomy in his readings.
Notice the sympathetic ganglia [enlarged parts
of the nerve] in two chains on either side of the spine. They are not actually
in the spinal cord itself, they are outside. Byron Robinson and Edgar Cayce
referred to these as "little brains." They are important because when there
are problems in these little brains, that can actually interfere with processes
in the body. It's not uncommon to find a spinal injury or some kind of
pressure on the spine that's causing the problem through this brain in
the digestive system, and that may be what's causing the constipation,
the fecal cakes that build up. There isn't the proper nerve impulse to
keep things moving through the digestive tract. One of the complementary
therapies that we're going to recommend is spinal adjustments, because
these nerve fibers are all part of this system of brains in the abdomen.
Here's what Byron Robinson and some of the latest
medical researchers were saying about this. This is a quote from Byron
Robinson, 1907, The Abdominal and Pelvic Brain:
"In mammals there exist two brains of almost equal
importance to the individual and the race. One is the cranial brain, the
instrument of volitions, of mental progress and physical protection. The
other is the abdominal brain, the instrument of vascular and visceral functions.
It is the automatic, vegetative, the subconscious brain of physical existence.
In the cranial brain resides the consciousness of right and wrong. Here
is the seat of all progress, mental and moral. However, in the abdomen
there exists a brain of wonderful power, maintaining eternal, restless
vigilance over its viscera. It presides over organic life. It dominates
the rhythmical function of the viscera. It is an autonomic nerve center,
a physiological and anatomical brain. The abdominal brain is not a mere
agent of the cerebral brain and cord. It receives and generates nerve forces
itself. It presides over nutrition. It is the center of life itself. In
it are repeated all the physiologic and pathologic manifestations of visceral
function, that is, rhythm, absorption, secretion, and nutrition. The abdominal
brain can live without the cranial brain, which is demonstrated by living
children being born without a cerebrospinal axis. On the contrary, the
cranial brain cannot live without the abdominal brain. The abdominal brain
assumes practically an independent existence. However, the cerebrospinal
axis asserts a controlling influence over it."
He's acknowledging these two great brains in the
body (there are other brains in the body as well). The autonomic part keeps
us alive, controls digestion and eliminations.
If you go from 1907, and come up to date in the
most recent medical literature in Medline and other data bases, you'll
find a tremendous literature where the abdominal brain has been rediscovered.
There's even an article in the New York Times, dated January 23, 1996,
Complex and Hidden Brain in the Gut Makes Cramps, Butterflies, and Valium.
Here is a quote from the Physiology of the Gastrointestinal Tract, a medical
textbook published in 1994.
"The cephalic brain communicates with the smaller
brain in the gut in a manner analogous to that of an interactive communication
between networked computers. Primary sensory afferents and extensions of
the intramural neurons in the gut carry information to the central nervous
system. Information is transmitted from the brain to the enteric nervous
system over sympathetic and parasympathetic pathways."
These are the same nerves that we have been implicating
in migraine headaches.
"The current concept of the enteric nervous system
[enteric refers to the entrails, i.e., the gut] is that of a mini-brain
placed in close proximity to the effector systems it controls. Rather than
crowding the hundred million neurons required for the control of the gut
into the cranial cavity as part of the cephalic brain, transmitting over
long, unreliable pathways, natural selection placed the integrated microcircuits
at the site of the effectors. The circuits at the effector sites have evolved
as an organized network of different kinds of neurons interconnected by
In epilepsy, Cayce said there is actually a short-circuiting
between these two brains, and such a total incoordination that the two
systems cannot communicate any longer, and that's what produces a seizure.
One other quote I'll give, because so much of
the migraine literature and that on other illnesses has a strong biochemical
element to it. They're looking at which chemicals are out of balance and
how is it affecting the nervous system and what kind of drugs can we put
in the body to chemically affect the nervous system. That's the focus whether
it's mental illness, migraine, or epilepsy, or anything else. This is an
interesting quote addressing the biochemistry of these two brains:
"To a considerable extent, the new interest in
exploring the ENS [enteric nervous system] has come from the realization
that both the ENS and the remainder of the autonomic nervous system are
richly endowed with neurotransmitters and neuromodulators. Many substances
are found in both the bowel and the brain, a coincidence that strikes most
observers as intrinsically interesting if not immediately explicable."
So they're kind of surprised to find the same
biochemistry here in the gut. It's no wonder that some of the medications
that are supposed to affect the head brain also affect the gut brain. Some
of the side effects like nausea and constipation - it's the same biochemistry.
I hope to convey to you that possibly migraine,
which we think is an ache of the head, or ache of the brain, maybe it's
an ache of the gut brain as well. Maybe the abdominal brain is having a
brainache of its own, and maybe that's the source of the problem. There
is even a medical literature on "abdominal migraine." In the European literature
they call it "digestive migraine," focusing even more on diet and digestion.
Cayce's Approach To Treatment
If migraines have an abdominal cause, what kind
of treatments would you use to treat migraines? Cayce followed closely
what the medical people of his era were recommending. If you look at old
medical texts, what you find is that they're taking very seriously the
abdominal component of migraine. If you seem to have constipation or abdominal
pain, maybe you need to take a laxative. As a common part of the treatment,
they might do a colonic irrigation to cleanse the colon. In one book, the
neurologist would prescribe a saline laxative, and said this would cure
35-45% of the cases he was treating. They were recognizing that migraine
has its source in the digestive system. Edgar Cayce is talking along the
same lines and he's recommending colonic irrigations.
