What Causes Migraines? Migraines, Oxidative Stress, and Endocannabinoid Deficiency
Oxidative stress is one of the leading theories regarding the cause of migraines. Researchers also propose that an endocannabinoid deficiency may be the cause of migraines. Who’s correct?
This article argues that both of these theories are true and compose the official cause of migraines. The article also discusses a simple strategy to stop migraines based on the link shared between these two leading migraine theories.
7 Things You Should Know About Migraines and Why They Happen
7. What are Endocannabinoids?
The endocannabinoid system has cannabinoid receptors throughout the entire body, which control the immune system, inflammation, energy production, memory, stress, sleep, and more. 
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Endocannabinoids are responsible for homeostasis. In other words, endocannabinoids keep your body stable and alive. In a nutshell, endocannabinoids protect the body and brain from harm.
6. Why Migraine Sufferers Need Endocannabinoids
Migraines result in the activation and depletion of endocannabinoids. A study published in the journal Neurobiology of Disease found that chronic migraineurs had an endocannabinoid system that functioned at only 50 percent when compared to the endocannabinoid levels of healthy individuals.
Endocannabinoids protect the body. Migraine triggers harm the body. When the body runs low on endocannabinoids or there is dysfunction in the endocannabinoid system, migraines happen. A recent study published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience explores the topic of endocannabinoid dysfunction as the possible cause of migraines, which I also cover extensively in my new book Hemp for Migraine.
5. What is Oxidative Stress?
Oxidative stress is the exact opposite of the endocannabinoid system. While endocannabinoids protect the body from harm, oxidative stress is responsible for harm and destruction. Just about anything that harms the human body will raise oxidative stress levels.
The over-simplified way to describe oxidative stress is to illustrate free radicals.
A molecule becomes a free radical when it loses an electron. A normal cell should have electrons in pairs. Free radicals are unpaired. They are lonely as well as thieves. Free radicals steal electrons from healthy molecules and create more free radicals, which continue a cycle of thievery. If left unchecked, the entire cell becomes damaged and the end result is oxidative stress.
This is why antioxidants are good for us.
Antioxidants donate electrons to free radicals and stop the downward spiral that becomes oxidative stress. A person’s health is dependent on the ability to control oxidative stress and this is especially true for migraine sufferers.
(Before you go out and buy a bunch of vitamin C, know that antioxidants are more complex than what the food industry tells us. Antioxidants are more of a process than a thing, which you can learn more about here.)
4. Why Migraine Sufferers DON’T Want Oxidative Stress
Nearly all migraine triggers are associated with oxidative stress, according to a study published by the American Headache Society in December of 2015. 
High levels of oxidative stress quadruple the risk of migraines, and there is strong evidence that oxidative stress may be the cause of all migraines. Oxidative stress is so bad that there are over forty conditions linked to migraines and oxidative stress.
3. Endocannabinoids and Oxidative Stress are a Migraine Balancing Act
There are researchers that believe that endocannabinoid dysfunction may be the cause of migraines. Other researchers believe that oxidative stress may be the cause of migraines. I would argue that both of these theories support each other.
When you have more oxidative stress than endocannabinoids, it triggers a migraine.
On the other hand, migraine prevention happens when the endocannabinoid system outweighs oxidative stress.
When something hurts the body, it causes oxidative stress and activates the endocannabinoid system to battle that oxidative stress. However, growing evidence suggests that these two systems “cross-talk” to maintain health. “Abnormalities in either system may propagate and undermine the stability of both systems,” according to a 2016 study.
The research is saying, “We need a healthy endocannabinoid system to control oxidative stress and the control of that oxidative stress is needed for a healthy endocannabinoid system. Problems with endocannabinoids lead to oxidative stress and vice versa.”
Oxidative stress is a migraine trigger and the endocannabinoid system has antioxidant properties that control oxidative stress.
The cause of migraines may be endocannabinoid dysfunction and oxidative stress because they are one and the same.
2. What are Migraines Telling Us?
There is overwhelming evidence that endocannabinoid dysfunction and oxidative stress are to blame for migraines. Endocannabinoid dysfunction and high oxidative stress levels are linked to conditions that harm the body.
This theory suggests that migraines work as one of the body’s defense mechanisms. While anyone can have high oxidative stress levels, migraine brains are smart enough to detect oxidative stress and forcefully tell the body that something is wrong.
1. How to Stop Migraines
The research on migraines presents us with a simple formula to follow:
- Reduce oxidative stress
- Increase endocannabinoids
That’s it. It’s a balancing act. On one side, you do everything you can to reduce oxidative stress. On the other, you improve the endocannabinoid system.
Reduce Oxidative Stress
One of the best ways to reduce oxidative stress is through a diet that removes the common migraine triggers that cause oxidative stress. At the same time, you should increase your consumption of foods that reduce oxidative stress. Here’s a free copy of my full diet, which covers everything you need to know.
You also want to stimulate your endocannabinoid system. One way to increase endocannabinoids is to take cannabinoid supplements such as CBD, which I recommend consuming sublingually. However, there are other ways to improve the endocannabinoid system that don’t involve hemp. For example, healthy fats are more important for your endocannabinoid system than CBD could ever be.
Healthy fats are one of the best examples that show how oxidative stress, endocannabinoids, and migraines are connected. Healthy fats reduce oxidative stress. Studies show that diets rich in healthy fat, such as the ketogenic diet, are more successful at treating migraines than medications. Healthy fats are also the building blocks of endocannabinoids and they increase endocannabinoid levels. Healthy fats follow the formula full circle by reducing oxidative stress, increasing endocannabinoids, and reducing migraines.
Things that reduce oxidative stress increase endocannabinoids and vice versa. This is the formula for eliminating migraines.