Q:Migraine: what is it? Is it genetically transferrable, ie, the tendency to have it. My mother had it, I suffer with it and one of my three children has it. What causes the terrible nausea that accompanies the headaches? What are the safest ways to control it? Is there any cure? S. T. Z., Dudley, West Midlands.
A:We consulted panel member Dr John Mansfield who wrote The Migraine Revolution: The New Drug free Solution (Thorsons).According to Dr. Mansfield, in 80 to 90 per cent of cases, migraine is a food allergy. Besides much clinical evidence, proof was a Lancet report (l3 October l983) demonstrating that 93 per cent of 88 children with severe migraine recovered on a low risk allergy diet.
The most common allergens with migraine were always thought to be cheese, chocolate, citrus fruits and red wine, but in Mansfield's experience the elimination of these foods from the diet only stop migraines in about 2 per cent of cases. Far more frequent are the most common culprits in all cases of allergy: wheat, corn, milk, eggs, sugar, and others. According to his book, systemic candidiasis can play a role, as can smoking, drinking, taking the Pill and other activities that suppress the immune system.
Inhaled allergens such as dust, mites and moulds, petrol fumes and many of the other substances of the 20th century also play their part.
Dr Mansfield claims to have success in "curing" migraine by identifying the offending substance or substances and eliminating it from the diet or environment. His method of choice for identifying the allergen is an elimination diet, consisting only of foods of"low risk" of producing allergic reactions and a gradual reintroduction of a wider list of foods until the allergens are identified. It is possible to perform this task yourself, with the help of a good book, such as Mansfield's or Dr Jonathan Brostoff's Food Allergy and Intolerance (Bloomsbury).
For those people with multiple allergies, say to corn, wheat and sugar, who find it difficult to function in the world without eating these substances, Mansfield offers the controversial neutralization/desensitization technique, which involves injecting the patient with a certain strength of the substance, to "switch off" symptoms. Although this technique has been performed by many allergists supposedly without side effects, it's worth our emphasizing that we do not know the long range effects of this type of "vaccination" and that these techniques should be reserved only for those people whose allergies are so copious that an elimination diet is impossible.