Migraine: A Complementary Medicine Approach

Migraine: A Complementary Medicine Approach

Meridian Institute Lecture
February 18, 1996

Douglas Richards, Ph.D. and David McMillin, M.A.

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:

Part 1: Douglas Richards: Migraine Headaches and The Traditional Medical Approach

Part 2: David McMillin – The Abdominal Brain and The Cayce Approach To Migraine

Part 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.

What 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.

Common and Classical Migraine

Migraine is divided into common migraine and classical migraine. Classical migraine is much rarer, and is characterized by an “aura.”

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.

Phases 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 direction.

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.

Migraine Equivalents

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 Causes Migraine?

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 stress.

With the biological mechanism, if there’s an origin in the brain or the body, there might be a medication or surgery that could be used.

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.

Does 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!

Some 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.

Current Therapeutic Approaches

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.

The Psychospiritual Side

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.

Part 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 problem.

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 the symptoms.

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 abdomen.

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 on migraine:

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 the body.”

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.

What 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.

More Cayce

Going back to the Edgar Cayce material, to give you a couple more samples of what he was talking about. He says, from reading 3400-2:

“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 nervous system.

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.

The Trigeminal Nerve

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 headache.

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?

Some Anatomy and Physiology

[Slide of abdominal and pelvic brain by Byron Robinson.]

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.

The Abdominal Brain

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 chemical synapses.”

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.

Edgar 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 circulation.

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 cycling.

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 brain.

Sacks, Oliver. (1992). Migraine. Berkeley: University of California Press.