For those of us that suffer from migraines, you know it is more than just a headache. Not only do they have a huge impact on a person’s work and social life, they are powerful, painful and as yet there is no definitive cure. Migraines affect 1 in 5 people worldwide and will affect 30% of all women at some point in their lifetime. The good news is that employing a few key nutritional strategies may help alleviate or reduce attacks.
What is a migraine?
Migraines are headaches with moderate to severe pain. They are often characterized by having a unilateral location with many sufferers also experiencing nausea, vomiting or sensitivities to bright lights, smells or noise. A migraine attack can last anywhere from 4 to 72 hours. It is often hard to predict when an attack is likely to occur, and the onset can be quite sudden.
What are the causes?
As with most things the exact pathophysiology is not clearly understood and very much varies on the individual. For centuries it as thought to be a vascular disorder with the pulsating of the headaches caused by mechanical changes in the blood vessels in the brain. However, many studies have shown that this may not be the sole cause and may also be linked to:
Migraines have been linked to fluctuations in estrogen levels. In women the migraines often begin shortly after the onset of menstruation, in the first trimester of pregnancy, peri menopause or the onset of puberty. The good news is that post menopause incidences reduce.
There is growing evidence that inflammation plays an important role in the pathogenesis of migraine. The protein (CGRP), and nitric oxide (NO) may take part in immune and inflammatory responses.
The mitochondria are the energy powerhouses in our cells and a defect in these may reduce the threshold for migraine attacks by increasing neuronal excitability and a hyper-responsiveness to triggering stimuli.
4.Low serotonin levels and nerve signalling.
Serotonin is a chemical necessary for communication between nerve cells. Low serotonin levels may cause narrowing of blood vessels throughout the body.
5. Food Intolerances/Sensitivities.
Since the 1930s, hidden food sensitivities have been implicated in migraine onset. Several studies showed significant improvement when patients were put on an elimination diet. The main trigger foods are:
6. Food Additives
Triclorogalactosucrose, monosodium glutamate or aspartame may be triggers for some migraine attacks.
7. MTHFR Genetic Mutation.
A recent study of 3,000 participants who had migraines with aura had the MTHFR gene C677T variation.
What can you do from a nutritional standpoint?
Here are our top tips to take the pain away:
Increase your B vitamins especially, Riboflavin (Vitamin B2). Brain energy metabolism has been found to be disturbed in migraine. Riboflavin, a major co-factor in oxidative metabolism, may overcome this impairment. Please talk to us or a qualified healthcare practitioner before taking any supplements.