Cayce's recommending careful following of a diet;
not an extreme diet, but a basic diet of fruits and vegetables, plenty
of fresh water, avoiding red meat, fried foods, avoiding sweets and chocolate
and pastries and refined carbohydrates. When you look at the medical literature
on food allergies and migraine, dozens and dozens of articles, those are
the same sorts of things they're saying stay away from if you have migraine.
So Edgar Cayce wasn't such an extremist. In most cases he was saying eat
a basic healthy diet. If there is a brain in the gut, then pass wholesome
food through it. But in our Western culture it is hard to make those kind
of changes to eat healthily, but we're becoming more aware of eating healthily.
Most of Cayce's referrals were to osteopaths.
Osteopaths now have the same status as medical doctors, but in Cayce's
time they had a different perspective. They did manual medicine - manipulations
with the hands. Cayce said osteopaths came the closest to the types of
physicians to treat these kinds of illnesses. If you look at the osteopathic
literature, you'll find they said that a lot of illness is caused in the
periphery. By doing manipulations, relieving pressures, increasing blood
flow, helping digestion, they could cure migraine. This is in osteopathic
texts from about 1890 to 1940.
We're recommending assessment of the spinal column
and the nervous system from an osteopathic perspective, and see if there's
anything we can do with massage and manipulation to help coordinate the
nervous systems. To help to get the brain in the gut coordinating with
the brain in the head.
We're also recommending some mental/spiritual
work. The research program will involve people coming together in a group,
so we'll have a small group dynamic. Probably about 10 or 12 is the most
we can accomodate. For about 10 days or so, they'll be doing some group
processing. They'll be looking at some of their emotional reactions to
their illness, because this system in the abdomen is very sensitive to
what you think and feel. It's the unconscious mind. We'll also look at
improvements in quality of life and how people feel about themselves.
Cayce also recommended the radial appliance. It
looks like a battery, but it's not a battery. It doesn't produce any energy.
According to Cayce, it helps the body to naturally balance itself. We've
done a research project at Meridian Institute with the radial appliance,
and found that it helped coordinate circulation. It makes sense that in
migraine, where there's this incoordination in the blood flow that goes
to the head, he recommended using this appliance that would equalize the
These are the basic, natural therapies in our
complementary medicine approach. Cleanse out the bowel with colonics, relieve
any pressures with manipulation/massage, be careful of what you are putting
into the system with your diet. If people are having obvious constipation
problems, then maybe a natural laxative would be a reasonable thing to
do. The radial appliance is to help equalize circulation. Along with some
basic group dynamics to work on attitudes and emotions.
We are not looking at having you stop what you
are doing with medical treatments if they are helping to relieve your symptoms.
In the Cayce readings for people with migraine, he said, if you need to
take a certain drug because the pain is so great, go ahead and do that.
But he would say to do these other therapies as well, to address the cause
and not just the symptom. Get back to the digestive system, this gastrointestinal
process that's not quite right.
For the research aspect, we will be looking to
see if there is a decrease in the frequency and severity of the symptoms.
We also will be looking at this nervous system incoordination; we have
equipment to measure that at Meridian Institute. There are medical studies
on heart rate variability, measuring the coordination between these nervous
systems. There are also ways to look at blood flow. We also have a special
camera for thermography; variations in temperature of the skin show up
as different colors. When we did the psoriasis conference, when we took
pictures of the back, there were very consistent temperature variations
in that part of the spine from which the nerves go to the intestines (where
Cayce said the problem was in psoriasis). The spinal pressure would cause
an abnormality in the nerves to the intestines, and cause a thinning of
the walls of the intestines. In two cases of migraine, he said there would
be a coldness in the abdomen because of decreased circulation. If we see
this, one of the other modalities that can help increase circulation is
the castor oil pack.
We are also interested in gut permeability, since
in psoriasis it was important. There are also studies in the medical literature
looking at that hypothesis in relation to migraine. If you have these toxins
that are not being eliminated and are sitting there, can they leak out
through the gut, and cause these problems? As you'll remember earlier,
there was a case in Oliver Sacks' book with psoriasis, colitis and migraine
And, coming from the mental health perspective,
I'm interested in the quality of life for people. How will the combination
of the physical therapies and the emotional work affect people? Is your
life better for having gone through this process?
Migraine may be caused by various things. From
the Edgar Cayce perspective, in most cases it had a digestive, gastrointestinal
causation. It could be caused by some type of allergic reaction to food.
For some reason the food is not digesting properly, and maybe that causes
fecal matter to accumulate in certain parts of the intestines. That produces
pressures on this nervous system in the abdomen, which is the gut brain
or the enteric nervous system. That acts like a computer network with the
brain in the head. When the two are not in coordination with each other,
there can be nerve reflexes. Possibly the nerve reflex can affect the 5th
cranial nerve, the trigeminal nerve, to produce some of the symptoms. There
also could be nerve reflexes through this autonomic system, which produces
the vascular headache, or increased blood flow. Both of these components
Cayce described. You end up with symptoms in the head as well as the rest
of the body.
Cayce said to treat the cause, which is in the
abdomen, through the various treatments I have recommended here.
Robinson, Byron (1907). The abdominal and pelvic
Sacks, Oliver. (1992). Migraine. Berkeley: University
of California Press.