Migraine Headaches and Nutrition
Migraines and Nutrition
During my career as a doctor in the Emergency Department, I saw many people complaining of migraine headaches. The Institute for Functional Medicine, a global leader in using scientific research to study the root causes of disease, has recently reviewed the causes of these debilitating headaches. The following is a summary of that article.
Diet and Migraines
While the exact cause of migraines remains unclear, there is evidence that inflammation caused by food plays a role. About 25% of patients report that their symptoms can be triggered by certain foods and in some patients, food sensitivities may be involved. Studies from 2007 and 2011 found evidence that elimination diets successfully reduced migraine frequency without the need for medication. A 2018 study suggests that an adherence to the dietary approaches to stop hypertension (DASH) diet is associated with lower headache severity and duration in migraine patients.
There is evidence that a low-lipid diet significantly affected the number and severity of migraine attacks compared to a standard American diet. A small study in 2018 also suggests that a low glycemic index diet may be an effective and reliable method to reduce migraine frequency.
Allergies and Migraines
Other allergens may also play a role in migraine. In an interesting 2017 study of 49 migraine patients and 49 healthy individuals, the frequency of migraine attacks was higher in allergy-test-positive patients than in negative ones. The allergy tests were positive for house dust, red birch, hazel tree, olive tree, nettle, and wheat.
Supplements for Migraines
Self-reported studies have shown that a large percentage of US adults are not consuming USDA-recommended amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, particularly women and young adults. For migraine patients, this may be particularly relevant. Neither age nor BMI factors accounted for the correlation. One study suggested that a higher consumption of foods containing omega-3 fatty acids such as DHA and EPA (in many fish, nuts, seeds and some grass fed beef) may reduce the frequency of migraine attacks. A 2017 study provided evidence that supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids plus curcumin may reduce both migraine frequency.
There have been several trials that have found that specific supplements can help reduce the number and severity of migraine headaches. Some plants of the genus Petasites (sunflower family), and the nutritional supplements coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) and magnesium citrate, are beneficial prophylactic medications in patients with migraine. Riboflavin, which improves energy metabolism similarly to CoQ10, has also been found to be effective and well-tolerated.
An exploratory study has found that the administration of alpha-lipoic acid may be associated with a reduction in the number of attacks and the days of treatment in migraine sufferers with insulin resistance.
Your Navigator can help!
Strategies to reduce migraine frequency, including nutritional interventions, might greatly increase the quality of life of many patients. As a Functional Medicine physician, Dr. Pennock believes in the Institute for Functional Medicine's approach to nutrition. If you suffer from migraines or other chronic pain, autoimmune disease, or fatigue, Dr. Jay can help you choose an individualized food plan that emphasizes consuming the right fats and anti-inflammatory foods to get you on the path to better health. Give us a call to schedule your free consultation today!